Thanks to a dominating performance by tournament MVP Robinson Cano, some great pitching by the likes of Samuel Deduno and a brilliant bullpen, and some flashy defense, the Dominican Republic was able to complete their quest for the World Baseball Classic title, defeating Puerto Rico 3-0. The WBC final capped a perfect 8-0 run for the star-studded Dominican roster as they outscored opponents by a 22 run margin over the 8 game tournament.
The Dominicans, much like the Japanese in ’06 and ’09, brought a style all their own to the tournament. But where the Japanese brought regimented execution and excelled at the little things, the Dominicans exhibited flair, flash, and some of that Caribbean vibe. Jose Reyes was a bundle of energy at short and he combined with his double play partner Cano to work magic in the middle of the infield. Samuel Deduno and the brilliant bullpen were full of energy from first pitch right until the final arrow out of the quiver was fired by Fernando Rodney. This Dominican team was brilliant all tournament and they are a deserving World Baseball Classic champion. Now onto the all-tournament team:
Catcher – Yadier Molina, Puerto Rico
Molina was the heart and soul of the Puerto Rican team and his pitch selection and catching chops were vital to his nation’s 2nd place finish. He was able to turn a pitching staff with very little current big league talent into the surprise of the Classic. The Puerto Rican staff had a 2.88 ERA in 78 total innings, with a majority of those coming against powerhouse offenses like the Dominicans, the U.S., and Venezuela.
1st Base -Curt Smith, Netherlands
Smith is currently in the Marlins organization and the folks in Miami have to be pretty happy with how he looked playing for the Dutch. Smith hit a solid .321 in 8 WBC games with 1 long ball and 4 RBI. He also showed a solid batting eye at the plate, picking up 5 walks.
2nd Base – Robinson Cano, Dominican Republic
Who else? Cano was the tournament MVP thanks to his impressive .469 batting average, 2 homers, 6 RBI, and tourney-leading 25 total bases. He was an absolute force at the plate and he brought his usual world-class defense to the World Baseball Classic as well.
3rd Base – David Wright, United States
If you want to know just how important Captain America was to the U.S. attack, look no further than the two games he didn’t play in. America was able to muster just 4 total runs while bowing out in the quarterfinals after Wright had to exit the tournament with hip issues. Before he left though, Wright was brilliant. In just 4 games the 3rd baseman was able to rack up an impressive 10 RBI and 7 hits in the middle of a stocked American lineup.
Shortstop – Andrelton Simmons, Netherlands
In my mind there is no doubt who the breakout star of this year’s WBC is: Andrelton Simmons. The shortstop for the Dutch team was brilliant all tournament, hitting .333 with 2 homers and 6 RBI while looking spectacular on defense. The Netherland’s 2nd round game against Cuba where they rolled up 5 double plays was a master class in middle infield defense and Simmons played a big role in it. His 19 total bases were also good for 2nd in the Classic.
Utility – Hirokazu Ibata, Japan
Since I couldn’t find another spot for Ibata, I decided utility would work just fine. Japan played Ibata all over the field and he was responsible for one of the most brilliant moments all tournament. His steal against Chinese Taipei with 2 outs in the 9th down a run was the stuff of lore and it ended up getting his team a victory. Ibata hit .556 in the tournament with 4 RBI and that one crucial steal.
Outfield – Alfredo Despaigne, Cuba
Despaigne was one of the best players for on tournament’s most prolific offense, hitting .389 with 3 homers and 8 RBI in 6 games. He led all outfielders in RBI, homers, and total bases in an overpowering effort. He’s probably the finest hitter currently playing in Cuba and it was great to see Despaigne strut his stuff, even if it was for just 6 games.
Outfield – Frederich Cepeda, Cuba
The Cubans received a ton of production out of the outfield in the WBC en route to a pair of mercy rule wins in their 6 games. Cepeda was a big part of the effort, hitting .474 with 1 homer, 5 RBI and 7 walks. This is now Cepeda’s 2nd strong tournament in a row and it’s a shame this once-every-four-years tournament is the only time most of the world will witness his thunderous at-bats.
Outfield – Nelson Cruz, Dominican Republic
Cruz was one of the big bats powering the Dominicans to a perfect record. He hit .303 in the tournament with 6 RBI and 14 total bases in 8 games. You could also argue for Japan’s Seiichi Uchikawa in this spot but I felt that the Dominicans were feeling a bit under represented for a team that just went 8-0.
Starter – Samuel Deduno, Dominican Republic
Deduno went a perfect 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in the WBC, picking up the victory over both the Spain and Puerto Rico in the final in rainy San Francisco. Deduno also had a strong start against the United States, limiting the powerful American lineup to 1 run in 4 innings while striking out 7 which pushed the Dominicans into the semifinals. His start in the final was also brilliant as he went 5 innings, scattering just 5 base runners while striking out 5.
Starter – Kenta Maeda, Japan
Maeda is one of the finest pitchers in Japanese history and he showed the full array of his skills in this year’s Classic. The Japanese righty led the tournament with 18 strikeouts and he allowed just 1 run on 6 hits and 3 walks in 15 total innings of work.
Closer – Fernando Rodney, Dominican Republic
Rodney brought swagger all over the field from his ridiculous, nearly sideways cap to his plantain-inspired player intro before the semifinals against the Dutch. He also brought his A-game allowing no runs in 7.1 innings of work while striking out 8.