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2021 World Baseball Classic Qualifier Preview



The World Baseball Classic is expanding to 20 teams in 2021, giving new nations greater opportunities to qualify to the worldwide tournament.

The 16 nations that participated in the 2017 WBC are all returning in 2021. The final four teams will be determined at a qualifier in Tucson, Ariz. from March 12-25 at the Kino Sports Compex.

Twelve teams are participating in the WBC Qualifier. Pool 1 consists of Brazil, France, Germany, Nicaragua, Pakistan and South Africa. Pool 2 is made up of the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Panama, Philippines, Spain and New Zealand.

The top two finishers in each pool will advance to the 2021 WBC. Pool 1 games will be played March 12-17 and Pool 2 games will be played March 20-25.

Here is a breakdown of each pool, including the key players to watch and every team’s chances of advancing to the WBC.

POOL 1

BRAZIL

Manager: Barry Larkin

Last WBC Appearance: 2013 (lost in first round)

Notable Players: OF Paulo Orlando and RHP Andre Rienzo each played in the majors, while 3B/1B Dante Bichette Jr. leads a tournament-high 10 players on Brazil’s roster currently in affiliated ball. Twins OF Gabriel Maciel is the team’s most prominent prospect. D-backs RHP Bo Takahashi and Marlins LHP Dylan Lee provide upper-minors experience on the mound behind Rienzo.

Outlook: With the most talented team in the pool, Brazil is the favorite to finish atop the standings and secure a spot in the WBC.

FRANCE

Manager: Bruce Bochy

Last WBC Appearance: Never

Notable Players: 2B Alen Hanson has spent parts of the last four seasons in the majors. RHP Brett Bochy, Bruce’s son, pitched in seven games for the Giants in 2014-15. Angels LHP Jason Alexander and Brewers 1B Ernesto Martinez, who was born in Cuba but moved to France with his father, are the only two current affiliated minor leaguers on the roster.

Outlook: With Bochy at the helm and a pair of big leaguers on the field, France has a chance to contend with South Africa and Germany for the pool’s second WBC berth alongside Brazil.

GERMANY

Manager: Steve Janssen

Last WBC Appearance: Never

Notable Players: Former Athletics C Bruce Maxwell and ex-Reds 1B/OF Donald Lutz each played in the majors. Dodgers RHP Markus Solbach and Cardinals 2B Brendan Donovan headline five prospects currently in affiliated ball.

Outlook: With a decent talent base and a manager who is highly experienced in international play—Janssen was a coach with the Netherlands for many years—Germany should be in the mix for second place and the pool’s final WBC berth.

NICARAGUA

Manager: Marvin Benard

Last WBC Appearance: Never

Notable Players: 3B/1B Cheslor Cuthbert spent parts of the last five seasons in the majors with the Royals. Dodgers LHP Leo Crawford and Blue Jays C Jesus Lopez are the best of the four minor leaguers currently in affiliated ball.

Outlook: Nicaragua is a step behind the top contenders, but could find itself in contention for a WBC berth if a few breaks go its way.

PAKISTAN

Manager: Syed Fakhar Ali Shah

Last WBC Appearance: Never

Notable Players: Pakistan has no players who have played in the majors or minors. RHP Inayat Khan and LHP Muhammad Zohaib provide experience on the mound after starting games in the 2017 WBC qualifier. C Umair Bhatti and 2B Faqir Hussain are back after being Pakistan’s top offensive performers in the qualifier, too.

Outlook: After losing by scores of 10-0 and 14-0 in the last WBC qualifier, Pakistan is just hoping to score its first run in WBC qualifying play and keep developing as a baseball nation.

SOUTH AFRICA

Manager: Andy Berglund

Last WBC Appearance: 2009 (lost in first round)

Notable Players: 2B/SS Gift Ngoepe played parts of two seasons with the Blue Jays and Pirates and was the first South African-born player to reach the majors. Dodgers RHP Kieran Lovegrove and former Mariners and Angels RHP prospect Dylan Unsworth provide upper-level experience on the mound. RHPs Darryn Smith and Jared Elario, C Kyle Botha and INF Jonathan Phillips are veterans of the national team who played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Outlook: Catching Brazil is will be tough, but South Africa has the pitching and experience to challenge for one of the pool’s top two spots and a WBC berth.

POOL 2

Rosters to be released at a later date.

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POOL 1 SCHEDULE

All games at Kino Sports Complex, Tuscon, Ariz. All times local.

Game

Date

Time

Matchup

1

Fri., March 13

12:30 p.m.

Pakistan vs. Brazil

2

Fri., March 13

7:30 p.m.

Germany vs. France

3

Sat., March 14

12:30 p.m.

Game 1 Winner vs. Nicaragua

4

Sat., March 14

7:30 p.m.

Game 2 Winner vs. South Africa

5

Sun., March 15

12:30 p.m.

Game 2 Loser vs. Game 3 Loser

6

Sun., March 15

7:30 p.m.

Game 1 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser

8

Tues., March 17

12:30 p.m.

Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner

7

Tues., March 17

7:30 p.m.

Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner
(Winner Qualifies for 2021 WBC)

9

Wed., March 18

6:00 p.m.

Game 8 Winner vs. Game 7 Loser
(Winner Qualifies for 2021 WBC)

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