In our first article we had a brief introduction on the World Baseball Classic and we took a look at Group A. In our second article we discussed Group B and last week we discussed Group C that will play its games in Phoenix. Today our preview is about Group D.
Note: this article will be published on Thursday when the WBC 50-man rosters are announced. So there will be an update on that, but this article has been written before that announcement.
Group D is led by the bookies’ favourites Dominican Republic that is actually ranked rather low on the WBSC’ World Ranking at number 9. Although the DR is the favourite in this group, they will face fierce opposition from number 6 Venezuela, number 13 Puerto Rico, number 17 Nicaragua and number 20 Israel. Even the biggest outsider here, either Nicaragua or Israel, are able to reach the next round.
Group D will play its games in Miami.
(Former) Diamondbacks in this group would be Ketel Marte, Jean Segura (Dominican Republic), David Peralta (Venezuela),
Despite being ranked lower than Venezuela, the Dominicans are both group and tournament favourite. Why? Jim McLennan already wrote very recently why: there is a huge amount of players the team will be able to pull from.
It’s certainly not a lack of interest the Dominican Republic has to battle to put together a competitive roster that can beat the US, the other favourite, to win the World Championship. Rather, it are the MLB teams that are not very eager to release their Dominican players to play in the upcoming WBC.
From what the Dominican general manager, current MLB-player Nelson Cruz, has mentioned we know that Seattle Mariners’ Luis Castillo and former Diamondback and current Mets’ player Starlin Marte will not play in the WBC. Other than them, currently there are about 16-18 players more that are not a lock to play in this year’s WBC because of their MLB team struggling to give the green light.
But even if all of those 16-18 players weren’t allowed to play, the Dominican Republic would still be able to field a team that is able to battle for gold.
Manny Machado, Jeremy Peña, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Jose Ramirez, Juan Soto, Julio Rodriguez, Eloy Jimenez, Jorge Polanco, Ketel Marte, Rafael Devers, Gary Sanchez, Wander Franco, Willy Adames, Framber Valdez, Christian Javier, Sandy Alcantara, Diego Castillo, Enmanuel Clase, Johnny Cueto, Rafael Montero...the list of stars doesn’t stop and that is why the gambling sites have listed the Carribbean island as the top favourite.
That team should be able to win the WBC for the second time, after their maiden triumph in 2013. It should wipe out there somewhat disappointing 2017 performance, when they beat the US in the first round but were knocked out in the second round by losing games against Puerto Rico, an opponent they will face again this year, and the same US.
Venezuela faced the Dominicans in the 2017 and 2013 edition, just like Puerto Rico. In those editions they would eventually come up short after battling bravely, but in 2009 Venezuela achieved its best result in the WBC with a third place, after losing in semifinals against Korea.
This year it’s a tough call to see Venezuela reach the top 4 in the tournament, but they should be able to reach the second round with a preliminary roster that is without Ronald Acuña Jr, but with stars like Jose Altuve, Pablo Lopez, Andres Gimenez, Anthony Santander, Miguel Rojas, Miguel Cabrera, Eugenio Suarez, Luis Arraez, Salvador Perez, Avisail Garcia, Martin Perez, Ranger Suarez, Brusdar Graterol, Jesus Luzardo, German Marquez, Jose Alvarado and Luis Garcia. Most interesting name for the Diamondbacks fans is probably David Peralta, although his current status as a free agent leaves his participation somewhat in the air.
That’s a pretty strong lineup with some good pitching as well that could easily surprise Dominican Republic and take the first spot in the group.
If it weren’t for being drawn into the same group as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, Puerto Rico surely would be a lock to advance to the second phase in the tournament.
History has already proven they can do so: in both 2013 and 2017 Puerto Rico were runners up to Dominican Republic and the United States of America.
This year, the Puerto Ricans will probably construct their best roster ever: Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez were rising stars in 2017 but are now established major leaguers and will carry the infield of the team. Christian Vazquez and Kike Hernandez are two other players that will surely ring a bell. The pitching is rather strong as well, with current Mets’ closer Edwin Diaz standing out as the top reliever, but Jorge Lopez, Mychal Givens, Seth Lugo, Joe Jimenez and Emilio Pagan have earned their tracks as well. The rotation will be carried by Jose Berrios and Marcus Stroman.
As said, not as strong as the Dominican Republic and maybe Venezuela, but still a strong team able to beat any other.
It is weird that Israel is actually ranked this low on the World Baseball ranking as the team will hardly do anything else than it has already done: thanks to their own Israelian law that anyone with a Jewish parent can play for the country, Israel has been a rising comet in baseball land fielding a team of only American-born players.
In 2017 they participated for the first team in the WBC and immediately won the group stage, beating The Netherlands, Korea and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei). They couldn’t repeat that success in the second round, where they lost out to The Netherlands and Japan, but their footprint was set. In Europe it has led to two lost finals in the European Championship to The Netherlands, but they were able to beat the Dutch on their way to the Olympics.
However, in the WBC all national teams are able to pull from the MLB and that is where Israel might come up short against stronger opponents like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
Their preliminary roster, led by coach Ian Kinsler, doesn’t really have many players that stand out, although Joc Pederson and Kevin Pillar are well-known names, but Israel’s biggest problem is that players that could play for Israel would probably rather play for the US. Still, they are said to have taunted Harrison Bader, Max Fried and Alex Bregman, although neither player committed.
It is the first time Nicaragua participates in the WBC, so just being there is already a win for the tiny Latin American country.
But Nicaragua shouldn’t be underestimated too much, as their baseball league is strong enough to put some kind of talent forward with the possibility to upset an opponent in this strong Group D.
However, finding a player with major league experience on their preliminary roster is hard, with Mets’ prospect Mark Vientos and Yankees’ Jonathan Loaisaga probably the most famous names, while Cheslor Cuthbert is a player with some experience in the MLB for the Royals.
That leaves Nicaragua as the weakest opponent of all in Group D, but with enough power to surprise.