It is possible that in 2017 Puerto Rico will have a more talented team than the collection of players that filled the roster for the 2013 team, but it will be tough to accomplish what the 2013 team accomplished - a second place finish. Carlos Beltran will be gone and big game pitcher Nelson Figueroa will not be available, but Puerto Rico has some improved players coming up ready to fill the roster.
Catcher - Yadier Molina will be 35. That is a bit old to still be able to dominate at this position. He could make the team as a backup. The favorite to start for Puerto Rico would be A.J. Jimenez. He only played 27 games last year before having Tommy John surgery and has yet to play this year, but when healthy he has not had any problems hitting .300. Puerto Rico doesn’t seem to have a problem producing catchers so they could also trot out players like the Rockies Wilfredo Rodriguez, the Red Sox Christian Vazquez or the Diamondbacks Michael Perez. Journeymen Martin Maldanado or Jesus Flores are also options, but they would be better utilized in a reserve role.
First base - The Reds Neftali Soto would be the favorite to play the position. He has 90 minor league homeruns but he is a borderline prospect. The player to watch is the Twins big 6′5″ Kennys Vargas. He is playing in the Florida State League and if he reaches his potential he will be the first baseman.
Second Base - Eddie Rosario has some big time pop for a second baseman, but could also play outfield. If you look at the surplus of shortstops they may need this position to put one of their extra shortstops. Ivan DeJesus Jr. will be a utility player in the major leagues and could fill the roster in that same capacity.
Shortstop - Puerto Rico, like the Netherlands will not be hurting for shortstops. Carlos Correa, the number one pick last year in the draft by the Astros is the favorite. Many say he could be too big for the position and eventually move to third. The Indians Francisco Lindor will have the best glove for the position and that ultimately wins out when you can move the other players around. The Cubs Javier Baez may have the best combination of glove and bat. Lost in the background is the Dodgers number one supplemental pick Jesmuel Valentin, who is the son of long time major leaguer Jose Valentin. Another good glove to stick here would be Brewers prospect Yadiel Rivera. Lots of options here.
Third Base - They’ve got this position covered with their excess of shortstops but Gabriel Rosa was the Reds second round pick in 2012 and could make some noise. He is a big at 6′4″ with some potential.
Outfield - The Tigers Steven Moya was signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic but he was born in Puerto Rico. At 6′7″ he has the potential for big time power. To supplement this position they would need to put some of their excess shortstops in the outfield, or put Eddie Rosario out there. Alex Rios or Jose Pagan will not be that old to fill a back up role or start a few games. They would be a good veteran experience and you will need some of the veteran players on that 2013 roster to show the new guys the way.
Starting Pitching - This is where they could use some help. The best of their pitchers may also not be allowed to play if the major league team has a say. Julio Rodriguez could be another Nelson Figeroa. He is a soft tosser who has not made a big impact yet. By 2017 he could bounce around in Taiwan, Korea or Japan, make a name for himself there and then return to the Puerto Rican team with a lot of international experience. J.O. Berrios is probably their best pitcher. He was a first round supplemental of the Twins last year and at 19 made the roster for the 2013 team. The bullpen could be filled with a cast of journeymen characters like Xavier Cedeno, Hiram Burgos or Randy Fontanez, all of whom played on the roster in 2013. If they are not playing in the major leagues in 2017 they will still be making their presence felt by pitching in the Puerto Rican League, which should see some resurgence in popularity next year after the second place finish by Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Edwin Diaz was drafted in the third round by the Mariners last year and has a good fastball. As he fills out that fastball could be hitting the mid-90s by 2017. Jorge Lopez has good height at 6′4″ and was a second round pick in 2011 by the Brewers. He relies more on the breaking pitch to get hitters out but he could be ready by 2017.