Rosters for the World Baseball Classic were announced this week and while the rosters of the favorites—the Unites States, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela—are full of names you know, and additional favorites Japan and Korea are littered with professional veterans from the leagues of their home nations, plenty of prospects will be in action during the event.
These prospects come in all shapes and sizes, and more importantly, stages of development. For some, this is the last time we’ll see them before they ascend to the majors for good while others will find themselves overmatched and possibly in awe of their competition.
But it’s still fun to watch. So we’ll break it down by development.
Last stop before the majors
For some of these prospects, the WBC will bring the same opportunities that they’d be getting in major league camp. Aumont, for instance, is competing for a spot in the Phillies bullpen after a successful 14.2-inning audition toward the end of last season. He was used as a de facto eighth-inning guy in September and has as much talent as any player in the Phillies’ young, unproven bullpen, but he’ll have to prove his worth in the WBC, not in Phillies camp.
If he has success for team Canada, for whom he could serve as set-up man for John Axford, Aumont could impress Charlie Manuel from afar, but if he struggles and isn’t in camp to earn his spot, he could be back in Triple-A to begin the year.
The Rangers are probably thrilled that Profar is playing in the WBC, even if they don’t admit it. GM Jon Daniels has said that Profar won’t make the Rangers’ Opening Day roster unless there’s a spot for him to get everyday at-bats, and his missing time in camp to play for The Netherlands could give them just the excuse they need to send him back to the minors. Of course, if the Netherlands, largely unproven but talented, makes a run led by any significant contribution from Profar, sending him down could be even harder to justify. The additional curveball to look out for with Profar is where he’ll play in the WBC; the team’s starting shortstop figures to be the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons.
Let’s see if they’re ready
This group includes some players who are going to be a lot of fun to watch, and their exposure in the WBC could tell us more about how close they are to the majors. Taillon, for instance, who is from Texas but is of French Canadian descent, could speed up his timetable to the majors if he fares well against big league competition. He’s not missing anything by not being in major league camp; there was no chance of him making the Pirates’ roster this spring. But with a strong WBC showing, he could limit the time the Pirates want him to spend in Double-A, where he’s expected to start the 2013 season.
The same goes for Bogaerts with the Red Sox. He wouldn’t make the Red Sox roster even if he spent the entire spring in camp, but if he is able to launch one of his no-doubt homers off a significant major league pitcher, he will be hard to ignore for long.
Gillies, another Phillies prospect, rebounded from a disastrous 2011 season to have a strong 2012 in Double-A. He should get plenty of playing time in a weak Canadian outfield, and given the Phillies’ impending lack of outfield production, a strong WBC could make a case for a shorter-than-planned stint in Triple-A this year.
In over their heads
A game between the Netherlands and Puerto Rico sure would be fun to watch. Those two countries won’t be playing each other unless they both advance past pool play, so don’t get your hopes up, but the prospects on these teams, not to mention the veteran presence, would be worth the ticket. Schoop and Barrios are two players worth watching, even though neither is truly ready to take on the competition level they’ll be facing in the WBC.
Schoop spent the entire 2012 season in Double-A, but he struggled there offensively and is still spending time at a number of positions. That versatility will help the Netherlands in the WBC the same way it will eventually help the Orioles, but offensively, he’s not quite ready to handle major league pitching. Still, seeing him against strong competition like he’ll face in his first game against Korea will be entertaining.
Berrios is one of the youngest players in the WBC, but being on the Puerto Rican roster should be a great learning experience for the Twins’ 2012 first-rounder. Berrios was selected 32nd overall this past year and was utterly dominant in the very low minors (short-season and rookie level) after signing. He’s just 18 and has never faced anything close to the level of competition he’ll see in a pool with Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, but he has a power arm that led to 14.4 strikeouts per nine last season and watching him challenge the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano with fastballs is what the WBC is all about.