Much like the Team USA rosters, at this point this is a “pie-in-the-sky” roster. It assumes, probably wrongly, that every player I mention would be willing and able to play. That, needless to say, is highly unlikely. There are always injuries, spring training superstitions, or transaction considerations that cause players to back out. While this has not been as big of a problem in the past for the Dominican as it has been for some other countries, it still happens. So keep that in mind while reading this: it’s highly unlikely that the final roster will look like this.
That said, even with this being a pie-in-the-sky exercise, there are two rules I have in place while making this:
Teams are made up of 28 players, of which 13 of them must be pitchers and two of them catchers.
The pitch count rules make relievers extremely important.
One of the traditional baseball powers, the Dominican Republic is managed by Hector Borg, a former minor leaguer who now runs Latin American development for the San Francisco Giants. The Dominican has never won a medal in the Olympic Games, and in fact has only qualified once before (not counting an appearance at the 1984 games, when baseball was a demonstration sport). Will this be a games of firsts? Their roster can be found here.
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 at times plague the nation, it has also been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. 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 the civil war there. 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. The Dominican Republic won the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Olympic History: As mentioned earlier, the Dominicans have been in two Olympic baseball tournaments before, although only once where baseball was an official medal sport. A team that featured Ramon Martinez (not to be confused with his little brother, Pedro) went winless at the 1984 games in Los Angeles, while the Dominicans came in sixth in Barcelona in 1992.
Outside of baseball, the Dominicans have won seven medals in their history, including three golds. Two of those golds came thanks to Félix Sánchez, an American of Dominican descent who twice won the 400 meter hurdles. The other gold came from Félix Manuel Díaz, who won the boxing gold in the light welterweight class in 2008.
Road to Tokyo: The Dominicans were the last team to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Their first attempt came at the 2019 Premier12, but that team was eliminated in the first round. Next, they took part in the Americas Qualifying Tournament, where they came in second to Team USA. So, they had to take part in the final qualifying tournament. That tournament had a greatly reduced field after three teams (“Chinese Taipei”, China, and Australia) had to drop out due to COVID-related travel precautions, meaning the DR was competing with Venezuela and the Netherlands for the final spot. The Dominican would end up winning the tournament, defeating Venezuela 8-5 in the final to finally advance to the Olympics.
Notable Names: The most notable name by far is six-time all-star Jose Bautista. He hasn’t played in MLB or affiliated ball since 2018, and at 40 this may be his last ride. He was the starting 1B for the Dominican during early qualifiers (although he missed the final round where they finally qualified) and it is likely that will continue. While the rest of the infield lacks the sort of pedigree that “Joey Bats” has, there are still some who may be familiar to MLB fans, such as corner infielder Juan Francisco (who played parts of six season in the majors) and utilityman Erick Mejia (who had cups of coffee with Kansas City the last two seasons and remains active in their farm system).
On the pitching mound, the player with the most MLB experience is Jumbo Diaz, the 315 lb. reliever who pitched in 173 games between 2014 and 2017. Since then, he’s been playing in the Dominican and Mexico. There is also Jhan Marinez, who pitched in 103 games in relief over parts of five seasons between 2010 and 2018. Other pitchers on the team with MLB experience include LHP Dario Alvarez, righty reliever Jairo Asencio, former Met and Mariner Gerson Bautista, Cuban-defected LHP Raul Valdes, and 31-year-old Angel Sanchez, who pitched eight games for the PIrates in 2017 before going to Asia where he has had some success in Korea and Japan.
Ones to Watch: Like Team USA, the inability to use players on 40-man MLB rosters has forced the Dominican to draw not just from former MLB players like above but also those overseas or in the minors who have never tasted MLB ball.
Probably the biggest name among these players is Julio Rodriguez. A top-five prospect regardless of what list you are reading, the Mariners-system outfielder is hitting .327 between High-A and AA this season and has been named to the Futures Game. The highest-achieving player on the roster without MLB service time, though, is Christopher Crisostomo. The left-handed pitcher has been a member of Japan’s Yomiuri Giants since 2018, having joined their system in 2017 after topping off at low-A in America.
While those are perhaps the two you should most keep an eye on, they are far from the only ones. Beginning our look on the mound, LHP Junior Garcia is in AAA for the Diamondbacks organization, where he has a 2.93 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched since being promoted. 24-year-old right-hander Denyi Reyes is at AA in the Red Sox organization and has a 2.72 ERA in 36.1 IP. Luis Felipe Castillo has, like Garcia, also reached AAA for the Diamondbacks. The reliever has a 2.25 ERA when combining his time in AA and AAA this season in 20 IP.
Looking at position players, the most notable player without MLB experience besides Rodriguez is possibly Johan Mieses. An outfielder in the Red Sox system, he has an OPS over one this season in time split between AA and AAA, with 14 HRs to help get him there. Shortstop Jeison Guzman, a Royals farmhand, is hitting .278 in high-A this year with nine stolen bases.
One area of concern for the DR is at catcher. Their only two listed catchers are Roldani Baldwin (who has struggled this year at AA in Red Sox organization) and Charlie Valerio (who has spent most of the past five-to-six years primarily in Indy ball).
Outlook: It could be argued that no team, not even Team USA, is hurt as badly by the inability to use 40-man roster players as the Dominican Republic, and it is further hurt by the fact that for various reasons the Dominican has often had lower participation rates in international play to begin with. Still, this is a team with some definite experience and, in some cases, upcoming talent. While I do not think they should be considered likely to make it to the gold medal game, they are a threat to get onto the podium if they can catch a break or two.
You can find all the current Olympic Baseball previews here.
The Seattle Times ran an article on Mariners who may be playing in the WBC. Robinson Cano is all-in for the Dominican, of course, and so is Nelson Cruz. Dae-Ho Lee says he’ll play for Korea is he’s asked, and Felix Hernandez wants to play for Venezuela again (he wasn’t able to in 2013 due to contract stuff). Reliever Edwin Diaz wants to play for his native Puerto Rico. As for Americans, Kyle Seager said he’d love to play, although he admits the depth of American baseball means he could end up staying in Spring Training or sitting on the bench.
Pool A (Tokyo Dome): Australia, China, Cuba, Japan
Pool B (Geocheok Dome in Seoul, South Korea): Taipei, Korea, Netherlands, winner of Brooklyn Qualifying pool (more on that later)
Pool C (Marlins Park in Miami): Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, USA
Pool D (Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico): Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela
Pool E (Tokyo Dome): Top two of Pool A and Pool B
Pool F (Petco Park in San Diego): Top two of Pool C and Pool D
Semi-Finals and Finals are in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Rosters for the Brooklyn Qualifier have been revealed:
Late in August, the rosters for the final qualifying pool were revealed. Baseball America has a good rundown of them, and I’ll go more in-depth on them when I do my preview of the group later in the month. But my early impressions say that Brazil and Israel will be the main teams to beat in the pool, although the UK could surprise.
Other WBC News:
Kim In-Sik, the manager for Team Korea, is pessimistic about the team’s chances due to a lack of pitching, especially right-handers. He hopes to get Seung-Hwan Oh, but problems with a gambling situation in Macau that led to his suspension from KBO and NPB (it’s complicated and I’m not entirely sure if I fully understand it, but it has to do with rules in Korea and Japan that frown upon gambling even if it’s in a place where it’s legal) make that less than a slam-dunk. On the position player side, Dae-Ho Lee and Byung-Ho Park have been supportive, although Park’s injury makes it unlikely he will take part. Among the KBO players Kim is looking at is Jae-Kuk Ryu, who had some time in the majors from 2006 to 2008. Another article suggests that Hyun-Soo Kim of the Orioles is a certainty to be on the team, but that other MLB players besides him and Dae-Ho Lee are iffy due to the fact they all have had injury problems throughout the year.
Ervin Santana is eager to represent the Dominican at the next WBC, and hopes that Miguel Sano can join him. However, based on conversations that Sano has had with Latin American scouting sources for the Twins, it’s possible he’ll be the odd man and might be better served staying with the Twins, since the DR likely will have players like Adrian Beltre and Edwin Encarnacion filling the roles that Sano would likely would be most fit for.
Noah Syndergaard is likely to receive an invitation from Team USA, although it’s unknown if he would accept.
Ken Rosenthal speculates that Clayton Kershaw and A.J. Ellis may have a reunion on Team USA next spring. However, he notes that there are plenty of “ifs” connected to that, especially related to Kershaw’s health and whether Ellis would even be considered for Team USA given America’s depth at the position.
Russell Martin has said he intends to play for Canada if he is healthy. John Axford is also excited to participate.
And if he is going to take part in the WBC, it’s going to have to be on Team USA, since Cuba has announced that, despite some negotiations to make it happen, defectors will not be allowed on the Cuban national team.
Bryce Harper is in so long as some of the other top US players are going to be playing.
Manny Machado is now on record as being on Team Dominican Republic next year.
Alex Rodriguez, who famously has hemmed and hawed between playing for the USA (the land of his birth) and the Dominican (the land where he spent significant parts of his childhood), has said if he takes part in 2017 it’ll be for the Dominican.
As expected, Max Kepler will not be playing for Germany in the qualifiers, as he will be staying in camp. It was thought that it was unlikely anyway given how he has an outside chance at making the opening day roster, but this is further confirmation.
Hello, everybody. Here’s some WBC news from the last few weeks, in no particular order:
The Mexican League and the Mexican Baseball Federation continue to squabble, making it unlikely that any Mexican leaguers will partake in the qualifying. However, I’ve also seen some tweets that indicate that this has been solved and that Mexican League players will take part. I’ll let you know when I have it cleared up.
A preliminary roster for Team Nicaragua (thanks to Max Wildstein) was released. This roster has since changed (you can find how it has in some of the other items) and would be pared down to 28 anyway, but it gives you a good idea of some of the players who will be on the team:
Donovan Solano, now in the Yankees organization, is still deciding whether he will play for Colombia in the qualifiers or if he will stay in camp. However, he is listed in a list of MLB-affiliated players who are “confirmed” for Colombia:
Now, this was a lot of news. Maybe too much. And I probably missed some. And for that reason, I’m glad to say that starting now, WBC Updates will be FAR more frequent, occurring AT LEAST once a week, but at times happening on a daily or every-other-daily basis.
This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.
We are over a year from the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and the road will no doubt be filled with commitments, pull-outs, unusual nationality switches, injuries, trades, new contracts, personal decisions and god-knows-what-else still on the way. But, for now, let’s just imagine everybody is available: who’d be on Team Dominican in the 2017 World Baseball Classic?
Perhaps it would look something like this. Now, a reminder of the WBC roster rules:
Any player coming off a major injury or who has a history of injuries is unlikely to participate. This is especially true for the pitchers. (This “rule” is being ignored for version 0.1)
Players that will be on new teams are less likely to participate, but shouldn’t be completely ignored, with the exception of pitchers. (This “rule” is being ignored for version 0.1)
Teams are made up of 28 players, of which 13 of them must be pitchers and two of them catchers.
The pitch count rules make relievers extremely important.
Here we go:
Catchers (3): Wellington Castillo, Francisco Pena, Pedro Severino
First Baseman (3): Albert Pujols, Carlos Santana, Edwin Encarnacion
One of them would presumably also DH, obviously.
Second Baseman (1): Robinson Cano
Third Baseman (2): Adrian Beltre, Maikel Franco
Oh, Adrian Beltre will be in his late 30s in 2017, you say? That is true, but I wouldn’t bet against him.
Shortstop (2): Erick Aybar, Jhonny Peralta
Designated Hitter/3B/Who-The-Heck-Knows (1): Miguel Sano
Outfielders (4): Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Gomez, Starling Marte
Starting Pitchers (4): Johnny Cueto, Carlos Martinez, Danny Salazar, Francisco Liriano
Relief Pitchers (8): Jeurys Familia, Kelvin Herrera, Arodys Vizcaino, Pedro Strop, Santiago Casilla, Luis Garcia, Antonio Bastardo, Alexi Ogando
And so, that’s Version 0.1 of my TeamDR projections. Version 1.0, which will include actual consideration as to whether I think somebody will actually take part or not, will come out sometime in the future. But until then…. feel free to imagine how the team would do if it looked like this.
At Noon: Mini-Book Reviews!
This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.
It’s time to catch up on some World Baseball Classic news!
Lincoln Holdzkom passes away
First off, though, there is tragic news out of California, where New Zealander-American pitcher Lincoln Holdzkom has passed away after a car accident. Holdzkom, the brother of John Holdzkom of the Pirates organization, was expected to be the team captain for New Zealand in the WBC Qualifiers. Our thoughts are with him and his family and friends.
However, there are some problems that could trip up Mexico. For one thing, while MLB teams are very strongly encouraged to allow players to participate in the qualifiers, they are not required (unlike the main rounds of the WBC, where they are only allowed to officially block player participation if they are coming off an injury or there are too many players being picked from their roster). In addition, there is an ongoing feud between the Mexican League and Mexico’s national baseball federation that will make the participation of Mexican Leaguers iffy.
Trot Nixon is expected to be a coach on the Czech Republic team for their qualifier. I can’t think of any connection between Nixon and the Czechs, so presumably it’s just a case of getting somebody with baseball experience to help out.
Eduardo Perez has turned down an offer to manage Spain in the qualifiers, citing time concerns and the fact he’d like to manage Venezuela (although others are likely ahead of him on the list).
One of the great perks of SABR membership is access online to The Sporting News’ archives. While it now is dedicated to all sports, for a good chunk of it’s earlier history it was almost entirely focused on baseball. This allows us to see how players, ideas, teams and even countries first got the attention of the baseball press. So, similar to my article on the firstreferences to Japanese baseball, here’s a look at the first references to baseball in the Caribbean in the Sporting News archives…. just in time for the Caribbean World Series in February!