World Baseball Classic Team Preview: Mexico

Tournament history: 7-8 in three previous tournaments, reaching the second round in 2006 and 2009, and upsetting the United States at Chase Field in 2013. But after finishing 1-2 in 2013 with losses to Italy and Canada, Mexico had to qualify for this event — and did so by going 3-0 against Czech Republic and Nicaragua in Mexicali last March.

Manager: Edgar Gonzalez — Adrian’s older brother — is in his first go-round as Team Mexico’s WBC skipper, following Rick Renteria (2013) and Vinny Castilla (2009). Gonzalez took over for the qualifier tournament last March, and played in the 2013 and 2009 WBCs.

ROSTER

Pitchers: Jorge De La Rosa, Yovani Gallardo, Giovanny Gallegos, Jaime Garcia, Miguel Gonzalez, Luis Mendoza, Vidal Nuno, Roberto Osuna, Oliver Perez, Sergio Romo, Fernando Salas, Jake Sanchez, Joakim Soria, Carlos Torres

Catchers: Xorge Carrillo, Sebastian Valle

Infielders: Japhet Amador, Daniel Castro, Luis Alfonso Cruz, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Laird, Esteban Quiroz, Jose Manuel Rodriguez

Outfielders: Jose Aguilar, Efren Navarro, Chris Roberson, Alex Verdugo

Projected lineup

  • LF Chris Roberson
  • SS Daniel Castro
  • 1B Adrian Gonzalez
  • DH Efren Navarro
  • CF Alex Verdugo
  • 3B Brandon Laird
  • 2B Esteban Quiroz
  • C Xorge Carrillo
  • RF Jose Aguilar

The rundown: This mismatched roster has very solid pitching, but a thin lineup — especially with the late scratch of Khris Davis, who decided against competing. With or without Jaime Garcia, who still is pondering the decision to participate, the rotation has big-league pedigree with Gallardo, De La Rosa and Miguel Gonzalez. In addition, Marco Estrada and Julio Urias are second-round possibilities from the designated pitcher pool. And the bullpen is one of the deepest in the tournament, with big-leaguers Osuna, Romo, Perez, Soria, Salas, Torres and Nuno.

But lineup-wise, there is no proven big-league protection around star Adrian Gonzalez, who is hoping to participate in his fourth WBC while dealing with an injury of his own.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Shortstop Castro, who is in the Rockies camp this spring, got 226 at-bats with the Braves in 2015-16.

First baseman/outfidler Navarro totaled 256 at-bats with the Angels 2011-15, played 10 minor-league seasons, and finished 2016 in the Mexican League.

Verdugo, 20, is a top Dodgers prospect after being picked 62nd overall in the 2014 draft out of a Tucson, AZ, high school. He slashed .273/.336/.407 at Double-Tulsa as a 19-year-old.

Catcher Valle and center fielder Roberson played for Culiacan — Mexico’s representative in the recent Caribbean Series. Roberson, 37, has played in Mexico for six seasons after nine years in the minors, mostly in the Phillies organization. He totaled 69 at-bats with the Phillies in 2006-07.

Carrillo, another catcher, has played six seasons in the Mets chain, splitting 2016 between Double-A and Triple-A.

Third baseman Brandon Laird — Gerald’s brother — totaled 127 big-league at-bats in 2011-13 with the Yankees and Astros.

Infielder Quiroz has played six seasons for Los Tigres de Quintana Roo. He slashed .335/.449/.522 in 337 at-bats in 2016.

Prediction: A revenge motive (v. Italy in the opener) and homefield advantage could propel Team Mexico into the second round, but it won’t be easy in a tough pool with Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

By Tony DeMarco