The rosters for the 2017 World Baseball Classic were announced this evening and two Cubs, second baseman Javier Baez and reliever Hector Rondon, were named to the roster of Team Puerto Rico and Team Venezuela respectively. Additionally, five Cubs minor leaguers were also named to the Classic rosters: John Andreoli (Italy), Jim Henderson (Canada), Jhondaniel Medina (Venezuela), Miguel Mejia (Puerto Rico), Mario Meza (Mexico) and Erling Moreno (Colombia).
Baez joins an absolutely loaded Puerto Rico infield alongside Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. The three of them have been talking about playing together for a while now and neither Baez nor Lindor used the excuse of the long season and the World Series to back out.
Rondon is part of the “Designated Pitcher Pool” of players who can join the roster for just one round. Rondon is not expected to pitch in the first round of pool play, but he can join Venezuela for the later rounds.
Moreno, Medina, Mejia and Meza are also in the Designated Pitcher Pool.
We’ve also noted this before, but it is official: former Cubs pitcher (and current member of the front office) Ryan Dempster is coming out of retirement to pitch for Canada.
Erling Moreno is a rising star in the Cubs organization. In six starts with Eugene last year, Erling went 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA. He’s a ground ball pitcher who struck out 22 and walked five in 30 innings.
John Andreoli was a 17th round pick in 2011 out of Connecticut and he’s slowly worked his way up the Cubs system since then. Last summer, he had maybe his best season for Triple-A Iowa, hitting .256/.374/.396 with 12 home runs and 43 steals. In another season, that would have earned him a major league call-up. He was especially good in the second half and away from Principal Park in Des Moines, which depresses offense.
Mejia is a 29-year-old journeyman who pitched for the Smokies and I-Cubs last season after returning from Japan. Before that, he pitched in the Tigers and Marlins organizations. In 30 relief appearances for Iowa, Mejia went 1-1 with a 5.70 ERA and no saves. But his peripherals were much better than that as he struck out 43 in 47 1⁄3 innings and walked just 17.
Henderson pitched last season for the Mets and 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 35 innings over 44 appearances. Henderson signed with the Cubs on January 27 and you probably best remember him from his three seasons with the Brewers.
Medina was in the Pirates system last year, pitching for both Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. He signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent in December. Meza is a 26 year-old right-hander who has played his entire career to this point in the Mexican League. Last year he was 4-2 with a 1.60 ERA in 52 relief appearances for Yucatan. The Cubs signed him in November.
Overall, the World Baseball Classic looks to have put together its best rosters ever, even with several high-profile pitchers backing out. It also would have been nice to see Team USA have some big Cubs hitters like Anthony Rizzo (who played for Team Italy in 2013) or Kris Bryant. But it is understandable why they are not on the roster after their offseason was already shortened by a full month. Also, it’s not like Team USA is hurting at the infield corners with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
Also, several former Cubs major and minor leaguers are on the rosters: too many to name really. You can go here to find a story on the top names on each team and links to the full rosters for the WBC.
The Fourth World Baseball Classic gets underway on March 6 and runs to March 22. It is the premier showcase of international baseball and for those of you who haven’t followed it before, you should give it a chance. Players represent their countries in a terrific show of pageantry and patriotism that highlights the increasingly international nature of the game we all love.