Overview - Italy and Netherlands are always battling it out for supremacy in European baseball. Netherlands has lately gotten the better of Italy when it comes to international events. Italy can still battle the Netherlands when it comes to the European events.
The biggest event in European baseball is the European Cup. It usually is played every two years. Since 1969 either Netherlands or Italy has won the European Cup. Netherlands has won it 15 times, including the last two championships and six of the last eight championships. Italy has won the event nine times. Since the start of this event in 1954 only Spain (1955) and Belgium (1967) have knocked Italy or Netherlands off the first place perch.
In 2016 Spain finished in second place, knocking the Italians to the bronze medal finish. In 2007 Great Britain and Spain prevented Italy from even seeing a medal. The Netherlands has finished in first or second place since 1969.
Italy has competed in a few World Cups but have yet to finish with a medal. Their overall record in these events is 55-108. Italy has competed in all the Olympics since 1992, failing to qualify in the most recent one in 2008. Their best finish was in 1996 when they claimed sixth place.
Italy participated in the first World Baseball Classic in 2006 but did not pass the first round. They did beat Australia but Venezuela and the Dominican Republic got the best of them. The 2009 WBC saw the same disappointment of being eliminated from the first round, losing to Venezuela twice. They did pull off the upset of the tournament by beating Canada, giving Italy one win and giving them the luxury of not having to qualify for the 2013 WBC.
In 2013 they finally passed the first round, again defeating Canada and slipping past Mexico. They scored two runs in the top of the ninth to defeat Mexico 6-5 after a two run double from Anthony Rizzo. The only loss for them was to the United States. In the double elimination second round Italy took two one run losses to the eventual finalists Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico broke out for three runs in the eighth to win their game 4-3, Rizzo driving in all three runs for Italy. Italy scored all their runs in the first inning in the 5-4 loss to the Dominican Republic, Chris Colabello hitting a three run homerun in the first to get things started. The Dominicans battled back with three runs in the seventh to close out the scoring.
Because Italy was ranked as one of the top 12 teams in international baseball they were eligible to compete in the Premier 12. They lost all five games they played.
It will be interesting to see what team shows up for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the 2013 version of the WBC who almost qualified for the final four, but they had Anthony Rizzio or the 2015 version of the Premier 12 who were missing players from the major league 40 man roster. At least the 2017 version has Chris Colabello returning.
International Ranking - Italy ranks 11th. Two of the three teams playing in their pool rank ahead of them with Mexico 6th and Venezuela 7th. Puerto Rico is ranked 12th but they went to the finals with the Dominican Republic in the 2013 WBC. All three of those rosters are stocked with major league roster players. Italy has some major and minor leaguers but they are fringe players.
Pitchers - Tiaga de Silva, Mike DeMark, Nick Fanti, Frailyn Florian, Sam Gaviglio, Tommy Layne, Luis Lugo, Alex Maestri, A.J. Morris, Trey Nielsen, Orlando Oberto (DPP), Jordan Romano, Carlos Teran (DPP), Pat Venditte
Designated Pitchers Pool - Filippo Crepaldi, Frank DeJulio, Jose Escalona, Luca Panerati
Catchers - Drew Butera, Francisco Cervelli, Marco Sabbatini
Infielders - Gavin Cecchini, Chris Colabello, Daniel Descalso, Alex Liddi, Drew Maggi, Rob Segedin, Alessandro Vaglio
Outfielders - John Andreoli, Mario Chiarini, Brandon Nimmo, Sebastian Poma
Strengths - While they have no major league stars they do have some major league pieces. Catching is their strong suit with Francisco Cervelli a solid backstop and Drew Butera a good number two. The infield should be strong. Chris Colabello returns to the 2017 team where he provided some heroics in 2013. Daniel Descalso will be a good defensive option at second base while Cecchini could be the starting shortstop. Alex Liddi was the first born Italian player to play his baseball in Italy. He will share third base with Rob Segedin, who impressed many with his numerous homerun clouts in spring training last season. It will not be a star studded infield but it will be filled with major or minor league players.
Weakness - Myworld does not see a starting pitcher in this group. They will rely on local talent to get them through the first innings and hopefully hand the ball off to Tommy Layne, Pat Venditte, Alex Maestri or Tiago Da Silva. The outfield lacks major league talent, except Brandon Nimmo, who will fill centerfield. Nimmo and Colabello are not noted for their major league pop but they will probably hit 3-4 in this lineup.
Prospects to Watch - Nick Fanti is a young pitcher in the Phillies organization drafted in the 21st round. He did strike out 11 batters per nine innings and allowed just one homerun in 69 innings. Myworld does not know much about him, other than he is young. Gavin Cecchini was a first round pick of the Mets in 2012. He does not have the defensive chops to play short in the major leagues and may lack the power to play a corner position. The last two years he has hit .317 and .325 so the bat is there for a utility role. Brando Nimmo is the outfield version of Cecchini. He was a first round pick in 2011 out of Wyoming and lacks the defensive skills to play centerfield, but lacks the power to play a corner.
Expected Finish - This is a pretty evenly bracketed pool. Venezuela is the cream of the class with the other teams duking it out for second place. Italy lacks the starting pitching to get out of the first round.