The 2017 World Baseball Classic is shifting to San Diego’s Petco Park where four teams will vie for just two spots in the semifinals of the tournament. This is a double-elimination round robin type round and it will showcase Team Dominican Republic, Team USA, Team Puerto Rico and Team Venezuela fighting for the final two spots from their pool let’s recap how they got their and preview the second round of the WBC.
Team Dominican Republic is the defending World Baseball Classic champions and will head into the second round after posting a 3-0 record in Pool C. The offense has been as stellar as advertised and Juerys Familia has been absolutely dominant in the closer role. Having Dellin Betances and Alex Colome in front of him turns every game Team Dominican Republic is in into a seven inning game, sometimes earlier. Ervin Santana will enter the team’s starting rotation for the second round which can only help them although their offense will have to start scoring before the later innings against presumably tougher competition in Round 2 if they want to defend their title.
The team that the Dominican Republic beat in the finals of the last World Baseball Classic, and three times total in the 2013 WBC, is Team Puerto Rico and these two teams look destined for another matchup or three this time around as well. Puerto Rico also went 3-0 in their Pool and they didn’t just win, they obliterated any pitcher put in front of them. From the Carlos Correa bat flip to the outstanding hitting from the likes of Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez you have to think the Puerto Ricans have at least the advantage offensively. It will come down to the pitching for Team Puerto Rico but if Seth Lugo and Jorge Lopez can pitch in Round 2 like they did in the first round the team should be just fine.
Team USA was in Pool C with Team Dominican Republic and head into the second round with a 2-1 record, that one loss to the defending WBC champions. Team USA actually led for much of that contest before the Dominican Republic offense finally woke up later in the game to snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat. Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman and Danny Duffy were fantastic for Team USA combining for exactly zero runs allowed in 12.2 innings pitched but while the team pitched well the offense was sluggish in two of the three games. A narrow victory over Team Columbia, the tough loss to Team Dominican Republic and the rout of Team Canada equates to a team that needs to pick up the pace if they want to advance to the semifinals. You have to expect Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton and Nolan Arenado to hit above the Stephen Drew Line (trademark pending for hitting .150) and you have to expect Andrew Miller and that bullpen to be better, and they will be, so color me “not worried.”
The final team in the pool is Team Venezuela who had to head to a tiebreaker game with Team Italy to reach the 2-2 mark and to advance in the tournament. Team Venezuela beat Team Italy 4-3 over the weekend to advance after an embarrassing 11-0 loss to Puerto Rico. Team Venezuela bounced back with nail biting victory over Italy 11-10 before a tough loss to Mexico 11-9. The pitching has struggled, due in large part to the team losing Salvador Perez to a knee injury, and the offense has been inconsistent at best aside from Martin Prado. Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Carlos Gonzalez should be better but if I was Team Venezuela I would worry if it was too late before they woke up. This pool is stacked with talented teams and I’m not sure the Venezuelans can afford to wait very long for their sluggers and pitching to wake up.