Saturday, February 4, 2017

WBC 2017 Preview: Breaking down Puerto Rico

There's plenty of Major League talent already on the roster for manager Edwin Rodriguez, with more possibly more on the way. Molina and Beltran will represent their country for a fourth Classic, joining four other players as the only ones to hold that distinction. Rosario also returns after playing for Puerto Rico in the 2013 Classic. A trio of rising Major Leaguer stars -- Baez, Correa and Lindor -- should boost the offense and defense.
How they fared in the past
Puerto Rico finished as the runner-up in the 2013 Classic, getting shut out by the Dominican Republic, 3-0, in the finals. Puerto Rico finished fifth overall in both the 2006 and '09 tournaments. Puerto Rico won its first four games in 2009, but it was then blanked by Venezuela and later lost to Team USA on a walk-off single in the ninth inning, missing out on a chance to advance to the championship round.
What they should do well
Puerto Rico has the makings of a potent lineup, one that will provide Rodriguez with plenty of options and tough decisions. Beltran owns a .274 average, three home runs, six doubles, nine RBIs, 13 runs and 15 walks in 21 Classic games. Molina has a .289 average in 14 Classic games. Baez (Cubs) and Lindor (Indians) are coming off a meeting in the World Series. Correa won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 and has hit at least 20 homers in each of his two Major League seasons.
Where they could struggle
Rodriguez will have some tough decisions to make with his young and dynamic infield. Baez, Correa and Lindor can all play shortstop. Baez has more experience at second base, while Correa and Lindor are entrenched as starting shortstops for their big league clubs. It will be worth monitoring how Correa and Lindor handle a potential move to third base, or a bench role.
"They're going to be all over the place," Rodriguez said. "They all have to be playing everywhere. They know that. We know that. Any one can start at shortstop."
How far they could go
Puerto Rico will be dreaming big after coming within one victory of winning the 2013 Classic. With the veteran influence of Beltran and Molina, a master when it comes to leading pitching staffs, and the incoming young star power of Baez, Correa and Lindor, look for Puerto Rico to make a second straight appearance in the finals.

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