Canada, France, Germany and South Africa already had released their rosters for the 2012 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers. Major League Baseball has released the tentative 28-man rosters for the other four teams involved in the two four-team qualifiers that begin Sept. 19 and Sept. 20.
Heading the list in terms of affiliated minor leaguers is Israel, which is the favorite in the Jupiter, Fla., qualifier that also will include South Africa, Spain and France. Israel's roster includes two ex-big leaguers in Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler; three players from Israel, all pitchers; and a team of minor leaguers that includes Josh Satin, who got 28 at-bats over the last two seasons with the Mets; top Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson; 2011 Rule 5 draft pick Brett Lorin; and 14 players overall who were in Double-A or Triple-A in 2012.
Israel's offense should have some thump if Green and Kapler can flash a bit of their big league form; Green hasn't played in the majors since 2007, Kapler since 2010. Pederson brings pop (18 homers this season) and athleticism after batting .313/.396/.516 as a 20-year-old at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga this season. He's the team's top prospect and arguably the best on any of the eight teams playing next week.
Minor league first basemen Cody Decker and Nate Freiman, teammates with the Padres' Double-A San Antonio club this season, combined for 49 homers—Freiman 24 while hitting .298/.370/.502, Decker 25 while batting .263/.367/.540. Decker could play some outfield as well.
The rest of the infield includes Satin, listed as a second baseman, who is a career .303 hitter in 580 minor league games; middle infielders Jake Lemmerman (Dodgers), who was Freiman's teammate at Duke, and former UC Irvine stalwart Ben Orloff (Astros), a .281/.361/.328 hitter as a pro; and former UCLA star Casey Haerther (Angels), listed as a third baseman. Haerther played first base while batting .271/.288/.380 at Double-A Arkansas this season.
Ben Guez (Tigers) and Robbie Widlansky (Orioles) join Pederson in the outfield, though Widlansky also could play some third base for manager Brad Ausmus (Padres). Ausmus' catchers include Charlie Cutler (Pirates), Jack Marder (Mariners) and Nick Rickles (Athletics). Marder, also an infielder, had a big year at high Class A High Desert, hitting .360/.425/.583, and the Oregon alum will be an intriguing prospect if he can be a full-time catcher and hit for any power away from the Cal League.
Israel's pitching staff is frankly less impressive. Its most experienced starting pitchers are Lorin, who went 3-10, 6.40 at Double-A Mobile this season; and lefty Eric Berger (Indians), 2-9, 5.27 between Double-A and Triple-A. The other starters are lefty Max Perlman (Athletics), who made 10 starts at two A-ball levels, and righthander Justin Schumer (Giants), who was 7-4, 4.87 at high Class A San Jose.
Israel has some intriguing relief options, such as righthander Josh Zeid (Astros), who had 66 strikeouts in 56 innings this year at Double-A but also had a 5.59 ERA; lefty Jeff Urlaub (A's), who had 58 strikeouts and just nine walks in 65 innings between two A-ball stops this year; and righty David Colvin (Mariners), who was 5-3, 3.15 with four saves in low Class A Clinton this season.
Spain Goes Heavy For "Passport" Players
Spain figures to give Israel a run in the Jupiter, Fla., qualifier with a roster fortified with passport players; only one of the players on the roster has lists a Spanish hometown on the roster. The most recognizable affiliated player is Rangers farmhand, outfielder Engel Beltre, who hit .261/.307/.420 with 13 homers and 36 stolen bases in his third season at Double-A Frisco. The athletic Beltre has battled inconsistency and immaturity throughout his career, but the Dominican native is still considered a plus runner and defender.
The roster also includes a pair of Cuban veterans in 32-year-old first baseman Barbaro Canizares, formerly of the Braves and most recently of the Mexican League; and third baseman Yunesky Sanchez, 29, formerly of the Pirates system and most recently with Somerset of the independent Atlantic League. The Spanish team has seven independent leaguers on it—three from Southern Maryland, including righthander Eduardo Morlan (a former Futures Gamer) and second baseman Paco Figueroa. Adrian Nieto (Nationals), a high school teammate of Eric Hosmer, joins Venezuelans Leo Hernandez (Blue Jays) and Blake Ochoa in the catching contingent.
Spain's pitching staff is less recognizable but includes another Duke alum in lefthander Chris Manno (Reds), who has a 2.24 career ERA and 180 strikeouts in 128 pro innings. It also includes 5-foot-11 Venezuelan righty Richard Castillo (Cardinals), who was 9-8, 3.27 while reaching Double-A Springfield this season, his best in the minors. Spain has no other affiliated pitchers but does have former Padres righty Nick Schumacher and former Orioles lefty Richard Salazar; both play for Sioux City in the independent American Association.
The Czech Republic, which plays in the German pool with Canada, Germany and Great Britain, went with mostly native players but does have a pair of passport players, including 36-year-old vet Mike Cervenak (Marlins). The Michigan alum got 13 at-bats with the Phillies in 2008 and has a career .295/.346/.461 minor league line in 1,461 games, including 177 home runs. He hit .340/.408/.504 this season. Joining him on the Czech roster is lefthander Alex Sogard (Astros), who went 3-1, 3.86 in a relief role at Double-A Corpus Christi this season.
Two Rookie-level affiliated players also made the roster: 6-foot-5, 176-pound righthander Mark Minarik (Phillies), who went 1-0, 2.65 in 17 innings in the Gulf Coast League, and catcher Martin Cervenka (Indians), who hit .240/.352/.280 in the Arizona League.
Great Britain will use lefty Chris Reed (Dodgers), the 2011 first-round pick who was born in London and pitched in the Futures Game on the World team. Reed battled blisters much of the season. He's one of five affiliated pitchers on the British roster, joining Michael Roth (Angels), Hamilton Bennett (Mets), Jacob Esch (Marlins) and Estevenson Encarnacion (Indians). Esch is the former Georgia Tech shortstop whom the Marlins have converted to pitching; he threw 69 innings this season between two levels.
The affiliated British hitters include veteran catchers Ryan Baker (Yankees), who has just 19 hits in parts of five pro seasons and has reached Triple-A; and Chris Berset (Reds); Bahamians Antoan Richardson (Orioles) and Albert Cartwright (Phillies); and outfielder Steve Bumbry (Orioles), son of ex-big leaguer Al Bumbry. Former Giants farmhand Aaron Hornostaj and former indy leaguer Sam Wiley, who was born in England, are in the British infield.