The Twins and the World Baseball Classic

Posted on January 20th, 2009 – 11:33 AM
By La Velle

Provisional rosters for the 2009 World Baseball Classic were released last night. I glanced at them right away and looked at them more closely today. Many Twins players – including a couple I’ve never heard of – could play in the WBC. Roster will be paired down before the tournament begins on Mar. 5.

(Reporter’s disclaimer: I love international competitions. I’m the guy who watches Olympic curling. I love the World Cup. I was ticked off at USA Basketball when it took tournaments lightly a few years ago. I even watched some of the hockey World Juniors a few weeks ago. So, heck yes, I’m pro-WBC).

Let’s take a look at Twins players and the WBC:

Australia

Potential Twins players: Liam Hendricks, RHP; Bradley Tippett, RHP; Matthew Williams, RHP; Allan De San Miguel, C; Kames Beresford, INF; Luke Hughes, INF; Daniel Berg, OF.

Overview: Twins fans will want to watch Hughes’ defense closely. That’s been the knock on him while he’s moved through the system. But he’s been able to drive the ball so far in his pro career.  There’s a chance he’ll be needed during the regular season. The Twins are one the big players in Austraila, which is why they have so many players on the provisional roster.

Canada

Potential Twins players: Jesse Crain, RHP; Justin Morneau, 1B; Eric Gagne????

Overview: Heard a few days ago that Crain would wind up in the WBC, so it looks like he’s in. If they pick a captain, you have to wonder if Morneau is the logical choice. Also check out Brett Lawrie. The Twins looked hard at him but decided to take Aaron Hicks in last year’s draft. I don’t think anyone is complaining about that pick, but it’s still worth tracking Lawrie’s development.

Dominican Repulblic

Potential Twins players: Francisco Liriano, LHP.

Overview: It’s a little surprising that Alexi Casilla isn’t on this list – but look at infielders this team has! This could be a great jumping off point for Francisco Liriano, who, barring injury, will open the season in the Twins rotation and undoubtedly wants to establish himself as one of MLB’s top pitchers.

Italy

Potential Twins players: Nick Punto, SS; Mauro Schiavoni, RHP

Overview: What are the odds that Punto will be the first player in the tournament to dive into first base. Schiavoni actually is from Argentina and pitched for Jake Mauer for the Twins Gulf Coast League team last season.

The Netherlands

Potential Twins players: Tom Stuifbergen, RHP; Raynard Doran, OF.

Overview: Stuifbergen is coming off of surgery and won’t play. Doran is no longer with the organization. BTW, Loek Van Mil, the 7-foot-1 righthander, has a strained elbow ligament and will miss the tournament too.

Puerto Rico

Potential Twins players:  Carlos Gutierrez, RHP; Luis Matos, OF.

Overview: I haven’t heard if Gutierrez is going to pitch. He’s on the verge of his first major league camp and is being converted into a starter, so my guess is that he’ll want to work out with the Twins. Matos was signed as a minor league free agent with an invite to camp. The Twins won’t stand in the way if a player wants to represent his country, but Matos might opt to come to camp and make a good impression instead of playing in the WBC,

  

South Africa

Potential Twins player: Robb Hein, LHP.

Overview: Who? He’s not in the media guide. Jim Rantz, the Twins director of minor leagues, said they do have some players in the systen who have yet to play a game as a pro. Hein was signed last year out of the European Baseball Academy.

USA

Potential Twins player: Joe Nathan

Overview: Nathan is the most accomplished closer on the roster but there are other options, too.

Venezuela

Potential Twins player: Jose Mijares

Overview: At first, I thought Mijares was set up to get a lot of work during the WBC. But lefties Cesar Jimenez and Reynel Pinto have more MLB experience.

Other observations:

Dennys Reyes is listed with the Twins but that is not true.

Eddie Guardado is listed on Mexico’s roster, which I think is funny because he speaks little Spanish.

There are A LOT of former Twins on these rosters, from Johan Santana to Grant Balfour to David Ortiz to J. C. Romero to Sidney Ponson to A.J. to Michael Nakamura…..

A few years ago, we were looking at Lapchick’s study of race in baseball and Ian Snell was listed as African-American. “Ian Snell is a black man?” I thought to myself. Now I see he’s on Puerto Rico roster. I know there are some stretches when placing players on these rosters but I still think it’s funny.

Japan still has to be considered the favorite. Can’t wait to see Yu Darvish pitch. Hopefully the USA steps up this time. Hopefully they’ll have more lefties in the bullpen than Brian Fuentes or they will lose to Canada again and everyone will have to endure Justin Morneau’s needling again.

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