World Baseball Classic Preview: Team Venezuela
With the fourth installment of the World Baseball Classic just a little more than two weeks away, teams are beginning to take shape. In Pool D, Team Venezuela has steadily been emerging as a contender over the past couple months. Led by former major leaguer Omar Vizquel, Team Venezuela will look to regain their success from the 2009 Classic, where they went 6-2 and finished third.
Their tenth place finish in 2013 was heartbreaking, but their already star-studded roster is poised to make a run at a medal when the tournament begins in March.
Felix Hernandez; King Felix will bring his court to Jalisco when Team Venezuela begins play on March 10th. The six-time All-Star and 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner will sit atop the team’s rotation and will play a big role in their success. He’ll need some more help, as he won’t be pitching too deep into games, but his arm will be much needed regardless. He pitched 8.2 scoreless innings in the 2009 Classic, striking out 11 and yielding just five hits.
2016 Season Statistics (Seattle Mariners): 11-8, 122K, 3.82 ERA, 1.324 WHIP
Salvador Perez; Like Hernandez, Team Venezuela’s starting catcher hails from Valencia. Perez is a four-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover who has been one of the game’s top catchers the past four seasons. He added a World Series Ring, and a World Series MVP to go along with it, with the Royals in 2015. Perez played in two games in the 2013 Classic, going 1-5 with a double.
2016 Season Statistics (Kansas City Royals): .247 AVG, 22 HR, 64 RBI, 57 R
Miguel Cabrera; Team Venezuela’s first baseman comes as no surprise, as Miggy will reprise his role for the fourth straight Classic. The Maracay native needs no introduction, as he is well on his way to the Hall of Fame. An 11-time All-Star, two-time MVP, and seven-time Silver Slugger has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball for over a decade. The 33-year-old proved he was not on the verge of decline and put up his best season since 2013 in 2016. In 17 WBC games, Miggy has collected 17 hits, five homers and 12 RBI.
2016 Season Statistics (Detroit Tigers): .316 AVG, 38 HR, 108 RBI, 92 R
Jose Altuve; Next to Miggy in the infield is fellow Maracay native, and another one of the best hitters in baseball, Jose Altuve. The four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger is playing in his first Classic and is doing so coming off of a career year. Altuve finished in the top three in MVP voting and put together one of the best seasons in Houston Astros’ history.
2016 Season Statistics (Houston Astros): .338 AVG, 24 HR, 96 RBI, 108 R, 30 SB
Asdrúbal Cabrera; The Puerto la Cruz native will take short for Team Venezuela, playing in his second World Baseball Classic. The two-time All-Star had a career year in 2016 with the Mets, posting the second highest home run total and battering average in his career. Cabrera collected one hit in eight tries in the 2013 Classic.
2016 Season Statistics (New York Mets): .280 AVG, 23 HR, 62 RBI, 65 R[Milkins]
Omar Vizquel has not added a man for the hot corner just yet, but a possible suitor is Boston Red Sox’s Pablo Sandoval, who played the hot corner for Team Venezuela in the 2013 Classic.
Victor Martinez; The five-time All-Star has been one of the game’s most consistent hitters since his debut in 2002, surpassing a .300 average nine times. The .301 lifetime hitter bounced back from a dismal 2015 season in 2016 and showed that his age hasn’t gotten to him just yet. The 38-year-old will be playing in his third Classic and has collected three hits in 15 at-bats.
2016 Season Statistics (Detroit Tigers): .289 AVG, 27 HR, 86 RBI, 65 R
Carlos Gonzalez; Team Venezuela’s outfield has not yet been determined but they have their right fielder set in stone in Carlos Gonzalez. While injuries had kept him from reaching his full potential earlier in his career, Cargo was able to play in at least 150 games in each of the last two seasons and did not disappoint. He’ll be playing in his second Classic, and collected three hits for Team Venezuela in 2013.
2016 Season Statistics (Colorado Rockies): .298 AVG, 25 HR, 100 RBI, 87 R
Team Venezuela has a lot of work to do to fill the holes in their roster, namely pitching, but they’re off to a great start. Combined the team has 35 All-Star selections and 16 Silver Sluggers. As it stands now, they have one of the most solid lineups in the tournament and will look to build on it as the tournament gets closer.
Omar Vizquel’s squad was placed in Pool D where they will face off against Mexico, Italy, and Puerto Rico. His team will be put to the test for the first time when they face Puerto Rico on March 10th at Estadio Charros de Jalisco.