World Baseball Classic: Most intriguing player on all 20 teams, from Shohei Ohtani to KBO star Jung-ho Lee
The 2023 Baseball World Cup – the first WBC tournament in six years thanks to the pandemic – is heading towards glory. This latest model of a global tournament features an expanded field of 20 teams, from defending champions (USA) to strong lineups like the Dominican Republic to pitching-dominant Japan and underdogs like Great Britain and the Czech Republic.
Unsurprisingly, star power abounds on these lists, as are exciting individual stories. Speaking of which, we are here as part of our WBC stage to announce from the heights the most intriguing player in each of the 20 participating teams. This is necessarily a subjective exercise, and as always, (silent, private) objections from loyal URL clickers are welcome.
Let’s get down to naming the most intriguing player in each of the 2023 WBC rosters, shall we? It seems we will.
Australia: Aaron Whitefield, OF
Whitefield, 26, currently plays with the Angels and has had two cups of coffee in MLB in recent years. Specifically, Whitefield amassed 180 stolen bases over seven U.S. minor league seasons. Back in his native Australia, he became a two-time Australian Baseball League MVP and was in the Angels’ major leagues earlier this spring. camp at NRI.
Canada: Freddie Freeman, 1B
The Canadian team has a glorious WBC history when it comes to first basemen (Justin Morneau is the all-time WBC leader in doubles and, of course, Joey Votto). Freeman becomes the last. As he proved last season in his first campaign for the Dodgers, he’s still the elite in the game and he’ll be a mainstay on Team Canada. Second place? This will be board-certified John Axford, who will turn 40 shortly after the end of the tournament.
China: Ray Chang, SS
The 39-year-old tenacious infielder is a veteran of several WBC world championships. Although Chang was born and raised in Kansas City, he is eligible for the Chinese team because his parents were born in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Chang played part of 12 seasons in the affiliated minor leagues and played 275 games at the Triple-A level. It is likely that in 2011 he was called to the top arena as a member of the Twins organization, but a broken leg suffered the day before in Triple-A shattered those dreams. As of 2017, Chung has retired from playing and has since led MLB China’s baseball operations. However, Chang is now dusting off his spikes for one WBC final.
Colombia: Gio Urshela, INF
Opinions will vary, but here it says Urshela is the best player on the Colombian WBC roster. It combines defensive flexibility and play value with above-average plate performance and has boasted OPS+119 on the plate since its breakout 2019 season. Compounding Urshela’s appeal this season is that he will be a key complement to the Angels as they try to make the playoffs in what could be Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani’s last teammate appearances together.
Cuba: Louis Robert, OF
Robert, 26, despite injury concerns, remains one of the most exciting five-tool players. For the White Sox, he has been an outstanding defensive center fielder and hit .289/.334/.474 career batting despite injuries and illnesses that can hinder performance even if he’s not on the injured list. . He is on the “superstar if healthy” list of current MLB players, and he could shine in the WBC for former baseball team Cuba.
Czech Republic: Martin Cervenka, center
The Czech team is without a doubt the Cinderella of the 2023 WBC and the closest they have to a quasi-star is Cervenka. The now 30-year-old Prague native has reached Triple-A with the Orioles and Mets organizations in recent years. As MLB’s Michael Clair points out, Chervenka now works in sales. Related content:
When you ask the Czech team what they do for a living, you will get some unexpected answers.
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Dominican Republic: Julio Rodriguez, OF
The composition of the Dominican Republic is positively star-studded, even after Loss of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. This means that there are several contenders for this award. However, we’ll go with Rodriguez, who, as a 21-year-old rookie last season, ran a deep campaign that would look right at home on the back of a Mookie Betts baseball card. Add to that a million-watt smile and his zeal for the game, and Rodriguez is already one of the brightest stars in the game.
UK: Harry Ford, C
This is the first time the Brits have made it to the WBC and this 20-year-old prospect could be their top talent. Ford, whose parents are from the UK, topped the list of the Seattle Mariners’ top prospects for 2023 compiled by our expert RJ Anderson. The former No. 12 overall in his first pro season showed great skills on base and promising chops on the field.
Israel: Jock Pederson, OF
A longtime utility player, Pederson had one of his most productive seasons in 2022, and his elite contact quality numbers suggest he can keep it short to medium term. This time, he quite easily became the most experienced and prominent player in the Israeli national team. Does it make Pederson any more intriguing that Tommy Pham once upset his Chiclets over petty fantasy football rules? I’m just asking questions.
Italy: Sal Frelic, OF
There are several deserving candidates in Mike Piazza’s squad for this award, but we’ll pick Frelic, a 22-year-old former first grader from Boston College. Our very own R. J. Anderson, in Frelik’s ranking as the No. 2 prospect in the Brewers system, recently called him “a fast, contact-oriented hitter who passed more than he struck out last season in 46 games at Triple-A.” After the WBC, Frelik has every chance of making it to Milwaukee this season.
Japan: Shohei Otani, RHP/DH
Sometimes you just have to play the hits. While we could get creative in picking Japan’s most intriguing player, we’ll just pick, you know, the biggest baseball star in the world. Otani, the two-sided super(duper)star figure of the Angels, to showcase his throws and punches for Japan in the WBC, and as always, to the great cheer of all who witness such exceptional feats. Half of his duties will be with the Japanese rotation, which could be the best of the tournament.
Korea: Chung Hoo Lee, OF
Lee’s team, Kiwoom Heroes, stated: it will be shipped after the 2023 season, which means he’ll be heading to MLB next offseason, barring surprises. So consider his performance at the WBC as a kind of preview for free agents. Lee, 24, has a career .342/.407/.495 in the KBO with more walks than strikeouts and speed on bases, and he’s the reigning MVP. Added bonus: His nickname is “Grandson of the Wind” (!). During this World Cup, he will make convincing color television.
Mexico: Randy Arozarena, of.
The 28-year-old Rays baseball player is, of course, damn good (he has a brilliant career OPS+ of 130 and an ALCS MVP). Adding to this story is that Arozarena was born in Cuba and fled to Mexico before signing with the Cardinals in 2016. He became a Mexican citizen in 2022, so here he is.
Netherlands: Xander Bogarts, SS
This time, Bogerts from Aruba is the main talent of the Netherlands, and his fame is added $280 million free agent deal he signed with the Padres at the start of this offseason. Bogarts have brought the Dutch improved defense in short and intense attacks over the past half century or so.
Nicaragua: Carlos Rodriguez, RHP
When in doubt, go with the puppies. This brings us to Rodriguez, who was recently named the 13th pick in the Brewers system by MLB.com. The 21-year-old has a 3.01 ERA with a good strikeout count in one minor league season and has a full repertoire facing a sub who has plus potential. He will become Nicaragua’s key figure in the brutal D pool, which includes such formidable countries as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
Panama: Jose Ramos, OF
Ramos might be the one to look out for here. The 22-year-old completes the 2022 season, which saw him hit 25 homers in 123 combined low-A and high-A games. MLB.com names Ramos the No. 23 prospect in the Dodgers’ deep system, while noting his 30-homer potential and extremely powerful throwing arm.
Puerto Rico: Markus Stroman, RHP
This may seem like an odd choice to some, given the presence of a star like Francisco Lindor on Yagyer Molina’s team. Stroman, however, gets the nod. In addition to being a damn good starting pitcher, Stroman makes himself all the more intriguing – key word, remember – by being the winner and tournament MVP for Team USA in their WBC decider in 2017. The team they won at said decisive moment? Puerto Rico. So, yes, Stroman was a major US rotation last time, and now he’s gearing up for Puerto Rico in a nod to his mother’s Puerto Rican roots.
“I’m beside myself with excitement” Stroman told MLB.com in February about his decision to apply for Puerto Rico. “My mother is my heart. She is my support. She is my best friend. She is my blood.
Taiwan: CC Lee, RHP
Veteran pitcher Xi Xi Lee, a native of Peng-Hu County in Taiwan, has a MLB background…