Saturday, February 4, 2017

WBC 2017 Preview: Breaking down Colombia

With weeks left until final 28-man rosters must be submitted on Feb. 6, Colombia's current look remains vague. Only 12 active MLB players were born in Colombia, according to Baseball-Almanac.com, meaning most of the roster will be assembled with players who lack big league experience.
Brothers Jhonatan Solano and Donovan Solano -- who are in the Marlins' and Yankees' farm systems, respectively, and have played at the MLB level -- could be additional options, having competed for Colombia in the 2013 WBC qualifier.
And if he returns after playing for Colombia last March, Twins prospect Reynaldo Rodriguez could be another viable bat. Rodriguez posted a 1.300 OPS over the three qualifier games, and Mexican League slugger Jesus Valdez, who also played in the qualifier, posted a .455 batting average in that stretch. However, neither has committed to this point.
How they fared in the past
Colombia has not only never played in the World Baseball Classic, it didn't enter until the 2013 tournament, when it was eliminated in the semifinals of the qualifying round.
In last spring's qualifier, the Colombians convincingly defeated Spain in the preliminaries, then Panama twice after Panama rebounded in the losers' bracket to play in the final. In that dramatic win, Reds prospect Dilson Herrera lasered a go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning that just barely cleared the left-field foul pole, pushing Colombia to a 2-1 edge.
"When I saw my team and that situation, I have no word to describe [it]," Herrera said after the game. "I'm so happy and so excited for this opportunity."
While this will be Colombia's first World Baseball Classic, it does own two gold medals (1947, '65) in the since-disbanded Baseball World Cup.
What they should do well
Although Colombia has just two players on its current roster, it's an All-Star pair. Quintana and Teheran are among the craftier strikeout pitchers in the Majors, both ranking in the top 50 in strikeouts per nine innings among starters in 2016.
The two will anchor a rotation that remains in question, but should at least give Colombia a chance in its first two games in a daunting slate of Pool C, which also houses Canada, the favored United States and defending champion the Dominican Republic.
Where they could struggle
With what figures to be largely a very green group of players who've never reached the Majors, Colombia could struggle to keep pace against the likes of Chris Archer and other big league aces in Pool C.
If he rejoins the national team, Herrera would likely be among the only Colombian players to log at least 100 MLB at-bats, and in his two seasons with the Mets, he hit just .215 with a strikeout rate of 23.7 percent.
The Colombians will need all the bats they can get.
How far they could go
With the juggernauts that also reside in Pool C, Colombia could struggle to simply get out of the gate. Given its gaping needs on offense and a pitching rotation that is really just two-deep at a competitive level, manager Luis Urueta's club, ranked 19th in the World Baseball Softball Confederation rankings, faces a huge uphill climb.

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