What a thriller it has been already in the third installment of the World Baseball Classic. We’ve seen the Dominican fan base electrify a stadium that has never been more in need of some positivity.
We’ve seen hometown Mexico fans get involved with families of Puerto Rican players, causing a stoppage in the game and having players such as Yadier Molina to take to Instagram, complaining about the ‘lack of security’ and how the ‘MLB is more worried about making money than the safety of its players’ families’.
We’ve even seen the unlikeliest of heroes emerge in nation of Israel. I love it. I can’t get enough of Israel baseball. It’s even got Jon Heyman excited! However, with the Netherlands taking on an 0-2 Cuba team, and Israel taking on a tough 2-0 Japan squad, I foresee the Cinderella story unfortunately coming to an end.
So, with that, here come my three favorites for the rest of the WBC, with the first pool of the second round concluding play tonight.
These guys are fired up. Javier Baez is becoming the elite player everyone thought he was going to be two years ago more and more everyday. He’s hitting .357 with a double, home run, five runs batted in and only striking out twice. Pair that with a hot-hitting Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor and you have a deadly infield that I’m not sure can be matched.
They may not have the quality of pitching we may see from other remaining sides. If the pitching backs them up, watch for the boys from Puerto Rico to make a finals run.
2. United States
No team is deeper on the mound than the United States. Chris Archer and Marcus Stroman combined for 8 2/3 scoreless innings with Archer tossing four perfect frames. I’m going to go ahead and call the blown lead by the U.S. bullpen as a fluke because no one’s scored off Andrew Miller since like ’13. Look for the U.S. to swap arms with their deep designated pitcher list.
To go along with that, you have the bats. Nolan Arenado batted .091 during the first round of pool play, but he did have a three-run blast against Canada. Luckily names like Christian Yelich have provided some hot-hitting. Through 10 at bats, Yelich has five hits, two being doubles. Crawford has five hits as well, but through 11 at bats. He has three doubles and two RBIs. Look for better a round from the more elite hitters in the United States lineup and deep run.
This is a dangerous team that I’m not sure gets enough attention. I mentioned earlier how Javier Baez was coming into his own. Same goes for Jurickson Profar. Through 19 at bats, Profar is hitting .474 with four doubles, a home run and three runs driven in. Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has provided a team-leading eight runs batted (in second with five is Wladimir Balentien, yes that Wladimir Balientien who spent parts of three seasons with the Mariners and Reds in ’07-’09). Xander Bogaerts has had a quiet series, but he’s a top-five hitting shortstop who is coming off back-to-back stellar years, including a career-high 21 home runs in 2016. Look for him to lead the charge tonight against Cuba at 11 p.m. EDT.
There you have it, my top teams to make a deep run in the World Baseball Classic. In the end, Puerto Rico wins it all.
Questions, comments or debate, I can be found on Twitter at @jordlindz.