Domincan Republic 2017 WBC Review

Overview - The Dominican Republic are the defending champions. That is all you need to say. They overcame a stunning upset by the Netherlands in 2013 eliminating them from second round competition to win it the next time, dethroning two time defending champion Japan and beating the Netherlands in a semi-final game to get there. It was the perfect finish to the 2013 WBC. The ideal scenario would have them defeat Japan in the finals but the Japanese were upset by Puerto Rico in the semifinals.

The WBC is their bread and butter when it comes to their international play. That is when the major leaguers participate. In the amateur international competition they are not so great, which is a reason for their low overall international ranking. In World Cup competition you have to go back almost 50 years the last time they won a medal. Their best finish was in 1948 when they won a gold. They won silver medals in 1942, 1950 and 1952 and took bronze in 1943 and 1969. When major league teams started stealing their ballplayers the Dominican Republic did not have the organizational capability of putting winning teams together absent their major league talent.

In the Pan Am games the Dominican Republic took the gold 1n 1955 and snatched the silver in 1979 but they have not medaled since then. They are even losing their dominance in the Series del Caribe as more major leaguers choose not to play in the event. This year they were the first team eliminated from the playoff round. They have not won the event since 2012. With the win by Puerto Rico only Venezuela has a longer run of not winning a Series del Caribe championship.

In youth tournaments, the building block for creating players the Dominican Republic is usual absent from the tournament or absent from the medal rounds. Most of their youth 16 and under are hanging out at the major league training facilities that dot the Dominican landscape hoping for an opportunity to show someone they have major league skills. They have no interest in competing in international tournaments.

Because the Dominican Republic does not do so well in international tournaments their international ranking is low. To qualify for the Premier 12 tournament a country has to be ranked in the top 12 of countries for baseball. The Dominican Republic falls one short of that at 13th. It is rumored that if the WBC does not achieve revenue for the 2017 event that major league baseball will turn the Premier 12 into the top international baseball event. The problem with that is at the last Premier 12 in 2015 major league baseball did not allow any player on the 40 man major league roster to participate in the event. As the event was held in November and some teams added players to their 40 man roster while the championship game was being played the United States had to remove players from their roster who were added to 40 man rosters with no replacements available.

The only time the Dominican Republic qualified for the Olympics was in 1992. They finished pool play 2-6, defeating Italy and Spain but failing to advance to the medal round. In three consecutive games against Japan, Taiwan and the United States they lost by the combined scores of 38-0, with the games not going the full nine innings because of the slaughter rule.

As stated, the event the Dominican Republic shines in is the WBC, when major league roster players show their patriotic pride and participate in the event. In the first WBC in 2006 they were able to advance to the medal rounds but were upset by Cuba in the semi-finals. History tells us it is the Cubans who brought baseball to the Dominican Republic so losing to them hurt.

In the 2009 WBC in a double elimination format they lost the opening game to a surprising team from the Netherlands that had a kid named Kenley Jansen as their catcher (now the closer for the Dodgers). They were able to bounce back against an outmanned Panama team to get a rematch against Netherlands with the winner advancing to the second round. The feared offensive sluggers David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Bautista, Miguel Tejeda, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz did not score their first run against the Netherlands pitching staff until the 11th inning. Unfortunately they gave up two runs in the bottom frame to be eliminated in the first round.

It was a lesson learned for the 2013 WBC. They rolled through the first round finishing undefeated. In the opening round double elimination second round game they escaped a scare by Italy, winning 5-4 after giving up four runs in the first. They defeated the United States in the second game and Puerto Rico in the final to continue undefeated. In the medal rounds they achieved some measure of revenge by defeating the Netherlands to face a surprising Puerto Rican team they had shutout in the second round. In the gold medal game, they again shutout Puerto Rico to win the championship, with Fernando Rodney shooting his arrow into the sky in celebration.

Don’t know what will happen with the Dominican Republic if the WBC decides not to continue their event.

Current World Ranking - Because of their poor showings in most international events not named the World Baseball Classic the Dominican Republic is ranked 13th among all countries playing baseball. Two teams in their pool the United States (2) and Canada (5) are ranked ahead of them while Colombia is ranked at 19th.

Roster

Pitching - Dellin Betances, Santiago Casilla, Alex Colome, Johnny Cueto, Samuel Deduno (DPP), Jumbo Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Carlos Martinez, Hector Neris, Wily Peralta (DPP0, Hansel Robles, Fernando Rodney, Enny Romero, Edinson Volquez

Designated Pitcher Pool - Fernando Abad, Bartolo Colon, Edgar Garcia, Ivan Nova, Alex Reyes (Tommy John surgery), Bryan Rodriguez, Luis Severino, Cesar Valdez

Catcher - Wellington Castillo, Alberto Rosario

Infielders - Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Carlos Santana, Jonathan Villar

Outfielders - Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Mel Rojas Jr.

Strengths - Many of these players participated in the first WBC in 2006. One big absence from this roster is David Ortiz. The lineup is solid especially when you have to choose between Manny Machado or Adrian Beltre for third base. Jose Reyes is at shortstop so if the manager wants to get both bats in the lineup without using up his DH slot Manny can move to shortstop. Carlos Santana and Hanley Ramirez provide power options at first and Robinson Cano is at second. Jonathan Villar can play second or short. This is probably the strongest unit in the WBC, the Dominican Republic infield. The outfield is not too shabby either if Jose Bautista can return to his glory days. That would give them two corners with 40 plus pop with Nelson Cruz playing the other corner. Starling Marte will handle center. The bullpen looks deep with Dellin Betances and Fernando Rodney taking care of the later innings. Alex Colome and Jeurys Familia are not too shabby either. It is a luxury of riches to have four closers in the pen.

Weakness - The catching is not All Star caliber. A lot of teams would like to have a catcher with the skills of Wellington Castillo, but when compared to his teammates he falls far short of being an All Star. Mel Rojas Jr. appears to be a bit out of place on this roster. You think they could have found a bigger name to take that spot as the backup to Marte. He plays a good defensive outfield but his bat is weak. Starting pitching appears a little short, especially with the injury to Alex Reyes. He was not going to be available until the second round anyway. Their first round starters will be Johnny Cueto, Carlos Martinez and Edinson Volquez. That is still better than the options they had in 2013 when they had to go with Samuel Deduno in a second round game against the United States. In the second round they have the option of going with the veteran in Bartolo Colon or a couple of unproven youngsters in Luis Severino or Ivan Nova.

Prospects to Watch - This is a veteran team so there are not a lot of prospects here. Mel Rojas Jr. and Hansel Robles would be fringe prospects.

Expected Finish - If this team was put together on a major league team it would be favored to make the playoffs and win most of the divisions. There is no reason for them not to repeat as WBC champs, though the previous champs Japan and the always disappointing United States have rosters to match.

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