Major League, international talent spread across 16 teams
By Doug Miller
The rosters are set. The baseball world is ready for another Classic.
The 16 teams that will battle for the title in the fourth World Baseball Classic are official after the final rosters were revealed Wednesday evening on MLB.com and MLB Network, and this year's Classic will feature some of MLB's biggest stars, including Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela), Nolan Arenado (United States), Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic), Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico) and many, many more. In total, the tournament will feature 63 former All-Stars, including 25 from 2016.
In less than a month, the premier global baseball competition will begin with first-round pool play in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Mexico.
The second round is slated for March 12-19, with Pool A and B winners and runners-up meeting in another round-robin format in Tokyo, while the teams that emerge from Pools C and D will match up at Petco Park in San Diego.
The four teams that emerge from the second round will head to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for the semifinals on March 20-21 and the championship game on March 22.
"A lot of good teams, a lot of good players," said Team USA outfielder Christian Yelich. "But I like our chances as well. I feel like if we go in there prepared, ready to play the way we're supposed to, I think we're going to be all right and we should do well."
It'll be the perfect way to get fans excited for the upcoming Major League season and the perfect showcase of the growing popularity of America's national pastime around the world.
"Playing baseball, you hear the national anthem every game and it becomes routine," Arenado said. "But I'm guessing that when you put that USA uniform on and hear the national anthem, it might mean a little bit more."
The World Baseball Classic runs from March 6-22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. Internationally, the tournament will be distributed across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Among Major League clubs, the Tigers will be most heavily represented in the World Baseball Classic, with 15 players suiting up for six countries. They are followed by the Mets (13 players), and the Cardinals, Royals, Indians and Mariners (11 apiece).
Meanwhile, there's one slight rule change that is expected to add intrigue and drama to the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Each team has the option of using the designated pitcher pool (DPP), which works like this: A team can use up to 10 designated pitchers but can't have more than two on its active roster at a time. Those "active" DPs can be replaced at the beginning of each of the next two rounds, but only by another DP. Once a DP has been replaced, he cannot return to the active roster for a subsequent round. Using Team USA as an example, Danny Duffy and Tanner Roark are the active DPs for the first round of pool play, so they can be replaced on the roster before the second round or the championship round, but only by one of the team's other DPs. And if a DP joins for the second round, he can be replaced for the championship round, but only by another DP.
Here's a primer for each roster heading into first-round play:
POOL AGocheok Sky Dome, Seoul, South Korea, March 6-10
Chinese Taipei: This club comes from the baseball-crazy island of Taiwan, where the quality of play continues to rise. The headliner on this team is former big league star pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, who has iconic status among his countrymen for his stellar MLB career spent primarily with the Yankees. Other affiliated players on the roster include right-handers Ping- Hsueh Chen and Shao-Ching Chiang (both with Cleveland) and Wei-Chung Wang (Milwaukee). More >
South Korea: The Koreans were eliminated in the first round of the 2013 Classic and will look to fare better on their home field. Almost all of the players are coming out of their nation's Korea Baseball Organization, but there is one Major League headliner: Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh. More >
China: Former big league skipper and longtime MLB coach John McLaren is at the helm of a team for a nation where baseball is still a young sport. China did win a game in the first round of the 2013 Classic and gets a true ambassador for the game and team leader in well-respected former Major League pitcher Bruce Chen, who will head Team China's rotation. More >
Cuba: Team Cuba, always a threat to win this tournament, went 4-2 in the 2013 Classic and was eliminated in the second round. Since then, many stars from the national team have defected to the United States and are ensconced in the Major Leagues, which makes them ineligible to play for their country in this competition, but there is still a ton of talent from the Serie Nacional de Beisbol, Cuba's top pro league, which makes them dangerous as usual. More >
Japan: The absence of two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani due to an ankle injury is a blow to Team Japan's chances, but the strength of Nippon Professional Baseball is without question, as Japan's victories in the inaugural Classic in 2006 and the second installment in '09 show quite clearly. This time around, it'll be mostly NPB stars taking the diamond for Japan, although MLB fans will recognize Astros outfielder Norichika Aoki. More >
POOL CMarlins Park, Miami, March 9-13
Canada: Former big league catcher Ernie Whitt is at the helm again for an always-competitive and equally feisty Canadian club. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has deserved marquee status on this year's roster, which also includes Major Leaguers John Axford and Justin Morneau. Nostalgia fans will enjoy the participation of retired big league stars Eric Gagne and Ryan Dempster, who will dust off their gloves and get back on the mound. More >