The winners of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic, are gearing up for a repeat in this year’s installment. The fourth WBC is set to begin in March, and teams have been building their rosters for over two months now.
Manager Tony Pena has been hard at work in putting together a championship team, and is it stands now, his squad is the favorite to win the entire tournament once again. With about two months until play begins, here’s how the Dominican Republic is shaping up.
Carlos Martinez; After leading the Cardinals’ rotation in 2016, Martinez will get to lead his country in this year’s Classic. The 25-year-old established himself as an ace this past season and proved that his great 2015 campaign was not a fluke. Born in Colinas Del Sur, Martinez will lead his home country’s rotation when the tournament begins.
2016 Season Statistics (St. Louis Cardinals): 16-9, 174 K, 3.04 ERA, 1.224 WHIP
Alex Reyes; The Cardinals rising star will pitch alongside Martinez for the Dominican Republic. Born in New Jersey, Reyes moved to the Dominican Republic in 2011 to increase his chances of being noticed by scouts. The Cardinals’ top prospect made great use of his first cup of coffee in the bigs at the end of 2016, working both out of the pen and as a starter.
2016 Season Statistics (St. Louis Cardinals): 46 IP, 4-1, 52 K, 1.57 ERA, 1.222 WHIP
Dellin Betances; Torn between the Dominican Republic and the USA, the Brooklyn native chose to represent the country where his parents are from. Betances has been an All-Star for the Yankees the past three seasons, and is considered one of the best relief pitchers in the game. His 100+ mph fastballs and nasty breaking balls are sure to keep opposing hitters shaking their heads throughout the tournament.[Milkins]
2016 Season Statistics (New York Yankees): 73 IP, 3-6, 12 SV, 126 K, 3.08 ERA, 1.123 WHIP
Alex Colome; The Ray’s All-Star closer will join Betances in the bullpen for Team Dominican Republic. Colome took the closer role for the Rays and didn’t look back, saving 37 games in 2016. The Santo Domingo native has a firm grip on the closer position, and will play a huge role late in games for the DR.
2016 Season Statistics (Tampa Bay Rays): 56.2 IP, 2-4, 37 S, 71 K, 1.91 ERA, 1.024 WHIP
Carlos Santana; The Dominican catcher who helped win gold for the team in 2013 will be reprising his role in this year’s Classic. Santana set career highs in almost every offensive category for the Indians in 2016, playing primarily first base for the American League champs. He hasn’t done much catching for the Indians in recent years, but he’ll be behind the plate for the Dominican Republic in March. In the 2013 Classic, he collected six hits and went deep twice in 22 at-bats.
2016 Season Statistics (Cleveland Indians): .259 AVG, 34 HR, 87 RBI, 89 R
Hanley Ramirez; After playing third for the Dominican Republic in 2013, Ramirez will be moving across the diamond to first this time around. The move to first brought good results both offensively and defensively, with Hanley putting together his best season in years. The three-time All-Star has played in the last two Classics, collecting seven hits including two homers in 11 games.
2016 Season Statistics (Boston Red Sox): .286 AVG, 30 HR, 111 RBI, 81 R
Robinson Cano; The Mariners’ slugger will be reprising his role as second baseman for Team DR, a role he has held in the last two Classics. One of the best second baseman in all of baseball, Cano has collected seven All-Star selections, five Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves. In 2013’s Classic, Cano batted .469, helping his team win the championship and was named the MVP of the Classic. Across the two Classics, Cano has collected 18 hits, two homers, and six RBI.
2016 Season Statistics (Seattle Mariners): .298 AVG, 39 HR, 103 RBI, 107 R
Manny Machado; He was one of the first players to commit to the team, and will likely be playing shortstop when the tournament begins. Machado has developed into one of the best players in baseball, and he put all of his tools on display in 2016. At just 24-years-old, Machado is one of the new guys on the squad, but his tools will certainly play a huge role in Team DR’s chance at a repeat. He can play both short and third, giving Tony Pena a bunch of options to play with in the infield.
2016 Season Statistics (Baltimore Orioles): .294 AVG, 37 HR, 96 RBI, 105 R
Jose Reyes; Returning for his third Classic, Reyes will likely act as utility at both the shortstop and third base positions. After two disappointing Classics in 2006 and 2009, in which his playing time was limited, Reyes played a huge role in Team DR’s championship run in 2013. The 33-year-old has collected seven hits in 11 games across the three tournaments.
2016 Season Statistics (New York Mets): 255 AB, .267 AVG, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 45 R
Adrian Beltre; The veteran third baseman will be playing in his second Classic, having played in the inaugural tournament in 2006. He was on the roster in 2013, but injury kept him from playing. The 19-year-vet has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball for almost two decades, and hasn’t seen his performance dip due to age. Beltre turns 38 in April, and his possible Hall of Fame career as shown no signs of slowing.
2016 Season Statistics (Texas Rangers): .300 AVG, 32 HR, 104 RBI, 89 R
Nelson Cruz; The 36-year-old’s power was on full display once again in 2016, reaching 40 homers for the third straight season. He’s played in the last two Classics, where he has collected 13 hits including a homer, and seven RBI. His days in the outfield may be coming to an end, but whether it’s in right field or as the DH, Cruz’s bat will go a long way in this year’s Classic.
2016 Season Statistics (Seattle Mariners): .287 AVG, 43 HR, 105 RBI, 96 R
Gregory Polanco; The Santo Domingo native will be representing his home country in this year’s Classic. He played for the Dominican Pirates in Rookie-league before breaking with the team in 2014. In 2016 the 25-year-old put all of his tools on display, emerging as an everyday starter for the Pirates.
2016 Season Statistics (Pittsburgh Pirates): .258 AVG, 22 HR, 86 RBI, 79 R, 17 SB
Starling Marte; Polanco will be joined in the outfield by fellow Pirate and Santo Domingo native Starling Marte. The 28-year-old is ranked amongst the best left fielders in the game, and is known as a five-tool player. His power numbers in 2016 were down from 2015, 19 to 9, but Marte stole a career-high 47 bases this past season. Despite missing over 30 games, Marte earned his first All-Star selection, as well as his second Gold Glove Award. He’ll slot in towards the top of Team DR’s stacked offense.
2016 Season Statistics (Pittsburgh Pirates): .311 AVG, 9 HR, 46 RBI, 71 R, 47 SB
The reigning champs are already shaping up to be the favorites to win it all in 2017, and with two months left until the tournament begins, they could get even better. A new rule change was announced this past week that enables teams to add more pitching as the tournament progresses. This could pave the way for teams to be more willing to let their big aces pitch in the tournament.
The Dominican Republic was placed in Pool C where they will face off against the United States. Canada, and Colombia. Their first test will be against Canada on Thursday, March 9th at Marlins Park in Miami.