Netherlands carries loaded infield to WBC '17

Pitching biggest question for club aiming to continue international ascent

Netherlands carries loaded infield to WBC '17

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has improved in all three of its appearances in the World Baseball Classic, and the team will be looking to advance further in the Championship Round this time around.

As the all-time leader in European Championship titles, the Dutch National Team has seen that success translate to the WBC in the past, advancing out of pool play in each of the last two tournaments. With another talented roster led by several big names from Major League Baseball, the Dutch have to feel good about their chances in 2017.

World Baseball Classic tickets

Before the Classic's first pitch is thrown on March 6, MLB.com is breaking down each roster in the 16-nation tournament. Here's a look at how Team Netherlands' roster should stack up:

Confirmed roster so far

Pitchers
Rick van den Hurk, RHP

Position players
Xander Bogaerts, SS

Andrelton Simmons, SS

Jonathan Schoop, 2B

The infield is filled with top-tier big leaguers in Bogaerts, Simmons and Schoop, and the potential addition of Didi Gregorius, who MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports is expected to play, would strengthen an already solid group. Manager Hensley Meulens, the hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants, has to like the offensive potential from this group. Former big leaguer van den Hurk is the only confirmed pitcher on the roster. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen participated in 2013, though Morosi said Jansen is not expected to pitch this year.

How they fared in the past

Team Netherlands has increased its win total each year in the World Baseball Classic, topped by four wins and a fourth-place finish in '13. The Dutch twice upset the Dominican Republic to reach Round 2 in '09 and had one win in '06, when Shairon Martis pitched a no-hitter against Panama. The Kingdom of the Netherlands embraced its underdog status again in '13, stunning Cuba twice in Round 2 to reach the Championship Round.

What they should do well

The infield is a clear strength, led by established Major Leaguers in Bogaerts, Schoop and Simmons. At the plate, Bogaerts is a two-time Silver Slugger with the Red Sox and Schoop belted a career-high 25 home runs for the Orioles in '16. Defensively, Simmons leads the way as a two-time Gold Glove Award winner and is considered one of the Majors' best defensive shortstops. Bogaerts and Schoop are also talented with the glove, which will help the pitching staff.

Where they could struggle

Pitching is a big question mark. Jansen is likely not going to participate. A former Major League starter turned reliever, van den Hurk returns after pitching for the Dutch in the '09 WBC.

How far they could go

With steady improvement in each of the three prior tournaments, the Kingdom of the Netherlands is tracking toward an appearance in the finals of the Championship Round. The loaded infield makes the Dutch a threat to any opponent, and they have already proven to be capable of pulling off huge upsets in this tournament.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.