The World Baseball Classic, that features four pools and 16 teams, got underway on Monday as Israel beat Korea 2-1 in the opener in Seoul, Korea.
The Cubs will have eight players participating in this year’s event including Javier Baez, the co-MVP of the NLCS last year. Baez will play for Puerto Rico and join Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correra to form the top infield in the WBC.
Relief pitcher Miguel Mejia, who excelled during winter ball and was part of Puerto Rico’s Caribbean World Series title team, is also on the Puerto Rican roster. Mejia was re-signed for the 2017 season and joined the Cubs in 2016 after spending three years pitching in winter ball.
Puerto Rico has been assigned to Pool D with Mexico, Italy and Venezuela and are playing in Mexico.
Right-hander Hector Rondon, the Cubs closer for part of 2016 (18 saves), will pitch for Venezuela but only if they can advance to the second round as he’s part of the designated pitcher pool. Signed to a minor league deal during the off-season, Jhondaniel Medina is also on the designated pitcher pool list for Venezuela. Henry Blanco, the Cubs quality control coach, will serve as the bullpen coach for Venezuela.
One prospect that could see plenty of action in the WBC is outfielder John Andreoli, who’s playing for Italy. At Iowa last season, Andreoli led the Pacific Coast League in walks and stolen bases and was third in runs scored in his sixth minor league season with the Cubs.
After three years in the Mexican League, the Cubs inked right-hander Mario Meza to a minor league deal during the off-season and he’s part of Mexico’s designated pitcher pool. Leading the league with 24 holds in 2016, Meza was 4-2 with a 1.59 ERA in 53 relief appearances, fanning 51 over 51 innings for Yucatan.
Another arm signed during the off-season to a minor league contract, reliever Jim Henderson, will play for Canada. He was part of their gold-medal team in 2011 at the Pan-Am games. The former Cubs farmhand went 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 44 games last year for the Mets, 40 K in 35 IP.
Henderson isn’t the only player with Cub ties on the Canada’s roster as former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster is having one more go around. Dempster said in an interview that he’s been preparing for the WBC and wanted to end his playing career wearing a Canada jersey like he did when he was 15 years old and represented his country. Canada, USA, Columbia and Dominican Republic comprise Pool C—playing in Miami.
The final Cubs player participating in the WBC is minor league pitcher Erling Moreno of Columbia. The 20-year-old right-hander was part of the Cubs 2013 IFA class and had a big season in 2016 after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2015. Moreno is part of Columbia’s designated pitcher pool.
Former Cubs minor leaguer Ryan Searle will be pitching for Australia in the WBC. Signed by the Cubs back in 2007, Searle reached AA before being released in 2014. Other WBC players with Cubs ties include LHP Giovanni Soto (Puerto Rico), RHP Andres Santiago (Puerto Rico), RHP Joel Pineiro (Puerto Rico), RHP Chang Yon Lim (Korea).
Israel, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Netherlands are in Pool A that’s holding their first round games in Seoul. Cuba, Japan, China and Australia are in Pool B, hosted by Tokyo. The top two teams in each pool advance to the second round with pools A-B in one group and C-D the other. The top two teams from the second round advance to the finals (March 20-22) for a single elimination format