U.S. should win WBC
Spring training will be missing some players when the second annual World Baseball Classic begins March 5.’
Defending champion Japan will look to go back-to-back in the 16-team tournament for world baseball supremacy, but I am not buying it.
Although several players have dropped out of the WBC, I believe the United States will win the event, edging out quality teams such as Japan, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
The U.S.’s pitching rotation is anchored by Astros ace Roy Oswalt and 2007 CY Young Award-winner Jake Peavy. A one-two punch of Oswalt and Peavy will intimidate opponents throughout the tournament.’
Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly and Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie will be relied upon as anchors in the back of the rotation.’
The U.S.’s bullpen consists of proven arms, such as Angels relievers Scott Shields and left-hander Brian Fuentes. Shields and Fuentes give the bullpen a righty-lefty duo that can bridge the U.S. from the middle innings to the ninth, when Mets reliever J.J. Putz will be looking to seal the deal.’
The U.S.’s lineup is also stacked with sluggers such as Mets third basemen David Wright and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Rollins, a former National League MVP, is an excellent leadoff hitter. He has the speed to steal bases, but can still hit for power. Wright will be one of the big boppers in the middle of the lineup, alongside Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun and Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis.’
Wright, Braun, and Youkilis combined for 99 home runs last season, proving they have the ability to make pitchers work hard for outs. Youkilis is a patient hitter, who will battle opposing pitchers with long, exhausting at-bats. Braun has the ability to crush the baseball and will have a number of chances to drive in runs because of the great hitters surrounding him in the batting order.
Next to Rollins at the top of the lineup is 2008 American League Most Valuable Player Red Sox second basemen Dustin Pedroia. In 2008, the 5-9 slugger had a huge season, hitting .326 with 17 home runs and 83 runs batted in. Pedroia had 213 hits in addition to 118 runs last year for a Red Sox team who missed David Ortiz for a good portion of the season due to injury and Manny Ramirez after he was traded to the Dodgers.
Pedroia’s patience at the plate and gutsy play style should fuel Team USA to play inspired baseball as they try to dethrone Ichiro Suzuki and a Japanese team hungry to win another WBC.
Other players on Team USA to watch include Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, and Braves catcher Brian McCann. All of these veterans will need to be leaders in the clubhouse if the U.S. hopes to advance far in the tournament.
Although Japan has only five Major League Baseball players, baseball is a very popular sport in Japan.’
Japanese players are underrated, but major leaguers, such as Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsusaka, Rays second basemen Akinori Iwamura and Suzuki will anchor a talented Japanese squad.
The WBC’s dark horse is Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican outfielders Alex Rios and Carlos Beltran will team up with slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado to give Puerto Rico a potent middle batting order. If Javier Vasquez and Ian Snell can pitch lights out, Puerto Rico could surprise some teams.
Team USA has the most MLB players and talent. To no-one’s surprise, the U.S. is my hands-down favorite to win it all. The recent addition of outfielder Adam Dunn gives Team USA too many sluggers in its lineup to pitch around.’
WBC MVP will go to the U.S. switch-hitter Jones, who finished the 2008 season with a .364 batting average and 22 home runs.’