POOL D @ Jalisco, Mexico
- Puerto Rico
This is the most competitive pool of Round One, in my opinion. Many have Venezuela favored to win the entire Classic. However, I hardly think Mexico and especially Puerto Rico are to be taken the least bit lightly.
After advancing to the second round in both the 2006 and 2009 Classic, Mexico failed to get out of the first round in 2013 after losses to Canada and Italy, thus forcing them to re-qualify last year. Mexico received good news when first baseman Adrian Gonzalez reported for duty, and will have Khris Davis protecting him in the line-up. Their pitching staff is well stocked with Joakim Soria, Yovani Gallardo, Miguel Gonzalez, Oliver Perez, Sergio Romo, Jamie Garcia, Robert Osuna. Fernando Salas, Julio Urias, and Carlos Torres.
Can Italy repeat their second round appearance of 2013? I don't think they have the pitching. But guys like Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini, Francisco Cirvelli, Rob Segedin, John Andreoli, and Daniel Descalso, are certainly going to try.
Puerto Rico fell to Dominican Republic in the 2013 Classic Final. Alex Cora is trying to correct that. Team Puerto Rico's general manager was the architect of the winter league LBPRC champion Criollos de Caguas, the architect of Puerto Rico's 2016-17 Serie del Caribe champions, and is now shooting for a World Baseball Classic title for the trifecta. The team sports a balance between veterans and youth: Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, and Yadier Molina, along with T.J. Rivera, Edwin Diaz, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, and Javier Baez. On the mound, Seth Lugo, Giovanni Soto, Orlando Roman, JC Romero, Andrew Barbosa, Jose de la Torre, and Hiram Burgos, round out a representative staff. Puerto Rico has as good a chance as any team in the tournament to win it all.
There's no getting around it ... Team Venezuela is stacked. Felix Hernandez and Miguel Cabrera headline quite a list of team mates: Jose Altuve, Asdrubal Cabrera, Martin Prado, Carlos Martinez, Ender Inciarte, Carlos Gonzalez, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez ... you get the picture. Needless to say, this team will hit and score plenty. Venezuela has yet to reach the final four in three previous Classics, but this could very well be their year.