The Panama City Qualifier World Baseball Classic Preview

Much like with Regensburg, I don’t have the time for a full-on preview of the WBC qualifier in Panama City. However, like with Regensburg, I can do a mini-preview.

If the Regensburg pool was roughly the “European” qualifier, this is something of the “South American” one. Four of the involved teams are from South or Central America, with only Pakistan and New Zealand coming from elsewhere. All games will take place at Rod Carew Stadium. Like in Germany, the top two will advance from the double-elimination tournament.

Here we go:

  • The homestanding Panamanian team brings several players with MLB experience. The most notable, perhaps, is Randall Delgado, who pitched parts of eight years in the big leagues and who spent 2022 in the Atlantic League. The player I’m most familiar with is left-handed reliever Alberto Baldonado, who I’ve seen with the Rochester Red Wings and who had a 14-game stint with the Nationals in 2021. Starter Ariel Jurado has 45 career appearances in the big leagues and was active as high as AAA in the Twins organization this season. Righty Enrique Burgos, meanwhile, had 73 MLB appearances with the Diamondbacks in the mid-2010s and has spent the last few years in the Mexican league and winter leagues. Other pitchers with MLB experience include Severino Gonzalez, Humberto Mejia, and the 39-year-old Davis Romero.

    Position-player wise, the most notable name is definitely Ruben Tejada. The infielder has nearly 2,400 MLB plate appearances under his belt. Joining him in the infield will be Jonathan Arauz, who has played in the big leagues as recently this year. Another player with MLB experience is Allen Cordoba, who played in 100 games with the Padres back in 2017 and split this season between AAA and the Mexican league. The most notable prospect on the team is likely outfielder Jose Ramos, rated the eighth-best prospect in the Dodgers system by MLB.com. Panama definitely has the best roster on paper here as far as experience and current players, but that has arguably been true in the last two WBC qualifiers as well, and they didn’t make it. Perhaps third time will be the charm for them to return?
  • New Zealand is one of the fastest growing sources of baseball talent in the world (seriously!) and now hosts an Australian Baseball League team. Their roster includes three players currently under minor league contract: pitcher Elliot Johnstone plus infielders Jason Matthews, and Nikau Pouaka-Grego. There are also six other players who had MiLB time, most of whom are still active in the Australian Baseball League.and one of whom- Ben Thompson- was playing in affiliated ball as recently as earlier this season.
  • Nicaragua is one of the biggest baseball countries not to make an appearance in the main WBC as of yet. In their latest attempt to qualify, they are bringing a mix of former big leaguers, current minor leaguers, and players from winter leagues (most of whom have played in the minors in the past). The former big leaguers are six-year MLB veteran pitcher JC Ramirez (who most recently was in the Twins system) and former Royals corner infielder Cheslor Cuthbert. The most notable current minor leaguer is probably third baseman Milkar Perez, the 19th top prospect in the Mariners organization.
  • Brazil is managed by Steve Finley of all people and like in previous WBCs they will have an eclectic team with players from all around, including from Brazil’s sizable Japanese population. The former big leaguers are pitcher Andre Rienzo, infielder Christian Lopes (one of the comparatively few “passport players” on the Latin America teams), his brother Tim Lopes, and outfielder Paulo Orlando. They also have at least two players with experience in Japan’s NPB: pitcher Oscar Nakaoshi and right-handed hitter Luciano Fernando. Another notable player is Leonardo Reginatto, an infielder who made it as high as AAA who has torn up the Mexican League the last two seasons. They and Nicaragua probably will be fighting for the other qualification spot.
  • Argentina is the newest addition to the WBC- they never appeared in any WBC competition before, not even a qualifier. The team will largely be made up of players from Argentina’s semi-pro league, but they do have some players with affiliated minor league experience in pitcher Diego Echeverria and infielder Jacinto Cipriota, as well as a Division I college player in Boston College’s Lucas Stalman (the lone “passport player”).
  • Finally, there is Pakistan. Probably the youngest team in the tournament, they looked far and wide for players both in-country and among the Pakistani diaspora, and who they’ve gotten is quite the collection. They have college players like West Virginia’s Alex Khan, high schoolers as young as 16 in Amaan Khan, various former collegiates who have never played professionally, representatives from Pakistan’s amateur league, and various. They even hoped to have former NFL quarterback (and former Indiana University baseball player) Gibran Hamdan on their team, but a last-minute COVID issue forced him to drop out. I don’t know if Pakistan will win a game or not, but they certainly will be an interesting team to watch.

So, what are my predictions? Personally, I think it’ll be Panama and Nicaragua, but I wouldn’t put it past Brazil to sneak in past Nicaragua. The other teams are likely fighting for fourth, but in baseball you never know.

The WBC qualifiers start on Friday.

The Regensburg Qualifier World Baseball Classic Preview

Due to a variety of factors (a new job, Red Wings games, housework, etc.), I’ve constantly had to delay my World Baseball Classic updates, even when I previewed it.

But with the first game of the Regensburg region of the WBC Qualifiers set to start at 7:00 AM eastern on Friday, I say NO MORE! Well… sort of. I’m not doing a full update. But I AM doing a mini-preview.

Alas, due to the time constraints, I cannot do my usual full preview for the Regensburg qualifier. I can, however, do a miniature one. The Regensburg pool is roughly the “European” qualifier, and will take place in Armin-Wolf-Arena in Regensburg, Germany (southeast of Nuremburg, northeast of Munich). The only country not from Europe in the pool is South Africa, which is the lone African contestant. The top two will advance to the WBC proper.

Let’s go:

  • The homestanding Germans will be without Max Kepler (because he’s busy with the Twins) or Tigers minor-leaguer Markus Solbach (injury), but still will have one of the better teams in the tournament. Former MLB players Aaron Altherr (who’s was born in Germany to a German father and an American mother), Nick Wittgren (of German descent), Bruce Maxwell (born in Germany to American parents), and Brian Flynn (can’t find how he qualifies so I presume he has a Germany parent or grandparent) are perhaps the most notable players to American eyes. In addition, active minor leaguers Niklas Rimmel (1.98 ERA in the Florida State League this season) and Lucas Dunn are also playing. The rest are a hodgepodge of players from various leagues around the globe, including the baseball Bundesliga of Germany. Among the other notables are catcher Simon Guhring (a now-39-year-old who was once one of the first native German players signed to a minor league contract), pitcher Sven Schuller (who reached as high as AAA in the Dodgers stadium but now pitches in his native Germany) and outfielder Daniel Aldrich (a Wurzburg-born player who has been playing in the Indies since 2014 and holds the career HR record in the infamous Pecos League). The Germans are managed by the Belgian-born Steve Janssen.
  • The Czechs will also have a fairly strong team and were granted, like Germany, a bye in the first round. Although the Czechs have a team primarily made up of players who’ve never played outside of Europe, they do have some names that you might recognize if you are a baseballholic. Catcher Martin Cervenka probably has a good claim as the greatest Czech player in history, reaching AAA for parts of two seasons with the Orioles and Mets organizations, while infielder Vojtech Mensik reached the College World Series with NC State before playing a bit professionally this season in the Angels organization (he’s since been released). Others with experience in North America include pitcher Jan Novak (parts of two seasons in rookie ball in the Orioles organization), pitcher Marek Minarik (four seasons in the low minors), catcher/first baseman Daniel Vavrusa (a brief stint in the Yankees system), infielder Jakub Hajtmar (one season in the Twins system), and outfielder Marek Chlup (who has played collegiately and with summer league teams). They are managed by Pavel Chadim, who has managed several levels of baseball in the Czech Republic including a team that made the Little League World Series.
  • Spain is somewhat infamous for their use of “ringers”, taking advantage of Cuban defectors who’ve taken residence in Spain and players of Spanish descent and only rarely using actual born-and-raised players from Spain. And, not surprisingly, that’s true this time around as well. Their most notable player is pitcher Rhiner Cruz, who has 74 career appearances in MLB. Another player you might recognize is outfielder Engel Beltre, who has been on some of Spain’s previous teams and who played 22 games with the Rangers in 2013. The third player with MLB experience include is Vicente Campos (one game with Arizona in 2016). The rest are a motley group of minor leaguers, former minor leaguers, Mexican Leaguers, players active in Europe, and even one or two actual Spaniards! By far the most notable of this group is Noelvi Marte, a well-regarded shortstop prospect (generally rated as a top 20 prospect by most evaluators) who was part of the Reds’ return in the Luis Castillo trade.
  • Great Britain has four players with major league experience. Vance Worley is the most notable (he is, I believe, eligible through his mother, who was born in the then-British Hong Kong). Michael Roth (his mother in English), Chris Reed (born in London), and Akeel Morris (through his parents). The most notable current minor leaguers are catcher Harry Ford and Bahamas-born pitcher Tahnaj Thomas. The remainder are an eclectic mix of current and former minor leaguers, people overseas, and independent leaguers.
  • France notably is managed by Bruce Bochy. As far as players? Like many of the teams in the pool, they’ll have some passport players, including Venezuelan-born Mexican League pitcher Yoimer Camacho. There are some legitimately-French players as well, however, including Martinique-born outfielder Jose Paula (who played two years in the Oakland organization), East Tennessee State outfielder Leo Jiminian and current NAIA hitter Paolo Brossier. The roster is further filled out with players from the European leagues. While they can’t be considered a favorite by any means, I wouldn’t be surprised if they prove more competitive than expected.
  • South Africa has seen better years and better rosters, but they are not without talent. Justin Erasmus has pitched for years in Australia, for example, while Kieran Lovegrove pitched part of nine seasons in the minors. It appears that Gift Ngoepe has retired from the South African team, although his brother Victor Ngoepe is on the roster.

So, what is my prediction? Personally, I feel like the Germans and Czechs have the best teams, but in the crapshoot that is international baseball I wouldn’t be surprised if the Spanish or even the Brits sneak in. South Africa and France, alas, are probably fighting for fifth place. I guess time will tell if I’m right in my assessments.

2023 WBC Team USA Roster Projections Version 1.0

It is time. After far too much slacking on my part, it is finally here. My first actual roster projection for Team USA in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. This isn’t my talk of the “ideal” roster, as I have done previously, this is based on who may actually take part and who has actually committed.

Go below the jump for more.

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World Baseball Classic Update 8/27/2022: Team USA sets coaching staff and continues to grow, plus other news

Another busy week of WBC News, so here’s a bit of a catch-up:

There will be another WBC post tomorrow.

World Baseball Classic Update 8/21/2022: Venezuela, Argentina, Pakistan, and more

A roundup of some additional WBC news from the past week or so that I missed in yesterday’s post:

  • Add Astros pitcher Luis Garcia to the list of Venezuelans who have committed to the tournament. You can add Rockies pitcher German Marquez to that list as well.
  • Rolando Arnedo, the manager of the Diamondbacks’ Arizona Complex League team, will skipper Argentina in the qualifiers. In fact, Argentina has revealed a lot more about its qualifier team in an article released on Aug. 18. Among other information: Astros Arizona Complex League manager Marcelo Alfonsin will be the pitching coach, Gabriel Sanso will be the bench/hitting coach, Eduardo Capdevilla will be outfield/third base coach, Nicolas Solari will be infield/first base coach, and Federico Bisbal will be on quality control and analytics. Player-wise, Argentina is hoping for participation from players of Argentine descent like Miami’s Daniel Castano, the Baltimore organization’s Yennier Cano, and CPBL player An Ko Lin. It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to get Castano given scheduling and the concussion and Cano’s participation would likely depend on whether he’s on the big league club by that time as well, though.
  • Pakistan has introduced three of the coaches involved in the qualifying team: Brian Furches, pitching coach Randall Arms, and Naser Peter.
  • Australia and Japan will play a series in November as preparation for the WBC.
  • Broadcasting announcement: Tyler Maun and former Australian big-leaguer Ryan Rowland-Smith will be on the call for the WBC qualifiers.

World Baseball Classic Update 8/20/2022: DeRosa to manage, Ohtani can play, more commits, and more

In the week since our last update, more World Baseball Classic News has come out. Here’s some of it (I may get some stragglers tomorrow):

Team USA gets a manager

It’s been announced that Mark DeRosa will be the skipper for Team USA in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. It’s a bit of a surprise pick, as I and others assumed it’d be a retired manager like Mike Scioscia. However, instead USA Baseball is going young. While DeRosa has never managed professionally, he’s been thrown about in the past as a potential future candidate and is well-liked around the game. Plus, his day job as an analyst and host at MLB Network means he’s well-acquainted with most of the MLB players in the tournament. DeRosa played for Team USA in the 2009 WBC and had a long career in the majors as a super-utility man.

Ohtani can play

Shohei Ohtani didn’t play in the last WBC due to injury, but if he wants to he can in this one. The Angels have granted him permission to take part. Technically, he could have played anyway as WBC rules only allow teams to deny permission under certain circumstances like if they were on the injured list, but players- especially pitchers- generally will take team requests to heart and so if the Angels didn’t want him to play it’s likely he wouldn’t.

This needless to say is a huge get for both Samurai Japan and the tournament in general. The Japanese uniforms for Ohtani will sell extremely well, and the tournament instantly gets another marketable star to slap on some billboards and commercials.

Altuve in for Venezuela, Lopez to manage

Jose Altuve has confirmed he’s planning to play for Venezuela in 2023. Altuve previously played in the WBC in 2017. Managing Altuve will be someone familiar to him: Houston first-base coach Omar Lopez.

Alonso becomes latest position player to confirm for Team USA

The Polar Bear himself, Pete Alonso, has confirmed he’s in for Team USA. One of the best sluggers in the lead, the Mets first-baseman joins Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Story, and Paul Goldschmidt as played who have signed up for Team USA. Notably, there still have yet to be any pitchers to announce their interest, but at least as far as position players the USA is looking good so far for defending its WBC title.

More WBC News and Reports:

Look for more WBC updates in the coming days!

World Baseball Classic Update for 8/5/2022: Machado and Guerrero, Colombia’s manager, and more

Still catching up on some of the WBC news from the past few days….

World Baseball Classic Update 7/27/2022: An Aussie confirmed, Team Pakistan starts to take shape, and more.

Curtis Mead, a top-100 prospect who plays in the Rays organization, told an MiLB reporter that he plans to play for Australia next year. It should be noted, however, that the Adelaide-born infielder has had an injury since then, so that could change.

In Qualifier news, Team Pakistan is starting to take shape. Infielder Alex Khan of West Virginia University has been confirmed by the Pakistani team’s Twitter feed, and Pakistani-Canadian infielder Ahmad Mahmood (a commit to a community college in California) has had his participation confirmed by both his Twitter bio and a tweet from his old baseball academy. Other players either confirmed or implied for qualifiers by the Pakistani baseball federation’s Twitter page include former DIII player Shahid Shattar, community college outfielder Sami Khan, 16-year-old pitcher Amaan Khan, former Astros draftee Omar Arif, Citadel baseball player Rohan Shah, Tulane pitcher Blake Mahmood, Bethune-Cookman pitcher Amir Asghar, Canadian college pitcher Adam Khan, and Lyad Ansari, the nephew of a internationally-experienced cricket player. While the Pakistani team will likely be massively outgunned in qualifying against teams from places like Panama and Nicaragua that will primarily have professionals, you never know what might happen in baseball. One of my favorite WBC memories, for example, is when a bullpen for Team Brazil that included a 16-year-old amateur was able to close out Colombia.

On the business side of things, a Korean paper looked into why Korea isn’t hosting a round in next year’s tournament. Reasons include the want to have as many Japan-Korea games as possible, fairly low attendance in 2017 in Korea for the WBC (not helped by a surprise early elimination for Team Korea), and the fact that apparently Taiwan lobbied for a round more than Korea did.

Quick World Baseball Classic Update 7/26/22: Story is in

I’ve been busy the last few days, so this isn’t as thorough as it should be. I haven’t been able to scour the non-English sites for World Baseball Classic news, for example. I’m hoping to have a more full update in the coming days.

Anyway, the main news is that Team USA has its second confirmed player: Trevor Story. The Red Sox infielder was confirmed yesterday. He hasn’t been hitting as well this season, but his overall pedigree and ability to play second or short will make a good asset for the team. He joins Mike Trout as players confirmed for Team USA.

Speaking of Red Sox and the tournament, manager Alex Cora says he expects that Rafael Devers (Dominican), Xander Bogaerts (Kingdom of the Netherlands), and Christian Vazquez (Puerto Rico) will also take part. Cora himself admitted he’d love to manage but can’t due to rules against current managers taking part.

Come back in the coming days for updated WBC projections and perhaps more WBC news.

World Baseball Classic Update 7/22/22: Dominican and Korea get managers

The big news since our last update is that Rodney Linares will manage the Dominican Republic team in the WBC. Currently the third base coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, Linares had a brief minor league career and has been coaching ever since. He managed for several years in the Astros system before joining the Rays.

Speaking of the Dominican Republic, don’t expect to see Albert Pujols suiting up to play for them next year. With him retiring after this year and the Dominican talent pool so deep, he says he wouldn’t want to take the spot of a more worthy player. Instead, he’s planning on getting some traveling and spending time off with his kids. It’s similar to what I noted Miguel Cabrera said a few days ago, although Cabrera didn’t completely close the door to some sort of involvement.

Meanwhile, over in Asia, it’s been announced that Lee Kang-Chul will manage the South Korean squad in the WBC next year. A longtime pitcher in the KBO, he was the league’s strikeout champ back in 1992 and who remains one of the leaders in the league’s history in strikeouts and win. Lee has been the skipper of the KT Wiz since 2019, including a Korean Series title last season.

Finally: As has been noted before here and elsewhere, an effort is being made by Cuban players in North America to be part of the WBC. Major League Baseball again has noted that it isn’t up to the league, though, since rules for international competition put such decisions with national federations.