2023 World Baseball Classic Pool D Preview: Miami

South Beach lifeguard stands at Miami by Carol M Highsmith is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

We continue our WBC Pool previews with Pool D: Miami.

About the Venue: LoanDepot Park, formerly Marlins Park, opened in 2012 and seats 37,422. Generally regarded as more of a pitcher’s park, it will also host the knockout rounds of the WBC this time around.

About The Pool: In sports, the best and toughest pool to find yourself in is called the Pool of Death or Group of Death. This is the WBC’s group of death. It has three teams with legitimate shots at winning the tournament, another that has made it past the first round before, and a fifth that comes from a country with a long baseball history. Only two teams can get through.

Go below the jump for the full preview.


About The Country: Sitting ever perilously at the center of both international politics and the world’s three largest monotheistic religions, the current state of Israel came into existence in 1947. Despite its decades of tumultuous history, Israel is also a leader in science and technology.

Baseball History: Although some may joke that Israeli baseball began “in the big inning” that can be found when the beginning of the Book of Genesis is read aloud (it’s a lame pun, think about it for a second), Israeli baseball didn’t really begin until some Americans who had moved to Israel played it a bit. However, that was about it until, in 2007, a small professional league was created in Israel by American businessmen. While it folded after one season, its level of play was apparently pretty good, although only a small handful of the players in the league were actually Israeli. In fact, it has been rare for actual Israelis to play for Team Israel. Thanks to lax eligibility rules as well as the fact that it is quite easy for those of Jewish descent to be eligible for Israeli citizenship, most of the Israeli national teams that have competed in large tournaments have been made up of Americans and Canadians.

International Baseball History: Israel has only become a power recently, as efforts to have Jewish Americans play thanks to the lax eligibility rules of international baseball have increased. It’s had some success, getting Israel to the WBC and the 2020/21 Olympics and bringing the attention and funding that comes with that. Israel is 20th in the latest WBSC rankings.

Road to the WBC: Automatically qualified as a participant in the last WBC.

Israel’s Baseball League: Israel’s professional league only lasted one season, although amateur leagues remain.

Israeli MLB Players: There is one honest-to-goodness Israeli citizen in Major League Baseball: Dean Kremer, pitcher for the Orioles. Although born in California, his parents are both Israeli and he spent several months a year in Israel growing up. Kremer is coming off his best season in the big leagues- he went 8-7 with a 3.23 ERA in 2022.

Other MLB players on the team include outfielder Joc Pederson, relievers Richard Bleier and Jake Fishman, and catcher Garrett Stubbs.

Notable names: There are also players with big league experience on the roster who, while they no longer play in MLB, still are people you’ll recognize. They include Ryan Lavarnway (who has played a bit in Australia recently), Danny Valencia, Alex Dickerson, and Ty Kelly.

Highest Achievers: Since the MLB-experienced players are the obvious highest achievers, I’ll give a shout out to the Israeli born-and-raised players on the roster who are the best Israeli born-and-raised players presumably ever. The first is the legendary Shlomo Lipetz, a 44-year-old right-handed pitcher from Tel Aviv who fell in love with baseball during trips to America growing up and eventually played college baseball in the states. By day, he works at City Winery in Brooklyn. By night, he’s going to have to try and strike out the likes of the Dominican lineup.

The other Israeli born-and-raised player is Assaf Mansfield, a college utility player who now plays for William & Mary.

Ones to Watch: There are some legitimately good prospects on this team. Infielder Zack Gelof is the third-ranked prospect in the Oakland system and has made it as high as AAA, while 1B Spencer Horwitz is the 13th-ranked prospect for Toronto. Blue Jays 21st-ranked prospect 1B Matt Mervis and Astros 24th-ranked prospect LHP Colton Gordon are also on the squad. Another prospect to note is RHP Jacob Steinmetz, a third-round pick of the Diamondbacks who is the first Orthodox Jew to be part of an MLB organization.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Four-time All-Star Ian Kinsler is the skipper of Team Israel, while his coaching staff has the likes of Kevin Youkilis, Brad Ausmus, Jerry Narron, and Josh Zeid.

Outlook: Team Israel, while outgunned by the Latin American powers, is still a threat to pull an upset or two and sneak into the next round. However, that will require a lot of things to go right.


About The Country: A diverse country that gained independence from Spain in 1821, Nicaragua has, like many nations, had an often complex and violent history, bouncing between the left and right wings of politics, between democracy and authoritarianism, and between wealth and poverty. It also has a lot of lakes and several volcanoes, which became a problem when Nicaragua tried to get the United States to dig a canal between the Atlantic and Pacific… only for fears of volcanism to lead the USA to instead built it in Panama.

Baseball History: Originally introduced in the 1880s by American businessmen, it became further entrenched when American soldiers played it during the occupation of the country in the early 20th century. While baseball’s popularity has waxed and waned over the years, it remains one of the most popular sports in the country.

International Baseball History: Nicaragua is a longtime participant in international baseball, taking part in two Olympics and 30 of the old World Cups- finishing second five times. However, they (somewhat controversially) weren’t invited to the earliest WBCs, and then they consistently failed in qualifying. As a result, this is their first-ever WBC. They are currently ranked 17th in the latest WBSC world rankings.

Road to the WBC: Finally earned a spot in the WBC by beating Brazil in the final game of the Panama City qualifier.

Nicaragua’s Baseball League: The Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League has existed in its current form since 2004, although there were earlier professional leagues as well. Made up of five teams, it (unlike many Caribbean leagues) has yet to play in the Caribbean Series.

Nicaraguan MLB Players: Fifteen MLB players have hailed from Nicaragua, but none can compare to the first of their number: El Presidente himself, Dennis Martinez. The two current Nicaraguan MLB players, Jonathan Loaisiga of the Yankees and Erasmo Ramirez of the Nationals, are both on the roster.

Notable names: A few ex-MLB players will also feature heavily on the team. That group includes J.C. Ramirez, Alex Blandino (who is from California but is of Nicaraguan descent), and Cheslor Cuthbert.

Highest Achievers: Outfielder Norlando Valle, far as I can tell, is the best position player on the team to never play affiliated ball. He slashed .361/.439/.458 last season in the Nicaraguan League.

Ones to Watch: Mariners farmhand 3B Milkar Perez and Brewers farm RHP Carlos Rodriguez are both in the lower minors, but both are already regarded highly enough that MLB rates them as top-20 prospects for their organizations. Rodney Theophile and Steven Leyton are also active minor leaguers.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Sandor Guido was a longtime member of the National Team and now manages it.

Outlook: Nicaragua has some thing going for them- they have some good prospects, some MLB-experienced players, both of their current MLB players, etc. The problem for them is that they are in the group of death with three superpowers and a team that was able to make it to the second round last time. While it isn’t impossible that they can get out of this pool, it’ll take some big upsets.

Puerto Rico

About The Country: An unincorporated territory or “Commonwealth” of the United States (which gained the island after the Spanish-American War), Puerto Rico’s residents are US Citizens but do not have voting representatives in Congress and are also unable to vote in presidential elections (although they are able to vote in party primaries). The status of Puerto Rico is something of a question mark, with some Puerto Ricans wanting to become the 51st state, others wanting full independence, and others wanting to maintain something like the status quo. Puerto Rico’s capitol city of San Juan is the oldest European-founded city under the control of the United States.

Baseball History: Baseball was introduced to the Puerto Ricans by Cubans before the Spanish-American War, and it was nurtured as the United States took over the Island after the war. Traveling teams from the Majors, Negro Leagues and Cuban Leagues would regularly visit to island to train and play games, further entrenching the game. A semi-pro and then a professional league was formed, and Puerto Rico became a baseball hotbed producing some of the baseball’s earliest Latino stars. Chief among them, of course, is Roberto Clemente, who remains a hero and icon to the people of Puerto Rico.

International Baseball History: Puerto Rico is 13th in the latest WBSC rankings, and they’ve been playing in international competition since the 1940s. Notable results include two second-place finishes at the WBC (losing to the Dominicans and the USA in the last two contests), a gold in the 1951 World Cup, a bronze finish in the demonstration sport baseball tournament at the 1988 Olympics, and a gold at the 2019 Pan-Am Games.

Road to the WBC: Automatically qualified.

Puerto Rico’s Baseball League: The Puerto Rican Winter League, officially the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, has existed in one form or another since the late 30s. It had financial issues in the late 2000s, even missing a season, but is now firmly back in operation with seven teams. The winning team goes to the Caribbean World Series. Puerto Rico also has a summer league, but it is amateur in nature.

Puerto Rican MLB Players: About 302 players have made the big leagues (including the Negro Leagues) in history, including four Hall of Famers: Clemente, Roberto Alomar, Ivan Rodriguez, and Orlando Cepeda. Many (but not all) of the current Puerto Rican stars will be there: Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, Edwin Diaz, Eddie Rosario, three different MLB catchers, Jose Berrios, Kiké Hernández, etc.

Notable names: Former big leaguers Hector Santiago and Neftali Soto both play outside of affiliated ball (Santiago in Mexico, Soto in Japan) and will be playing for Puerto Rico this WBC.

Highest Achievers: Marcus Stroman won WBC MVP for Team USA in 2017, but will be lacing it up for Puerto Rico in honor of his mother, who is from there.

Ones to Watch: RHP Dominic Hamel, MLB’s 12th-ranked prospect for the Mets, is on the roster. There are a few other prospects on the team, but he’s the only one

Manager/Coaching Staff: The manager of Puerto Rico is the one and only Yadier Molina, freshly retired from playing. He’s joined by coaches like his brother Jose Molina, two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez, Nationals bullpen coach and 1994 All-Star Ricky Bones, and Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron.

Outlook: One of the favorites in the tournament, they are hurt by the fact that some players like Carlos Correa aren’t there, but they are still in good shape. Of course, that might not be enough in the pool of death.

Dominican Republic

About The Country: Taking up the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola (the rest of the island is Haiti), the Dominican Republic was visited by Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyages, and its capitol of Santo Domingo is the oldest permanent western settlement in the Americas. Having gained independence in the 19th century and moved towards democracy during the 20th, it became fully democratic during the second half of the century. Although problems with corruption and poverty continue to plague the nation, the Dominican now has the largest economy in the Caribbean and has been one of the fastest growing economies of the last few decades. Fun fact: Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s tallest mountain, is located in the Dominican Republic.

Baseball History: The Dominican Republic’s great passion was introduced to it by Cubans in the 1890s fleeing their civil war. The rest is history, as the Dominican slowly but surely grew into the hotbed it is today. Baseball may be a pastime elsewhere, but in areas of the Dominican it is a way of life, with entire towns staking their futures on their top players.

International Baseball History: The Dominican is currently ranked ninth in the WBSC rankings. Their most notable tournament finishes are their first-place victory in the 2013 Classic, but they also won one installment of the old World Cup and had a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics.

Road to the WBC: Automatically qualified.

The DR’s Baseball League: There are two Dominican leagues of note: the Dominican Winter League and the Dominican Summer League. The winter league is the primary league and the one that connects to the Caribbean Series, while the summer league is for teams run by MLB organizations as a rookie league.

Dominican MLB Players: There have been at least 864 Dominican players to play in the big leagues (including the Negro Leagues), including six Hall-of-Famers. The entire roster is made up of players currently signed to MLB contracts, with the exception of two.

Notable names: Those two? Robinson Cano and Gary Sanchez. So, yeah, the entire roster is MLB players.

Highest Achievers: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (maybe), Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Sandy Alcantra, Julio Rodriguez, Rafael Devers, Eloy Jimenez, Christian Javier, Johnny Cueto, Wander Franco, Nelson Cruz, Jeremy Pena… you get the idea.

Ones to Watch: Even in a lineup this stacked, however, there are some more up-and-coming players to watch. Pena and Rodriguez, for example, may already be starts, but they are still only entering their second MLB seasons.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Tampa Bay coach Rodney Linares (he’s currently their bench coach) skippers the Dominicans, and most of the rest of the coaches are also active with MLB organizations.

Outlook: The favorites on paper, with only teams like the USA and Japan as rivals when it comes to star power. That said, this is baseball, and it is a tough pool they find themselves in. A few bad days or a running into a group of pitchers doing excellent could lead to ruin even for a team this talented.


About The Country: Venezuela was one of the first South American countries to become independent from Spain, and Venezuelans take great pride in the fact that South American freedom fighter Simon Bolivar came from there. More recent decades, however, have been tumultuous, as the country has seen economic hardship (despite sitting atop some of the most mineral-rich land in the Americas), political chaos, deteriorating human rights, rising crime, and a huge influx of refugees fleeing the country.

Baseball History: Baseball came to Venezuela in the late 19th century, introduced by Venezuelan students who had been studying abroad as well as workers from America and Caribbean nations where the game was already popular. Its popularity has been growing ever since, and is now a staple of the country’s culture and a source of great national pride even during difficult times.

International Baseball History: Currently ranked sixth in the WBSC rankings, Team Venezuela has had a third-place finish in the WBC (2009), three golds in the old World Cup (albeit back in the 40s), and a gold in the Pan-Am Games.

Road to the WBC: Automatically qualified.

Venezuela’s Baseball League: Venezuela’s winter league has existed in one form or another since the 1940s, and like most of the other winter leagues in the region has its champion go to the Caribbean Series. There used to be an MLB-affiliated summer league similar to the one in the Dominican, but the economic downturn and concerns about safety led to it being discontinued.

Venezuelan MLB Players: There have been 462 Venezuelan MLB players, including Hall-of-Famer Luis Aparicio. The majority of the roster of the WBC team is big leaguers, spearheaded by future HOFer Miguel Cabrera. He’ll be joined by veterans like Salvador Perez, Jose Altuve, David Peralta, and Eduardo Escobar. Then, of course, there are the younger stars, like Atlanta star Ronald Acuna Jr., batting champion Luis Arraez (now with the Marlins), Andres Gimenez, and Gleyber Torres. Pitching is also full of MLBers, like Pablo Lopez, German Marquez, and Eduardo Rodriguez in the starting mix and players like Ranger Suarez coming out of the bullpen.

Notable names: Former big leaguers Jhoulys Chacin and Robinson Chirinos are both on the roster. They currently don’t have MLB contracts but played in the Venezuelan Winter League recently.

Highest Achievers: There is only one player on the roster who has never played in the majors nor is signed to an affiliated league: pitcher Anthony Vizcaya. He made it as high as AAA in the Mets system but now works his trade in the Mexican League and Venezuelan Winter League.

Ones to Watch: While there are some minor leaguers on the roster, none of them are major prospects. The closest would be pitcher Max Castillo, who has pitched well in the minors but has yet to really make an impact in the big leagues.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Omar Lopez, the first-base coach of the Houston Astros, skippers the team.

Outlook: Venezuela’s top players stand with some of the best in the tournament. The issue is depth. In a short tournament, that might not make that much of a difference, but it is still a concern. They could well win the tournament, but they just as well might end up exiting in the first round due to their brutal pool.

Pool Outlook: This is, without question, the hardest pool to predict. However, I feel like Puerto Rico edges out Venezuela for the second spot, behind the Dominican.

  1. Dominican Republic
  2. Puerto Rico
  3. Venezuela
  4. Israel
  5. Nicaragua

More predictions will come after the first round.


1 thought on “2023 World Baseball Classic Pool D Preview: Miami

  1. Pingback: My WBC Pool Previews | The Baseball Continuum

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