New Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu won't pitch in the WBC, but don't count out Korea from advancing far again in the Classic. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

World Baseball Classic: With a Few MLB Players, Pool B is Wide Open

Pool B features a smattering of current and former MLB talent in what might be the most wide open pool of the first round. Each of the four teams competing are ranked in the top 10 of the IBAF World Rankings.

South Korea – World Rank 4

The 2009 World Baseball Classic runner-up is back, but this time they will be without any current Major League players after both Shin-S

oo Choo and newcomer Hyun-Jin Ryu have decided to sit out. All of the players on the team play in either the Korean Baseball Organization or over in Japan, and there is a lot of talent on the team.

Returning with WBC experience are players such as Tae-kyun Kim who led the team in RBI (11), runs (9), walks (8), and tied for the lead with three home runs. Also returning is Dae-ho Lee who twice won the triple crown in Korea. He spent the 2012 season hitting 24 home runs in Japan for the Orix Buffaloes.

Also on the team coming off career years are Jung-ho Kang (.314/25/82) and Jung Choi (.290/26/84). They will combine with one of the greatest hitters in Korean history Seung-yeop Lee. Before leaving for Japan in 2004, Lee was a five-time KBO MVP and is the youngest player ever to hit 300 home runs.

There is a lot of experience, power, and talent on Team Korea. Expect them to do well in the tournament.

The Netherlands – World Rank 7

The Dutch team stunned the world in the 2009 World Baseball Classic when they defeated the Dominican Republic twice en route to the second round.  Despite advancing to the second round in 2009, the Dutch had little to no offense in each of their games. This time around they have added a little bit more offensive punch.

They are led by the Washington Nationals Roger Bernadina and former big leaguer Andruw Jones who is now playing in Japan.  The infield consists of some of the best young talent in the game, even if Jurickson Profar decides not to play.

The Atlanta Braves Andrelton Simmons will be penciled in at short and will be surrounded by some exciting young talent. Joining Simmons will be Xander Bogaerts, a prospect from the Boston Red Sox, and Jonathan Schoop, a third base prospect of the Orioles.

In 2009, the Dutch won with pitching, and they will be returning some of the guys who helped them advance. Robbie Cordemans is back after tossing 6.2 innings of scoreless relief in 2009. While they will be without former MLB pitchers Sidney Ponson and Rick Vanden Hurk, who both started two games in 2009, they will have some MLB experience.

Shairon Martis, who pitched with Washington in 2008 and 2009, will be with the team. Several of the other players have WBC experience but haven’t quite cracked the Major Leagues. Jair Jurrjens has said he will pass on the chance to pitch for the Dutch after restructuring his contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Australia – World Rank 10

As baseball continues to grow in Australia, more and more players are heading over the US to play in the minor leagues. This team is full of young guys playing all throughout the minor league ranks.

The pitching staff is missing its two big MLB guys in the Oakland A’s Grant Balfour and Travis Blackley. They will have Peter Moylan at their service. However, he has been troubled by injuries the past few seasons and he hasn’t pitched a full season in the Majors since 2010. Their staff is full of guys who have pitched all the way from Single-A to Triple-A.

Offensively Australia has a few players with MLB experience. Infielders Justin Huber and Luke Hughes have limited MLB experience to share with the group of young guys on the team.

The team has a good mixture of young and old guys with a good bit of international experience. The team has not advanced past the first round of the WBC yet, but they will be competitive in Pool B.

Chinese Taipei – World Rank 5

The always competitive Chinese Taipei will be the host of Pool B and looking to do better than their disappointing showing in 2009.

Leading them this year will be former Washington Nationals pitcher Chien-Ming Wang who is currently a free-agent and will be looking to impress scouts. Joining Wang on the pitching staff will be Hong-Chih Kuo who pitched  for seven years in the Dodgers bullpen. Kuo, only 31, sat out in 2012 after suffering from an anxiety disorder and a fifth elbow surgery.

The offense might not have as much MLB experience, but they have a ton of international tournament experience. Leading the way will be former Futures Game MVP Che-Hsuan Lin who made his MLB debut last season with the Boston Red Sox.

However, the most experience batter is Cheng-Ming Peng who has over 1,100 hits in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, the professional circuit in Chinese Taipei. He has led the league in hitting five times and played for the team in the 2009 WBC.

This might be the most competitive pool from top to bottom and it will get started with Australia taking on host Chinese Taipei on Saturday March 2.

Tags: World Baseball Classic

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