With the recent news that Bruce Chen will not pitch for China in the upcoming 2013 World Baseball Classic, there will be no current Major League players participating in Pool A during the first round.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t Major League caliber players in Pool A which consists of China, Brazil, Cuba, and Japan.
Japan – World Rank 3
For the first time in the history of the World Baseball Classic, Japan will field a team without any current MLB players after stars Yu Darvish and Ichiro Suzuki declined to participate. However, the team is full of talent from the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
They are led by Sawamura Award (equivilant to the Cy Young Award) winner Tadashi Settsu (17-5/1.91) who was very impressive in 2012. Also on the pitching staff is 2007 ROY winner Masahiro Tanaka who has over 1,000 strikeouts, 75 wins, and a 2.50 ERA in six years of play.
Offensively Japan will feature one former MLB player in Kazuo Matsui. The veteran brings seven years of MLB experience to a team full of young talent. They will also have current Central League MVP Shinnosuke Abe who put up big numbers this past season hitting .340 with 27 home runs and 104 RBI for the Yomiuri Giants.
China – World Rank 18
American born Chang has been playing in the minor leagues since 2005 for several organizations. In 2012, Chang spent his time at Triple-A Rochester in the Twins organization. He also has WBC experience playing for China in 2009 hitting China’s only home run.
The only MLB experience on the team is on the coaching staff. Led by former Seattle Mariners manager John McLaren, the staff is full of experience at the top level. The staff also includes former pitcher Bruce Hurst and ex-manager Art Howe.
Once again China will have their hands full if they are going to advance.
Cuba – World Rank 1
Always a perinniel power when it comes to international baseball, Cuba features a lot of talent, young and old. Eleven of the final 28-man roster have previous WBC experience.
After finishing second in the 2006 Classic, Cuba was bounced from the tournament with two losses to the eventual champion Japan in Round 2 in 2009. There is always a lot of pressure on Cuba to do well in big tournaments, so look for a strong showing come March.
Brazil – World Rank 20
This is the first time Brazil has competed in the WBC, and the team and has already made a big splash defeating Panama 1-0 in the qualifier to advance to the First Round in Fukuoka.
There are only two players on team with experience past the Single-A level of ball including Paulo Orlando who played for Double-A Northwest Arkansas of the Texas League in 2012. Orlando has reached as high as Triple-A with the Kansas City Royals organization in 2011.
The other with Triple-A experience is Andre Rienzo who pitched one game for the White Sox affiliate in Charlotte last season. He spent most of the year pitching in Double-A Birmingham.
Brazil is led by Hall of Famer Barry Larkin who is trying to impart some of his wisdom onto the young club.
Pool A opens play on Saturday March 2 when Japan takes on Brazil.