New Faces Pitch In: Dominican Republic Eyes Redemption In 2023 World Baseball Classic

Image credit: Sandy Alcantara (Photo By Patrick Mcdermott Getty Images)

After an undefeated run to the World Baseball Classic title in 2013, the Dominican Republic left the 2017 tournament with a disappointing fifth-place finish. 

Entering the 2023 WBC, the Dominican Republic will looks to erase that memory.

Team Dominican Republic once again features a lineup loaded with firepower, led by some of the biggest stars in the game. Heavy hitters like Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Rafael Devers, Julio Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will suit up for the Dominicans. 

But the secret to the team’s success in 2023 is likely to be its improved pitching. 

After struggling to keep runs off the board in the 2017 WBC, the Dominican Republic boasts one of the deepest pitching staffs in the tournament. Led by 2022 National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara of Marlins, the D.R. has the pitching to hang with anyone in the tournament. 

While Alcantara and Astros righthander Cristian Javier headline the rotation, the rest of the pitching staff has plenty of veterans to call upon. The list includes 37-year-old starter Johnny Cueto, plus relievers such as the Padres’ Luis Garcia, the Blue Jays’ Yimi Garcia and the Astros’ Rafael Montero, all of whom have extensive major league experience. 

Though not on the WBC roster, the Mariners’ Luis Castillo, the Astros’ Framber Valdez and the Yankees’ Luis Severino are three other prominent front-of-the-rotation Dominican starters who have further enhanced the country’s available pool of pitching since the last WBC.

Despite a core of experienced veterans, the Dominican Republic also boasts upside youth on its roster. Pirates righthander Roansy Contreras will be the youngest pitcher on the team at just 23 years old. 

After a strong rookie season with the Pirates in 2022, Contreras will fill a valuable role as a potential long reliever, capable of providing the D.R. length out of the bullpen in games that Alcantara and Javier don’t start. 

The strength of the Dominicans’ pitching staff rests with its firepower out of the bullpen. Manager Rodney Linares can turn over late-inning leads to some of the hardest throwers in baseball, led by several relievers who can touch triple-digits.

Giants closer Camilo Doval leads the charge, but behind him are several other Dominican relievers who sit in the upper registers, headlined by Luis Garcia, the Phillies’ Gregory Soto, the Angels’ Carlos Estevez and the Astros’ Bryan Abreu

The Dominican bullpen boasts more hard-throwing relievers than any team in the WBC and will be difficult to rally against in the late innings.

The Dominican Republic lineup is a modern day Murderers’ Row that will boast many all-star-caliber hitters. Soto, Machado, Devers, Rodriguez and Guerrero are the big names. Teoscar Hernandez, Jean Segura and Ketel Marte are former all-stars, while Wander Franco, Willy Adames, Jeremy Peña and Eloy Jimenez are strong candidates to be future all-stars. 

The Dominican Republic has so many star hitters that not all will fit in the lineup on a daily basis. The team’s WBC success will hinge on whether it has the run-prevention capabilities to navigate the tournament.

Alcantara, Javier and a fire-breathing bullpen could have the Dominicans seeing gold.

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