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Classic a stage for breakout stars

February 28, 2017

The upcoming World Baseball Classic will provide an opportunity to see talented players from around the globe battle it out in an exciting 16-team tournament.The event brings together some of today's top players -- more than 60 former All-Stars are participating -- as well as some who could develop into

The upcoming World Baseball Classic will provide an opportunity to see talented players from around the globe battle it out in an exciting 16-team tournament.
The event brings together some of today's top players -- more than 60 former All-Stars are participating -- as well as some who could develop into headliners in the coming years.
That certainly has been the case in the previous three World Baseball Classics. So to get ready for this year's tournament, here is a look back at 10 times when the stars have shined bright at the Classic.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
The World Baseball Classic runs from March 6-22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. Internationally, the tournament will be distributed across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at
10. Abreu's emphatic slam
As he played for Cuba in the 2013 Classic, Jose Abreu was less than eight months from signing with the White Sox, which set the table for his American League Rookie of the Year Award the following year. The first baseman showed off his offensive prowess by launching three homers in six games, including a massive grand slam against China in the opening round. In that 12-0 Cuba victory, Abreu went 2-for-5 with a double and five RBIs.
9. He Maeda impression
In 2013, Kenta Maeda was in the midst of his run as the ace of the Hiroshima Carp of Japan's Central League. While it would be three years before his stellar rookie year with the Dodgers, the righty displayed the talent that would take him to the Majors. After allowing one hit over five scoreless innings in his first-round start against China, Maeda matched those numbers in the second round against the Netherlands. He walked none and used an array of pitches to strike out nine as Japan advanced to the semifinals with a 16-4 victory.

8. Nice to meet Yu
When defending-champion Japan opened the 2009 Classic, it was with 22-year-old Yu Darvish on the mound. The right-hander already was an ace in his home country at that point and put on a good show on the international stage, throwing four hitless, scoreless innings with three strikeouts in a 4-0 victory over China. Three years later, Darvish arrived in the Majors with the Rangers.
7. Nice to meet Yo, too
That same 2009 tournament also featured some future stars from Cuba. In a 5-4 opening-round win over Australia, a dynamic 24-year-old outfielder by the name of Yoenis Cespedes went 2-for-4 with a double and a homer on his way to posting a 1.480 OPS in six games. Cespedes' bat supported Cuban starter Albertin Chapman, who allowed one run and racked up seven strikeouts over four innings. Chapman made it to the Reds' bullpen by the next year, while Cespedes landed with a splash in Oakland in '12.
6. Big Papi, Beltre bring big bats
The World Baseball Classic was a new experiment in 2006, and in their opening game, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela stated a strong case in favor of the event. In a game started by Bartolo Colon (D.R.) and Johan Santana (Venezuela), the Dominican squad overcame Jose Cabrera's home run, double and three RBIs for an 11-5 win. David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre struck the biggest blows, both launching a pair of home runs, with Beltre driving in five. Both went deep in a five-run top of the ninth inning that provided breathing room in what had been a 6-5 game.
5. Dutch drama
In the second round of the 2013 Classic, the Netherlands upset Cuba not once, but twice, in a four-day span to advance to the semifinals. A key ingredient was shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who had debuted in the Majors with the Braves the previous summer. While Simmons showed off plenty of his trademark defense during the tournament, he also delivered at the plate. After a 2-for-4 performance in the first meeting with Cuba, the Dutch leadoff man repeated those numbers in the rematch, while driving in three. His two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning tied the score, setting the stage for his team's 7-6 walk-off win one frame later.

4. Cano comes through
The 2009 World Baseball Classic was a disappointing one for Robinson Cano and his Dominican Republic squad. That was definitely not the case in '13. Take a 5-4 victory over Italy to open the second round, as Cano doubled, homered to bring his team within two runs in the sixth inning and singled as part of a three-run seventh, eventually scoring on Nelson Cruz's go-ahead RBI single. Cano finished the tournament batting .469/.514/.781 and took MVP honors as the Dominicans went 8-0 to claim their first Classic championship.
3. Captain America leads U.S.
When the United States needed a big hit in the 2013 Classic, who better to deliver it than David Wright? In the '09 tournament, he had delivered the walk-off two-run single to cap a 3-for-4 effort against Puerto Rico that advanced the Americans to the semifinals. This time, in a first-round matchup with Italy following a loss to Mexico, Wright stepped to the plate trying to untie a 2-2 game in the fifth inning. His grand slam into the left-field seats at Chase Field provided the winning margin in a 6-2 victory, and Wright went on to drive in five more runs in a second-round win over Puerto Rico.

2. Dice-K rolls on
After a dominant Koji Uehara (seven scoreless innings) pitched Japan past South Korea in the 2006 semifinals, Japan faced Cuba for the first World Baseball Classic championship. Making his third start of the tournament, Daisuke Matsuzaka notched his third win, striking out five while allowing one run over four innings. He got plenty of support, including from Ichiro Suzuki (2-for-4, three runs scored), in a 10-6 win. A year after Matsuzaka claimed tournament MVP honors, he was embarking on a productive rookie season with the eventual World Series champion Red Sox.
1. Ichiro plays hero
Matsuzaka was named tournament MVP again in 2009, after Japan beat South Korea, 5-3, in the championship game, although this time it was Hisashi Iwakuma who got the start. Suzuki shouldered the biggest load offensively, going 4-for-6 with a double at the top of the lineup and coming through at the most crucial time. After the Koreans tied the score in the bottom of the ninth against Darvish, Ichiro stepped to the plate with two on and two out in the top of the 10th. He capped an eight-pitch at-bat with a go-ahead two-run single, and Japan had its second title in as many tries.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.