While Puerto Rican baseball has, as I’ve said before, seen better days, the roster that Puerto Rico has in this WBC will have plenty of MLB experience, and will have at least two genuine stars: Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. So as they host the first round Pool C, they won’t be lacking for talent.
The question, though, is whether that talent will be enough to help them escape the “group of death” that also features the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. While on paper they seem to be the third-best team, this is baseball, and it certainly is possible that Puerto Rico will be able to escape the first round… and perhaps beyond.
Go below the jump for the rest of the analysis.
Face of the team: Either Yadier Molina or Carlos Beltran. One is one of the best catchers in baseball, the other is the best Puerto Rican outfielder in history who isn’t named Roberto Clemente. Take your pick.
Strengths: The positions where Puerto Rico is in very good shape are outfield and catcher. Outfield, for example, has not only Beltran but also Alexis Rios and Angel Pagan. At catcher, Yadier Molina will be backed up by Milwaukee backup catcher Martin Maldonado and Yadier’s brother, Jose Molina, who himself has years of MLB experience.
Weaknesses: Much like almost every other baseball team to ever play on any level, pitching is a concern, particularly the starting rotation. Their rotation will likely be some combination of the out-of-retirement Javier Vazquez, Nelson Figueroa of the Diamondbacks, former Met and current NPB pitcher Dicky Gonzalez and either Hector Santiago or Twins minor leaguer Jose Berrios. Thankfully, the bullpen looks a bit better, so if the starters do okay Puerto Rico could be in good shape… but that’s a big if.
Player to watch: Javier Vazquez. He’s coming out of retirement and if he does well it’ll be interesting to see what MLB teams bite on signing him. Amongst position players, it’s always fun to see Carlos Beltran play.
Outlook: Up in the air. The Puerto Ricans have the talent to make it to, at the very least, the second round. But the problem is that they are in the same pool as Venezuela and the Dominican. It could require a little bit of luck, but PR definitely has the pieces to pull off an upset or two and leave San Juan with their fans happy.