World Cup Rosters Projection: Pool Three



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.




CANADA

C—Pete LaForest (Devil Rays)
1B—Justin Morneau (Twins)
2B—Pete Orr (Braves)
3B—Cory Koskie (Blue Jays)
SS—Danny Klassen (Astros)
LF—Jason Bay (Pirates)
CF—Aaron Guiel (Royals)
RF—Larry Walker (Cardinals)
DH—Matt Stairs (Royals)
SP—Rich Harden (Athletics)
SP—Erik Bedard (Orioles)
SP—Jeff Francis (Rockies)
SP—Ryan Dempster (Cubs)
RP—Eric Gagne (Dodgers)
Manager: Ernie Whitt (Blue Jays)

Skinny: While the United States will be a clear favorite in this pool, Canada and Mexico should battle toe-to-toe for the second bid. Team Canada made its first Olympic appearance in 2004 and was disappointed to finish fourth, but the infusion of major league talent makes this team significantly better than the ’04 model. Depth might be a problem, but the starting lineup stacks up against most of the other teams in the tournament.

MEXICO

C—Miguel Ojeda (Padres)
1B—Guillermo Velasquez
2B—Jorge Cantu (Devil Rays)
3B—Vinny Castilla (Nationals)
SS—Alfredo Amezaga (Pirates)
LF—Mario Valenzuela
CF—Luis Garcia
RF—Karim Garcia
DH—Erubiel Durazo (Athletics)
SP—Esteban Loiaza (Nationals)
SP—Oliver Perez (Pirates)
SP—Rodrigo Lopez (Orioles)
SP—Elmer Dessens (Dodgers)
RP—Luis Ayala (Nationals)
Manager: Fernando Valenzuela

Skinny: Mexico has several options for its team, which likely will be a mélange of Mexican Leaguers, big leaguers and minor leaguers. The team has some upside on the mound, especially if Pirates lefthander Oliver Perez shows his 2004 form. Mexico has had little success on the international stage and is best known for Rigo Beltran’s victory against Team USA in the 2003 Olympic qualifier that eliminated the Americans from the 2004 Olympics.

SOUTH AFRICA

C—Willem Kemp
1B—Nick Dempsey
2B—Paul Bell
3B—Jonathan Phillips
SS—Brett Willemberg
LF—Jason Jonathan
CF—Jason Cook
RF—Ian Holness
DH—Adrian Langeveldt
SP—Barry Armitage (Royals)
SP—Bruce McCleland (Royals)
SP—Tyrone Lamont (Mariners)
SP—Carl Michaels
RP—Darryn Smith
Manager: Raymond Tew

Skinny: South Africa’s greatest moment in international history was its 3-2 victory against the Netherlands in the 2000 Olympics, which kept the Dutch from making the medal round. It was South Africa’s first (and only) win in Olympic history, and the team was barely competitive in February 2004 in a qualifying tournament against Australia. They'll absorb three poundings before bowing from the international stage this time around. Their standout will be Royals minor leaguer Barry Armitage, who is at Double-A Wichita.

UNITED STATES

C—Jason Varitek (Red Sox)
1B—Todd Helton (Rockies)
2B—Jeff Kent (Dodgers)
3B—Scott Rolen (Cardinals)
SS—Alex Rodriguez (Yankees)
LF—Lance Berkman (Astros)
CF—Jim Edmonds (Cardinals)
RF—Gary Sheffield (Yankees)
DH—Barry Bonds (Giants)
SP—Roger Clemens (Astros)
SP—Mark Prior (Cubs)
SP—Ben Sheets (Brewers)
SP—Mark Mulder (Cardinals)
RP—Billy Wagner (Phillies)
Manager: Bobby Cox (Braves)

Skinny: USA Baseball has been one of the major players on the international scene in the last 40 years, as it should be, and is the only nation other than Cuba to win an Olympic gold medal. The United States will be the favorite at the World Baseball Classic, though its biggest advantage--depth--might not be a major factor in this tournament. A team of U.S. reserves would have a good chance at the gold, but it won't be a cakewalk. Players with previous Team USA experience, such as Mulder, Prior and Sheets, could get priority.