Okay, now the other two qualifying pools for the WBC don’t get started until November (as opposed to the first two, which are coming up THIS VERY WEEK), but I think it’s a good idea to do an early look at them:
The PANAMA CITY pool features Panama, Brazil, Nicaragua and Colombia. This is, by far, the best qualifying group. All four of these countries had at least one MLB player active this season, three of them have professional leagues (although admittedly the Panamanian, Nicaraguan and Colombian leagues are often in a financially fragile position), and the fact the group is in November means MLB players will be able to take part. It is also, in international sports parlance, a “group of death”. A “group of death” is a group that is so talented or evenly-matched that there is almost no margin for error. This is the group that has the best worst team (Brazil, which has produced more minor leaguers than you’d think) and a best team (Panama) that, while the favorite, is definitely beatable. I did projections for Panama earlier this year, so you can look there to get an idea of who they will be sending in. Colombia will likely have the Solano brothers of Donovan (a 2B/Utility with the Marlins this season) and Jhonathan (a catcher with the Nationals, although injuries may sideline him), as well as pitchers like Ernesto Frieri, Jose Quintana, Julio Teheran and perhaps a coming-out-of-retirement-for-his-country Edgar Renteria. Nicaragua could have young Mariners organization pitcher Erasmo Ramirez joined by the Padres’ 25-year-old SS Everth Cabrera and veteran pitchers Wilton Lopez and Vicente Padilla. Even Brazil could have a MLB-experienced player in Yan Gomes, who became the first Brazil-born MLB player earlier this year when he made his debut with the Blue Jays. It should be a highly competitive and entertaining pool, and although I think either Panama or Colombia will emerge from it, there are plenty of question marks around it and I wouldn’t be that surprised if any of the teams involved got through (okay, I would be pretty surprised if Brazil got through, but it wouldn’t be as surprising as, say, France or the Czech Republic getting through).
On the other hand, though, the TAIPEI pool of Taipei, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines will be the most lopsided of all of the pool. Chinese Taipei (not called Taiwan in international competition due to political considerations) will win this group. Even if New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines were to pool their resources and throw out a combined team against Taipei, Taipei would win. The only reason Taipei is even having to qualify is because in 2009 they had a game against China in which they played their worst game and China played it’s best. However, Taipei shouldn’t have that problem against their pool, even if the other three get substantial help from passport players.
More detailed previews will be in the future.