Overview - In World Cups that were dominated by Cuba because most baseball countries used amateur players to participate in these events Australia played a little below the .500 level. They did not have any top three finishes. They did pull off a bit of an upset in the 2004 Olympics when they finished in second place to Cuba. That was the year the United States did not qualify after their upset loss to Mexico in a qualifying tournament. Australia upset Japan in a semifinal game 1-0 with Chris Oxspring outdueling Daisuke Matsuzaka. It was the second time Australia had beaten Japan after winning a pool game 9-4. Australia was the only team Japan lost to in those Olympics. Cuba defeated Australia in the gold medal game 6-2, their second loss to Cuba in the 2004 Olympics. Trent Oeltjen, Ryan Rowaland Smith and Chris Oxspring are three teammates from the 2004 silver medal team and will be hoping to spin that same magic for this team. Mitch Nilsson is the nephew of David Nilsson, a major leaguer who was the heart and soul of that 2004 Olympic team. Jon Deeble is the manager for the 2017 WBC team and also managed the 2004 Olympic team. Graeme Lloyd the bullpen coach was a pitcher for the 2004 Olympic team.
Australia did not qualify for the 2015 Premier 12 because they were not rated as one of the top 12 baseball teams in the world when the rankings came out. Some say the Premier 12 may eventually replace the World Baseball Classic as the top baseball event. If the Premier 12 was played in 2017 Australia would qualify.
This is the third appearance for Australia in the World Baseball Classic. They are 1-8 in their three appearances, failing to advance past the first round in all three events. For the 2017 WBC they had to qualify for the first time after finishing 0-3 in 2013. They played in Australia and defeated teams from New Zealand, South Africa and the Philippines to qualify for the 2017 WBC.
Current World Ranking - 10. Japan (1) and Cuba (5) who are in their first round pool are ranked higher than them. China (18) is the one team ranked lower than them.
Tm Atherton, Tom Bailey(DPP), Travis Blackley, Justin Erasmus (DPP), Josh Guyer (DPP), Liam Hendriks, Samuel Holland (DPP), Jon Kennedy, Steve Kent, Daniel McGrath(DPP), Peter Moylan, Chris Oxspring (DPP), Ryan Rowland Smith, Dushan Ruzic, Warwick Saupold(DPP), Ryan Searle, Sam Street (DPP), Josh Tols, Todd Van Steensel, Alex Wells, Lachlan Wells(DPP), Matthew Williams
DPP is Designated Pitchers Pool
Allan de San Miguel, Robbie Perkins, Mitchel Nilsson
James Beresford, Brad Harman, Luke Hughes, Logan Wade, Mike Walker, Stefan Welch
Michell Denning, David Kandilas, Timothy Kennelly, Trent Oeltjen, Aaron Whitefield
Strengths - They have some solid young arms who could create some issues for the free swinging Cubans. Travis Blackley is a veteran pitcher with major league experience. Liam Hendriks is a major league arm who will give Australia two good starters in the rotation. Warwick Saupold got some major league time last year and will be the closer out of the bullpen. They could go with the veteran starter Ryan Rowland Smith as their third starter or fling a young arm and hope for the best. There are some ex-major leaguers who will provide leadership such as pitchers Peter Moylan, Smith and Blackley and position players Brad Harman, Luke Hughes and Trent Oeltjen.
Weakness - The ex major leaguers are not really active except in the Australian Baseball League and some international events. They should be at least baseball ready with the ABL recently finishing the season. A lot of young players but they are competing against All Stars from Japan. The one saving grace is Cuba does not appear as strong as in years past. Scoring runs will be a challenge with no real power source to trigger the offense.
Prospects to Watch - Aaron Whitfield was a softball player who is showing he can play baseball. He is one of the top prospects for the Twins. Even with veteran outfielders on the team he should be in the starting lineup. Even at 20 years old he was one of the best players in the ABL, a league composed of some veteran ex-major leaguers from Australia as well as rising single A prospects from the United States. Lachlan Wells and Alex Wells are twins. Lachlan signed first with the Twins when he was 16. Alex signed as an 18 year old with the Orioles. Both throw lefthanded and will not wow you with velocity, relying on location of pitches to achieve soft contact.
Expected Finish - Cuba will still have a veteran pitching staff but it is not out of the realm of possibility for Australia to advance to the second round for the first time in WBC history. The important thing for them is to win at least one game so they do not have to go through a qualifying round if there is a 2021 WBC. They will do that but finish third in this round and fail to qualify for a second round.