World Baseball Classic meet baseball’s global power hitters – ESPN
From baseball’s humble beginnings when they were rare, home runs have exploded. There were 5,610 hit in 2016, the second most in one season to the 5,693 hit in 2000 and an astonishing 1,424 more than were hit in 2014. In fact, the home run accounted for a higher percentage of runs than ever before, in part because there were fewer runs scored in 2016 than in 2000.
Which means the home run will undoubtedly play a vital role in determining the winner of the fourth World Baseball Classic, which will feature the first appearances for Colombia and Israel.
The defending champion Dominican Republic, which hit seven home runs in winning the tournament in 2013, rates as the pre-tournament favorite thanks to a powerful lineup that includes five players who hit at least 30 home runs in the majors last season: Nelson Cruz (43), Robinson Cano (39), Manny Machado (37), Carlos Santana (34), and Adrian Beltre (32).
The United States, which has never reached the championship game and hit only one home run in six games in 2013, features an imposing lineup, as well, but only one of the 25 U.S.-born players who hit 30 home runs in 2016 is on the roster — Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. Still, there is plenty of power potential with the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy, Andrew McCutchen and others.
Cuba has hit the most home runs in WBC history, with 30, but the wave of defections has wiped out some of the Cuban talent, so the team brings a largely unknown roster into this tournament. One familiar name is 36-year-old outfielder Frederich Cepeda, who homered in the title game back in the first WBC in 2006, when Cuba lost 10-6 to Japan.
Two-time winner Japan is missing several of its best pitchers — two-way star Shohei Otani is nursing an injured ankle and won’t play, and U.S.-based stars Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Kenta Maeda and Hisashi Iwakuma aren’t participating — so it might have to rely on its offense this time. Two sluggers to watch are outfielders Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (44 home runs in 2016) and Tetsuto Yamada (38 home runs).
Enjoy the tournament and our historical guide to the 16 nations.
— David Schoenfield