Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mexico moves up to sixth in WBSC's global rankings; to play Padres, Diamondbacks before WBC

Mexico's star in international baseball continues to rise as the country's National Team has moved past Venezuela into sixth place in the latest World Baseball & Softball Confederation rankings ahead of next year's World Baseball Classic.

The WBSC is located in Lausanne, Switzerland and serves as the governing body for international baseball and fastpitch after the former International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and International Softball Federation (ISF) merged in 2013.  They also publish rankings for women's baseball, men's fastpitch and women's fastpitch.

The WBSC's final baseball rankings for 2016 show Japan maintaining first place with 5,699 points while the United States remained in second with 4,928 points.  South Korea moved up from fourth to third with 4,849 points to slip past Taiwan, who fell to fourth place at 4,261.  Cuba held onto their fifth-place ranking at 3,857 points, ahead of Mexico in sixth at 3,081.  The top ten is rounded out by Venezuela, Canada, The Netherlands and Italy.  In other WBSC rankings, Mexico's men's fastpitch team moved up one slot to 9th (New Zealand is first) while Mexico's women's fastpitch club vaulted four places to tenth (Japan remained on top of that list).  Mexico's women's baseball team is unranked.

Mexico, Venezuela and Italy will be joined by 12th-ranked Puerto Rico next March for World Baseball Classic Pool D play at Estadio Charros in Guadalajara in what may prove to be one of the most intriguing of the four WBC first-round groupings.  Prior to the March 9 Pool D opener between Mexico and Italy, the Grandes Verde will spend three days at the Peoria, Arizona spring training complex shared by the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners.  The stay will include a pair of exhibition games against MLB teams:  On Tuesday, March 7, Mexico will take on the Padres at 1:10PM Mountain time at Peoria Stadium, followed by a 1:10PM tilt on Wednesday, March 8 against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt Rivers Fields at the Talking Stick Resort in nearly Scottsdale before flying to Guadalajara for the WBC.

Mexican manager Edgar Gonzalez, who is currently helmsman of the Mexican Pacific League's Jalisco Charros in Guadalajara, is in the early stages of assembling his roster.  Brother Adrian Gonzalez (the Dodgers' five-time All-Star first baseman) has indicated he'll be playing in his fourth WBC, infielder Danny Espinosa (who was recently traded to the Angels after seven seasons with the Nationals) has committed and outfielder Khris Davis (whose mother is a Culiacan native) will patrol the outfield after swatting 42 homers with 102 RBIs for the A's last summer.  Mexico's pitching staff will include starter Jaime Garcia (who won 20 games for the Cardinals in 2015-16 before being dealt to the Braves earlier this month), Jays closer Roberto Osuna (36 saves in 2016), two-time Royals All-Star reliever Joakim Soria (203 career saves) and longtime MLB hurler Oliver Perez (69-86 over 14 seasons), who spent last season in the Nats bullpen.