We're almost there. The World Baseball Classic begins on Monday at Gocheok Sky Dome.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 MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive
We're almost there. The World Baseball Classic begins on Monday at Gocheok Sky Dome.
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 MLBNetwork.com/watch, 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 WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Here's a quick breakdown of each Pool A team, which includes two previous semifinalists and a first-time participant full of professional talent.
Previous World Baseball Classic results: Korea impressed with a third-place finish in 2006 and a second-place finish in '09 before a surprising first-round exit in '13.
Top players: RHP Seunghwan Oh (St. Louis Cardinals), 1B Dae-Ho Lee (Lotte Giants of Korea Baseball Organization), OF Ah-seop Son (Lotte Giants)
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Manager: Kim In-sik
Why they could advance: Playing in front of what should be raucous home crowds, Korea is a heavy favorite to advance out of pool play because of its balanced, experienced roster. Seven players return from the 2013 roster, including offensive stars Lee, Son and power-hitting catcher Taegun Kim, as well as dominant back-end reliever Oh, the lone Major Leaguer on the roster.
Why they might not: Impressive as its roster is, Korea will participate without three of its most accomplished players: big leaguers Shin-Soo Choo, Hyun Soo Kim and Jungho Kang. That leaves its roster with less Major League talent than pool mates Netherlands and Israel, the latter a first-time qualifier that Korea will host in the tournament opener.
Sound smart with your friends: Lee, who played with the Seattle Mariners last season, signed a four-year, $12.9 million contract to return to the KBO this season -- the largest deal given to a free agent in the history of the league. Earlier in his career, Lee homered in a world-record nine consecutive games.
Previous World Baseball Classic results: The Netherlands improved its global baseball standing significantly in each of the first three Classics. The kingdom suffered a first-round exit in 2006 before surprising many with a second-round finish in '09 and advancing to the semifinals in '13.
Top players: INF Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox), SS Andrelton Simmons (Los Angeles Angels), 2B Jonathan Schoop (Baltimore Orioles) INF Didi Gregorius (New York Yankees), RHP Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Manager: Hensley Muelens
Why they could advance: Five of the Netherlands' six current Major Leaguers are middle infielders, including Rangers super-utility man Jurickson Profar, who can play all over the infield. The roster also features five other players with Major League experience, headlined by former Braves standout Jair Jurrjens and Rick van den Hurk. They will spearhead a crafty rotation.
Why they might not: The Netherlands' glut of talented middle infielders will give the country a dynamic lineup, but it also means several stars will have to play out of position. Bogaerts is likely to see time at third base, while Gregorius could slide over to second. They'll have to adjust quickly to support a pitching staff whose strength is inducing soft contact, not missing bats.
Sound smart with your friends: Gregorius has only made 11 Major League appearances at second base and two at third -- all in 2014 for the D-backs. Bogaerts made 53 appearances at third base -- he's played the other 420 games of his MLB career at short. Schoop made a 17-game cameo at third base for the Orioles in '14.
Previous World Baseball Classic results: This will be Chinese Taipei's fourth World Baseball Classic. The team suffered first-round exits in 2006 and '09 before a second-round finish in '13.
Top players: RHP Chien-Ming Wang, SS Chih-Sheng Lin, SS Yung-Chi Chen
Manager: Tai-Yuan Kuo
Why they could advance: Chih-Sheng Lin, Yi-Chuan Lin and Chen are stars in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, while starter Chun-Lin Kuo is no stranger to the international stage. Right-handers Ping-Hsueh Chen and Shao-Ching Chiang (Indians) and lefty Wei-Chung Wang (Brewers) are currently in MLB farm systems. What's more: Taipei doesn't face pool favorite Korea until its third game.
Why they might not: Chien-Ming Wang, the former American League Cy Young Award candidate who last appeared in the Majors in 2016 with the Royals, no longer relies on power to retire hitters. In this way, he's much like the rest of the Taipei staff: a group of mostly finesse pitchers that could struggle against Major League-caliber hitters.
Sound smart with your friends: Outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, then a prospect in the Red Sox organization, was named MVP of the 2008 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium. He appeared in nine games for Boston in 2012, mostly as a defensive replacement.
Previous World Baseball Classic results: Israel qualified for the Classic for the first time by advancing from a qualifier pool of Brazil, Great Britain and Pakistan in September.
Top players: 1B Ike Davis (Los Angeles Dodgers), OF Samuel Fuld, C Ryan Lavarnway (Oakland Athletics), RHP Jason Marquis, UTL Cody Decker (Milwaukee Brewers)
Manager: Jerry Weinstein
Prospects to watch: 2B Tyler Krieger (No. 18, Indians)
Why they could advance: Israel may be a first-time qualifier, but its roster is comprised exclusively of professional talent. The versatile Ty Kelly, who saw big league time with the Mets last season, can hit at the top of the order and play multiple positions. Former A's first baseman Nate Freiman will provide power in the middle of the lineup alongside Davis and Lavarnway. Israel can use four pitchers with MLB experience in the first round and has two more -- including longtime starter Scott Feldman -- available should it advance. Team Israel has a "shock the world" mentality, and with this roster, it could.
Why they might not: Marquis, who served as Israel's premier starter in the qualifier, is 38 years old and he ostensibly retired two years ago. Outside of Marquis and Feldman, who won't be available in the first round, the team lacks front-line rotation talent. That will force Weinstein to get creative in the way he deploys the bullpen to piece together innings.
Sound smart with your friends: In an effort to promote baseball and Team Israel prior to the World Baseball Classic, 10 members of the team toured their ancestral homeland earlier this year.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.