World Cup Rosters Projection: Pool Two



This is Baseball America's take on what the starting lineups will look like for the 16 teams expected to be involved in the World Baseball Classic next spring, and how each of the teams can be expected to perform. Teams will be divided into four pools, with two teams advancing from round-robin play out of each pool. The eight remaining teams will play another set of round-robin competition, with four teams advancing to a winner-take-all semifinal and final. Rosters were determined by the staff of Baseball America with the help of our correspondents. The organizations of players who are in the American major or minor leagues are listed in parentheses.




PUERTO RICO

C—Ivan Rodriguez (Tigers)
1B—Carlos Delgado (Marlins)
2B—Jose Vidro (Nationals)
3B—Mike Lowell (Marlins)
SS—Alex Cora (Indians)
LF—Alexis Rios (Blue Jays)
CF—Carlos Beltran (Mets)
RF—Jose Cruz Jr. (Diamondbacks)
DH—Javy Lopez (Orioles)
SP—Javier Vazquez (Diamondbacks)
SP—Joel Pineiro (Mariners)
SP—J.C. Romero (Twins)
SP—Kiko Calero (Athletics)
RP—Roberto Hernandez (Mets)
Manager: Jose Cruz Sr. (Astros)

Skinny: Puerto Rico is the epitome of a team with little international baseball history that suddenly becomes a major power. If the Puerto Ricans could trade their catching depth (Javy Lopez, Jorge Posada, the Molina brothers) for more starting pitching, they would be a legitimate title contender, though they'll certainly get out of the first round. They'll be formidable when Vazquez and Pineiro are on the mound and will have to outslug opponents in the other games.

CUBA

C—Ariel Pestano
1B—Danny Miranda
2B—Yulieski Gourriel
3B—Michel Enriquez
SS—Eduardo Paret
LF—Frederich Cepeda
CF—Carlos Tabares
RF—Alexei Ramirez
DH—Eriel Sanchez
SP—Norge Vera
SP—Vicyohandri Odelin
SP—Adiel Palma
SP—Danny Betancourt
RP—Pedro Luis Lazo
Manager: Higinio Velez

Skinny: Assuming organizers can make it through all the necessary diplomatic hurdles, Cuba could be the most intriguing team in the tournament. People thought the Cubans would take a step back when professionals joined international baseball, but it hasn't really happened—only Ben Sheets has beaten Cuba when it counts. So underestimate this team at your peril, especially if Cuba gets to the win-or-go home stage of competition. Obviously the team would look different if Cuban defectors playing in the U.S.—such as Jose Contreras, Livan Hernandez and Orlando Hernandez—were available, not to mention Cuban-Americans such as Rafael Palmeiro.

ITALY

C—Carlos A. Patrone
1B—Claudio Liverziani
2B—Francesco Imperiali
3B—Igor Schiavetti
SS—Seth la Fera
LF—Daniel di Pace
CF—Daniele Frignani
RF—Jim Buccheri
DH—Jairo Ramos Gizzi
SP—Jason Simontacchi
SP—David Rollandini
SP---Silvio Censale
SP—Ilo Bartolucci
RP—Juan Carlos Vigna
Manager: Giampiero Faraone

Skinny: Italian teams often include oriundos, players who were not born or raised in Italy but who are eligible for Italian citizenship through their ancestry. The most notable player in recent years has been former Cardinals pitcher Jason Simontacchi. There tends to be a high turnover of oriundos, making it difficult to predict what the team will look like next spring. A few of the players who were born and raised in Italy have minor league experience, like Claudio Liverziani, who played in the Mariners system.

PANAMA

C—Einar Diaz (Cardinals)
1B—Olmedo Saenz (Dodgers)
2B—Jose Macias (Cubs)
3B—Damaso Espino (Royals)
SS—Vicente Garabaldo
LF—Carlos Lee (Brewers)
CF—Ruben Rivera
RF—Fernando Seguignol
DH—Julio Zuleta
SP—Bruce Chen (Orioles)
SP—Roger Deago (Padres)
SP—Ramiro Mendoza (Yankees)
SP—Len Pecota
RP—Mariano Rivera (Yankees)
Manager: Omar Moreno

Skinny: Just getting into this tournament is a victory for Panama, which has few milestones in its international baseball history. The highlights have been hosting the Americas Olympic qualifier in 2003 (when Team USA was upset) and winning a silver medal at the 2003 World Cup tournament in Cuba. There's enough talent here to beat Italy, but wins over Puerto Rico or Cuba would be big upsets.