This March, eight Astros will suit up for different teams in the fourth ever World Baseball Classic. The Classic has served as baseball's premier international tournament since the Olympics dropped the sport in 2008. The tournament allows the hundreds of foreign Major Leaguer’s to represent their home countries in a game they play for a living.
Jose Altuve will play alongside Miguel Cabrera and Felix Hernandez on a star-studded Team Venezuela.
Carlos Correa will team up with Carlos Beltron and fellow shortstop phenom Francisco Lindor on Team Puerto.
Kevin Chapman will join Freddie Freeman, Justin Mourneau and retired but notable pitchers Eric Gagne and Ryan Dempster on Team Canada.
Nori Aoki will serve as the only MLB player on Team Japan, a team that won two of the previous three WBC's.
Dayan Diaz will play for Team Columbia.
Luke Gregerson and Alex Bregman will play for Team USA.
This year's Classic will consist of 16 teams, broken into the following 4 pools:
Pool A (Seoul, South Korea): Chinese Taipei, Israel, South Korea, Netherlands
Pool B (Tokyo, Japan): Australia, China, Cuba, Japan
Pool C (Miami, Florida): Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, United States
Pool D (Jalisco, Mexico): Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela
The winners and runners-up from each pool will reach the playoffs, which begin on March 11. Pool play starts March 6th.
Pool's C and D have the most talent, and I think the eventual champion will emerge from those groups. The U.S. should make it out of pool C, but will face a particular challenge in the Dominican Republic, a team with experienced MLB players all over the roster. And not just any players-- Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Manny Machado, Jose Reyes and Nelson Cruz will all suit up for the DR. Their pitching staff is also solid with Johnny Cueto, Dellin Betances, Edison Volquez and Luis Severeno.
The tournament should be fun to watch, a nice little teaser before the season starts. Its interesting to see how players from Latin America and the Caribbean have become so dominant in a game known as America's pastime. We'll get a chance to see how the U.S. stacks up.
Here's the complete U.S. roster:
· Chris Archer, Rays
· Tyler Clippard, Yankees
· Danny Duffy, Royals (designated pitcher pool)
· Sam Dyson, Rangers
· Mychal Givens, Orioles
· Luke Gregerson, Astros
· Nate Jones, White Sox
· Jake McGee, Rockies
· Andrew Miller, Indians
· Pat Neshek, Phillies
· Tanner Roark, Nationals (designated pitcher pool)
· David Robertson, White Sox
· Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays
· Brett Cecil, Cardinals
· Michael Fulmer, Tigers
· Sonny Gray, Athletics
· J.A. Happ, Blue Jays
· Drew Smyly, Mariners
· Alex Wilson, Tigers
· Buster Posey, Giants
· Jonathan Lucroy, Rangers
· A.J. Ellis, Marlins
· 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
· 1B Eric Hosmer, Royals
· 2B Daniel Murphy, Nationals
· 2B Ian Kinsler, Tigers
· 3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies
· 3B/2B Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
· 3B/SS Alex Bregman, Astros
· SS Brandon Crawford, Giants
· Adam Jones, Orioles
· Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
· Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
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· Christian Yelich, Marlins