After serving as a bench coach for the US in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, HOFer Barry Larkin skippers Brazil’s first appearance in the WBC. Yan Gomes became the first player born in Brazil to reach the Majors this past season, but he’ll skip the tournament to focus on making the Cleveland roster after helping Brazil beat out Panama in the qualifying round. Andre Rienzo pitched as high as AAA in the White Sox organization last season.
Former Twins farmhand Ray Chang is the closest thing to a MLB player China will put on the field, but they have former MLB managers Art Howe and John McLaren on staff. Pitcher Bruce Chen withdrew from the team in order to focus on making the Royals roster.
Politics keeps the names most of us would recognize off the Cuban roster, but the country has a strong baseball tradition and still has a deep pool of players to fill out the roster. Yulieski Gourriel is the best Cuban player in recent memory not to defect and a veteran of international competition.
The two-time defending champs have put together rosters featuring MLB stars such as Ichiro and Yu Darvish in the past, but this time around the only player on the team with experience in the Majors is Kazuo Matsui. Still, the homegrown players on the Japanese team are no slouches, with plenty of international experience on the roster.
Considering this is Brazil’s first foray into the tournament and China is still developing their baseball program, it’s no surprise that Japan and Cuba have already won twice, with each team playing one more game. Two teams advance from each pool, meaning Japan and Cuba advance to the second round.