Saturday, February 4, 2017

WBC 2017 Preview: Breaking down the Netherlands

The infield is filled with top-tier big leaguers in Bogaerts, Simmons and Schoop, and the potential addition of Didi Gregorius would further strengthen an already solid group. Manager Hensley Meulens, the hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants, has to like the offensive potential from this group as well. Former big leaguer van den Hurk is the only confirmed pitcher on the roster, though Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen could participate.
How they fared in the past
The Netherlands has increased its win total each year in the Classic, topped by four wins and a fourth-place finish in WBC 2013. The Dutch twice upset the Dominican Republic to reach Round 2 in '09 and had one win in '06, when Shairon Martis no-hit Panama. The Netherlands embraced its underdog status again in WBC '13, stunning Cuba twice in Round 2 to reach the championship round.
What they should do well
The infield is a clear strength, led by Bogaerts, Schoop and Simmons. At the plate, Bogaerts is a two-time Silver Slugger with the Red Sox and Schoop belted a career-high 25 home runs for the Orioles in 2016. Defensively, Simmons leads the way as a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who is considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the Majors. Bogaerts and Schoop are also talented with the glove, which will help the pitching staff.
Where they could struggle
Pitching is a big question mark with Jansen not yet committed. The closer told reporters in April he was planning to pitch in WBC '17, but that was before he signed a five-year, $80 million deal this offseason with the Dodgers, who may look to protect their investment. A former Major League starter-turned-reliever, van den Hurk returns after pitching for the Dutch in WBC 2009.
How far they could go
With steady improvement in each of the three previous Classics, the Netherlands is tracking toward an appearance in the championship round. The loaded infield makes the Dutch a threat to any opponent, and they have already proven to be capable of pulling off huge upsets in this tournament.

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