Tournament history: 10-7. Team Venezuela reached the second round in 2006, and went 6-1 on their way to the 2009 semifinals, but was beaten badly by South Korea, 10-2. In a disappointing 2013 showing, they went 1-2 and couldn’t get out of the first round, providing motivation to rebound in this event.
Manager: Omar Vizquel. You may have heard of him. He becomes Hall of Fame-eligible next year after accumulating 2,877 hits and winning 11 Gold Glove awards. He currently is on the Detroit Tigers’ coaching staff and will have four Tigers with him at the WBC, led by Miguel Cabrera.
Pitchers: Jose Alvarado, Jose Alvarez, Omar Bencomo, Silvino Bracho, Jose Castillo, Jhoulys Chacin, Jeanmar Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Felix Hernandez, Wilfredo Ledezma, Martin Perez, Yusmiero Petit, Francisco Rodriguez, Bruce Rondon.
Catchers: Salvador Perez, Robinson Chirinos
Infielders: Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Alcides Escobar, Yangervis Solarte, Martin Prado
Outfielders: Hernan Perez, Carlos Gonzalez, Odubel Herrera, Ender Inciarte
Designated hitter: Victor Martinez
- CF Odubel Herrera
- 2B Jose Altuve
- RF Carlos Gonzalez
- 1B Miguel Cabrera
- DH Victor Martinez
- C Salvador Perez
- 3B Martin Prado
- LF Ender Inciarte
- SS Alcides Escobar
The rundown: How about that lineup? When Yangervis Solarte and Hernan Perez are on your projected bench, you’ve got a team that can score enough runs to win the tournament. Freddy Galvis was a late scratch due to a groin injury. The question will be starting pitching, and pitching depth in general. Felix Hernandez returns after not participating in the 2013 event. Rangers left-hander Martin Perez is the likely No. 2 starter. The bullpen has a handful of big-league arms, led by K-Rod, who will be the closer. Assuming they advance, Venezuela could add Eduardo Rodriguez, Hector Rondon and Franklin Morales to the pitching staff.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games for the Phillies last season, but faded late (8.33 ERA after the All-Star break), and isn’t a lock for the closer role, with Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris also a part of the projected Phillies pen.
Lefty Jose Alvarez has posted ERAs of 3.49 and 3.45 in the last two seasons in the Angels bullpen, but saw his WHIP rise to 1.50 last season.
Jhoulys Chacin, projected to be part of the Padres rotation, has become the definition of a journeyman since spending his first six big-league seasons with the Rockies. He spent 2015 in the Diamondbacks organization, surfacing for five big-league games, then split 2016 between the Braves and Angels before landing with the Padres.
Former Giant Yusmiero Petit is projected to be a part of the Angels staff, likely as a long-reliever/spot starter.
Deolis Guerra spent much of last season in the Angels pen, posting a 3.21 ERA in 44 games, with a 36-7 K-BB ratio.
Silvino Bracho could be part of the Diamondbacks bullpen again, but will need a strong spring to do so after posting a 5.35 ERA in 39 games over 2015-16.
Prediction: Even in the deepest and most-balanced first-round pool that also includes Italy, Puerto Rico and host Mexico, it’s really hard to pick against Venezuela reaching the second round. And with enough solid starting pitching, this could be a final-four team.
By Tony DeMarco