As you probably already know, MLB has introduced the first World Baseball Classic to be held this year at the beginning of March. The WBC is essentially a baseball version of the World Cup, without the hooligans, diving, and general public interest. It'll be regular season teammate vs teammate, and it could lead to some interesting matchups. Wouldn't it be sweet to watch K-Rod (Venezuela) try to close out a game against Vlad (Dominican Republic)? Or how about new Mets closer Billy Wagner (USA) trying to sneak one by new teammate Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico)?
The problem with the WBC is that it's right at the beginning of Spring Training, when players are just starting to get themselves in shape. At this time of year, players are usually worrying about losing 10 pounds, strenghtening their arms, and finding the closest nudie bar (not neccessarily in that order). The early part of Spring Training is when pitchers throw for two innings max and position players are in the showers after their second at-bat. Basically, the bodies of major league ball players are not accustomed to playing serious games for serious stakes in the middle of March. The potential for injury is enormous and that's why so many teams are pressuring their stars to back out, especially the pitchers. If a big name player goes down in the WBC, how do you think his team is going to feel about missing him for the real season?
With that in mind, I thought I'd let everyone know what the Jays have riding on this thing. Who's playing? For which team? And what happens if that guy gets injured?Blue Jays Participating in the WBCFrank Cattalanotto (Italy)
- Born and raised in New York, the guy has seemingly no ties to Italy other than his last name. Oh well, the rules around what country you can play for are so relaxed A-Rod is now saying he will probably play for Australia because he used to have a pet hamster named Sydney.How Much to Worry
: Not much. If the Cat gets injured, we'll have less of a logjam in the outfield. He's a servicable player but hardly a guy we're counting on to lead the team this year. Forza Cat. Buona fortuna.Guillermo Quiroz (Venezuela)
- After a dreadful season full of injuries, Quiroz is no longer being touted as a can't miss prospect. Q Ball seems to be pretty low on the depth chart at catcher for Venezuela.How Much to Worry
: Not at all. Molina+Zaun=No need for Quiroz this year.Vernon Wells (USA)
- As mentioned before, many teams are pressuring their star players to take a pass on the WBC. With expectations for the Jays through the roof right now, it's no surprise that V Dub has pulled up lame and is questionable for the first round of the tourney. For the record, JP says that it's an unfortunate incident and the Jays fully support Vernon's decision to play, but I smell a rat.How Much to Worry
: Keep your fingers crossed. I really don't think he'll play at all. His 2 week injury will be slow to heal and the USA team will move on without him. However, if he's really injured and he tries to rush back to play, it could be big trouble for T.O. This is the one guy that we can't afford to lose from the lineup for an extended period of time.Gustavo Chacin (Venezuela)
- It's nice to see that Gussy is excited to represent his country in the WBC. The Venezuelan team has a ton of pitchers on it's roster and Chacin appears to be in line for a bit of action.How Much to Worry:
Not much. Gussy is projected as the 3rd or 4th guy in the rotation this year and it's not off-base to expect 15 wins out of him. However, I can't see him being counted on for much more than an inning here and an inning there in the WBC. The important innings will go to Johan Santana and K-Rod and Gus probably won't pitch more than he would if he were in Dunedin.Shea Hillenbrand (Netherlands)
- I'm sure Shea was just as surprised as you to find out that he's playing on the Dutch team. Once again, this is an example of the citizenship rules being as loose as Annie Savoy at a minor league all-star game. Does your name sound Dutch? You're hired! The team includes guys born in Holland, Michigan and South Holland, Illinois (I guess that's close enough for MLB).How Much to Worry:
A little bit. With Overbay and Glaus added in the offseason, Shea is slated to be the DH and a backup at both 3B and 1B. We have more depth than last year, so losing him won't kill us, but he's a professional hitter and the type of guy that gives you a 100% effort every inning. He'll be expected to provide some pop for the Netherlands along with Andruw Jones, but they'll be gone after the first round and he'll be back in Dunedin before you notice he's gone.Alex Rios (Puerto Rico)
- A.Ro is part of a dangerous Puerto Rico team. They've got a lot of MLB players but they don't neccesarily have the studs to win this thing. The P.R. outfield will include Carlos Beltran, Rueben Sierra, Bernie Williams, Juan Gonzalez, and Jose Cruz Jr. Other than Beltran, those guys are about as reliable as a schizophrenic on crack, so Rios may be asked to carry a bit of a load.How Much to Worry
: Only a bit. As one of the top prospects in the organization, it would be unfortunate if he were to get injured. However, he was a bit of a disappointment last season and this year he's projected to platoon in right with Hinske. An injury might dampen his long-term prospects with the Jays, but it shouldn't impact too much on this season.