The first round of the tournament will be played March 6-12. There are four ‘pools’ or ‘groups’ of four teams each, and each pool will play its games in a different country. The first and second place team of each pool will advance to the second round of the competition. The top two teams of Pool A and B will advance to the second round of the tournament in Tokyo, Japan, while the top two teams of Pool C and D will play their games at Petco Park in San Diego.
Pool A is composed of South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands, and Israel. South Korea will serve as the host, as the games of the pool will be played at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea. Here is a look of each team in Pool A of the 2017 WBC.
South Korea has been a solid team in the WBC, finishing in third place in the 2006 edition and being runners-up in the 2009 edition of the tournament. Many players have gained relevancy for South Korea in this competition, like the case of Dodger’s pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu in the 2009 edition of the tournament. The skipper for South Korea will be 69-year-old, Kim In-Sik. The veteran has a wealth of experience managing domestically since 1990.
This years’ roster for South Korea features all domestic league players with the exception of St. Louis Cardinals’ relief pitcher, Seung-hwan Oh. The 34-year-old has represented South Korea in all editions of the competition, and will most likely serve as the closer for his nation. Another notable player that South Korea does possess on its roster is former Mariner, Dae-Ho Lee. The 34-year-old tried his luck in MLB with the Seattle Mariners in 2016 and had a decent season, posting a .253 BA with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. The veteran first baseman has now gone back to South Korea for the 2017 season to play for the Lotte Giants and will likely serve as the DH for Kim In-sik in the WBC. The runners-up of the 2009 WBC will be an interesting team and can possibly come out on top in Pool A, as they do have home-field advantage.
The Taiwanese team has never had success in the WBC, as their best result was eighth place in the 2013 edition of the tournament. The man at the helm for Chinese Taipei will be Kuo Tai-yuan, who is regarded as one of the best Taiwanese pitchers of all time with his work in Japan’s NPB. Chinese Taipei does possess three pitchers who play for MLB organizations, two of which are on the Cleveland Indians in Ping-Hsueh Chen and Shao-Ching Chiang. The other is Wei-Chung Wang of the Milwaukee Brewers organization. The most interesting player for Kuo Tai-yuan in this WBC is a man who is not even affiliated with a team, in Chien-Ming Wang. The former Yankees pitcher is regarded as the best Taiwanese pitcher ever. Chinese Taipei will need to count on their pitching if they are to make it far in this competition.
The Netherlands is an intriguing team in this competition. They are led by San Francisco Giants coach, Hensley ‘Bam Bam’ Meulens, who has been a part of three World Series championships with the Giants. The Netherlands team has players who play all over the world. There are players who play domestically, in the MLB, Germany, Japan, and even in Nicaragua. Some of the standout players include Kenley Jansen, Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Schoop, and Andrelton Simmons. With players like that, the Netherlands could prove to be a dark horse in this competition, like they were in the 2013 edition where they finished in fourth place.
Israel is one of the few teams in this competition composed only of MLB players, which can work to its advantage. Israel will also be participating in their first ever World Baseball Classic. A lot of the players do play on minor league affiliates, but have had MLB experience in the past. Some former Friars on the team include Craig Breslow, Jason Marquis, and the eccentric Cody Decker. Other standouts on the team include Scott Feldman and Ike Davis. The team should be an interesting unit in this WBC and should be able to compete in this Pool A of the tournament.
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Francisco, 26, Chula Vista/Tijuana. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres’ 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the local soccer scene. Tijuana Xolos, San Diego Loyal, San Diego Wave.