Looking a USA/Dominican Republic matchup in the WBC
With arguably the two deepest rosters of all sixteen nations competing in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the United States and the Dominican Republic have to be considered two of the odds on favorites to win the entire tournament. While the DR took home the most recent WBC Championship in 2013, the United States has yet to reach the semi-finals, making them an even more interesting pick as they look to put the past behind them. Below are position-by-position comparisons of the projected USA and DR rosters, and whom I feel has the overall edge heading into team play.
Not too much of an argument here; Castillo has spent the past few seasons as a fringe big-league starter, while Posey is regarded as the consensus best catcher in baseball. USA gets the edge on this one (USA 1, DR 0)
While Hanley did break out again after a down 2015, hitting 30 HR with 111 RBI for a first-place Red Sox team, Goldschmidt is a true five-tool player and regarded by many as baseball’s best first baseman, with 24 HR, 32 steals, and a league leading 110 walks to go along with gold-glove caber defense. (USA 2, DR 0)
Make no doubt about it; Kinsler is still one of the game’s premier leadoff hitters at the age of 34, with 28 HR, 83 RBI, 117 runs, a .288 AVG, and a .831 OPS. However, Cano is on the short list of the most feared hitters in the game, as he exploded back onto the scene in 2016 with 39 HR, 103 RBI, 107 runs, a .298 AVG and .882 OPS, and his sixth All-Star appearance after finishing in the top five in the league with 7.3 WAR. Cano gets the edge here. (USA 2, DR 1)
Crawford may be the best defensive shortstop in the NL, winning two straight NL Gold Gloves, and developing as a hitter as well, with 12 HR, 84 RBI, a league leading 11 triples, and a .275/.342/.430 slash line. Unfortunately for Crawford, Machado will likely move back to shortstop for the DR, where he too is known as one of the elite defenders in the game. What gives him a significant edge over Crawford is his incredible offense output, as Machado has finished in the top five in the AL MVP voting the past two seasons in large part due to his seasonal averages of 36 HR, 91 RBI, and 104 runs. Machado gets the edge over B-Crawf. (USA 2, DR 2)
This is the hardest of every position to call, with both players amongst the top 1-3 at their position in all of baseball. Beltre has long been known as one of the best third baseman in baseball, and 2016 saw him win his sixth Gold Glove Award, while adding 32 HR, 104 RBI, a .300 AVG, and a .879 OPS. Where Beltre has been good, Arenado has been better, having led the NL in HR (42 and 41) RBI (130 and 133) and total bases (354 and 352) the past two seasons, while winning four straight Gold Glove Awards to begin his career. Adrian Beltre may be a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, but Arenado gets the edge here at third base. (USA 3, DR 2)
This matchup represents two very different styles of players. In Bautista, we have a veteran player who is best known for his power and on base skills, having averaged 36 HR, 93 RBI, 94 BB, and a .929 OPS since 2010. In Yellich, we have one of the games better contact hitters, with a .293 AVG, .368 OBP, and 549 hits over his first four seasons in the majors. Additionally, Yellich saw his power spike in 2016, with a career high 21 HR and 98 RBI. Although Yellich has a bright future ahead of him, this discussion is all about the here and now, and given his incredible track record since the turn of the decade, Bautista gets the edge in left field. (USA 3, DR 3)
Although he has been an above average major leaguer all four of his full seasons, Starling Marte made his first All Star appearance in 2016, winning a second straight Gold Glove Award, and setting career highs with a .311/.362/.456 slash line, and 47 steals. On the other end, Jones has made four of the past five All Star games, and even in a “down” season in 2016, still managed to hit 29 HR and drive in 83 runs for a playoff Orioles team. While Marte has the clear edge in power, Marte is one of the games premier defenders in the outfield, and also has elite base stealing steals, neither of which Jones has. Add in Marte’s significantly higher OBP in 2016 (A difference of over 50 points) and he gets the edge over Jones in center field. (USA 3, DR 4)
At the age of 24, Polanco had his breakout season in Pittsburgh, hitting 26 HR, 34 doubles, and driving in 86 runs. In essence, he is a solid, if not slightly above average major leaguer. In Stanton, the USA has the man with arguably the most raw power in all of baseball, having hit 208 HR over the past seven seasons, an average of just under 30 HR per season, despite averaging only 118 games per season over the same time frame. This is a no brainer here; the edge in right field goes to Giancarlo Stanton. (USA 4, DR 4)
Many may argue that Murphy should have won the NL MVP in 2016, as he built off his legendary 2015 postseason run to finish the season with a league leading 47 doubles, .595 SLG, .985 OPS, to go along with 25 HR, 104 RBI, a .347 AVG (second in the league) and a .390 OBP. However, this was Murphy’s breakout season, and it is still unknown if this was a single season outlier, or if this newfound power is legit. This is why Nelson Cruz gets the edge at DH, a position where a player is only hitting; he has a longer period of success, as since 2008, he has averaged 33 HR and 89 RBI to go along with a .868 OPS. While Murphy may be a perennial MVP candidate for years to come, for now at least, Cruz reigns supreme at DH. (USA 4, DR 5)
An argument can really be made either way on this one; the United States likely has more depth from top to bottom in their rotation, with Archer and Gray both serving as their respective staff aces, Duffy and Roark coming off of their coming out parties in 2016 and top ten finishes in their Cy Young races, Stroman and Smyly serving as reliable inning eaters, as well as as the reigning AL Rookie of the Year in Michael Fulmer, and a reigning twenty game winner in the lefty Happ. However, it is hard to ignore the trio of power arms that the DR has in Alex Reyes (The #1 pitching prospect in baseball) Johnny Cueto, and Carlos Martinez, the latter of the two who I consider to be the best two starters out of this entire group. Additionally, Bartolo Colon has proven time and time again he can fool hitters with his location, while Ivan Nova and his newly found command represent a fine anchor of a rotation. It was close, but given the arms at the top of each rotation, I had to give the edge to the DR. (USA 4, DR 6)
Similar to their rotation, the DR’s bullpen is headlined buy a trio of elite power arms in Betances, Colome, and Familia. Add in a lefty, Abad, and a pair of experienced and successful closers in Castillo and Rodney, and you have the makings of a very good bullpen. That said, the United States has the best reliever in baseball in Andrew Miller, and while they may not be able to match the elite talent of the DR bullpen, they do have one of the best change ups in baseball in Tyler Clippard, two great situational pitchers in Cecil and Neshek, and current/former closers in Jones, McGee, Robertson, Dyson, and Gregerson. Overall, the most important part of a bullpen is its depth, and for that reason, the USA gets the edge for relief pitchers. (USA 5, DR 6)
With a total positional lead of 6-5 over the USA, the Dominican Republic is the victor in our projections; however, don’t be surprised if both teams make a deep run in the WBC, finally giving the fans the dream matchup they have been waiting for since the first World Baseball Classic in 2007.