Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mexican roster for WBC Pool D play in Guadalajara set

A 27-player active roster (with eight more in reserve) for Mexico's national baseball team has been set for next month's World Baseball Classic.  Manager Edgar Gonzalez will lead the Verdes Grande into battle in Pool D play against Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Italy from March 9 through 13 at Guadalajara's Estadio Charros, which will be expanded to 15,000 seats for the event.

Gonzalez, who was selected as the Mexican Pacific League's Manager of the Year last winter in his debut as a skipper for Mexicali, will have a team of MLB and Mexican League veterans with a decent mix of power and speed and a pitching staff loaded with hurlers who have big league experience.

Mexican National Team 2017 WBC roster
P (13) - Jorge De La Rosa, Yovanni Gallardo, Jaime Garcia, Geovani Gallegos, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Vidal Nuno, Roberto Osuna, Oliver Perez, Sergio Romo, Fernando Salas, Jake Sanchez, Joakim Soria, Carlos Torres.
C (20) - Xorge Carrillo, Sebastian Valle.
IF (8) - Japhet Amador, Daniel Castro, Luis Alfonso Cruz, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Laird, Efren Navarro, Esteban Quiroz, Jose M. "Manny" Rodriguez.
OF (4) - Jose Juan Aguilar, Khris Davis, Chris Roberson, Alex Verdugo.
Reserves (8) - Miguel Aguilar, Andres Avila, Marco Estrada, Carlos Fisher, Rafael Martin, Mario Meza, Ivan Salas, Julio Cesar Urias.

The pitching staff combines starters with past MLB success like Yovanni Gallardo, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa and Jaime Garcia with a strong bullpen that includes Roberto Osuna, Joakim Soria and Sergio Romo (along with 2016-17 LMP Reliever of the Year Jake Sanchez, an A's farmhand).  One name missing from the list of 13 pitchers is the Dodgers' highly-touted lefty, 20-year-old Julio Urias, a Culiacan product that LA has developed slowly since his Class A Midwest League debut as a 16-year-old in 2013.  Urias is on the reserve list, as is Nats reliever Rafael Martin.  Conspicuous by their absence are right-hander Hector Velazquez and southpaw Danny Rodriguez, both of whom distinguished themselves in the Mexican Pacific League playoffs and recently-concluded Caribbean Series.

Mexico's catching situation is nowhere near as flush, with two career minor leaguers for Gonzalez to choose from.  Sebastian Valle is a former Phillies prospect who was dealt to the Mariners this winter.  Valle made national headlines in Mexico last week with his walkoff grand slam in the Caribbean Series, but his ten-year minor league career has been longer on potential than delivery.  A CS teammate of Valle's with Mexicali, Carrillo has been a six-year Mets farmhand with two cups of coffee at the AAA level.  Valle will likely be the starter, but this is not a Verdes Grande strong point.

The infield looks better.  Dodgers' five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez will serve as anchor at first base for his fourth WBC and first without brother Edgar playing alongside him.  Second base will be shared between Manny Rodriguez, a rocksteady veteran and career .307 hitter over 11 Mexican League seasons, and 5'7" Esteban Quiroz, who hit .335 for Quintana Roo last summer.  Things aren't as settled on the left side.  Daniel Castro, who split 2016 between MLB and AAA with the Braves, figures to start at shortstop but third base is up for grabs among Brandon Laird and Efren Navarro.  Quiroz could slide to third with Rodriguez taking permanent status at second.  Man-mountain Japhet Amador (all 6'4" and 330 pounds of him) figures to DH for Mexico after spending last year in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles while Luis Alfonso Cruz, who's played three years in Japan, will plug any gaps in the middle infield.  When he's in a groove, Amador can go deep on anyone.

Mexico's outfield will include Khris Davis, who it 42 homers and drove in 102 runs for Oakland in 2016 after knocking out 49 longballs the two previous campaigns in Milwaukee.  Longtime followers of Mexican baseball will have no trouble recognizing Chris Roberson in center field.  A 37-year-old Oakland native and former Phils prospect, Robo made his winterball debut with Hermosillo in 2005 and has mostly played year-round south of the border since 2009 providing speed (he's lost little), extra-base power and some defense wherever he's gone.  Twenty-year-old Alex Verdugo has averaged .302 over three minor league seasons in the Dodgers system but is a little shaky with his glovework.  Juan Jose Aguilar is, like Roberson, an LMB veteran who lacks the latter's power but matches his speed and should be the best defensive outfielder on Mexico's roster.

Mexico has had to fight its way to a fourth consecutive appearance in the WBC after going winless in 2013 and being required to qualify to play in Guadalajara this year.  They did so last March by cruising through a qualifying round with wins over Germany, Nicaragua and the Czech Republic to earn a berth in Pool D while removing the "interim" from Gonzalez' managerial status.