Dice-K, Cepeda lead all-time Classic team

Japan's ace was 6-0 in tourney; Cuban slugger holds many hitting records

March 3rd, 2017

At the end of each World Baseball Classic, tournament organizers select a player from each position for the all-Classic team. It's an incredible honor, signifying each player's ability to excel among the biggest collection of baseball talent anywhere on the planet.

Now that three World Baseball Classics have come and gone, however, MLB.com is prepared to take the honor one step further. With the 2017 Classic just days away, we've looked back to put together the ultimate team: An all-time all-World Baseball Classic squad.

The selections are based on past performance in the tournament, but there's no minimum playing-time requirement; career resumes and single-Classic breakouts are considered equally.

Here is who made the cut:

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez, Puerto Rico
World Baseball Classic stats: 12 games, .366 average (15-for-41), three home runs, seven RBIs, six walks, nine runs

Pudge was particularly potent in the 2009 Classic, pacing his club with a .500 average, a .950 slugging percentage and five extra-base hits en route to an all-tournament selection.

First base: Miguel Cabrera, Venezuela
World Baseball Classic stats: 17 games, .270 average (17-for-63), five home runs, 12 RBIs, seven walks, 11 runs

Cabrera was already a budding 23-year-old star with the Marlins when he debuted in the 2006 Classic, and all he did in his first two Classic games was go 4-for-7 with two home runs. Miggy went on to power Venezuela to a bronze medal in '09, and his five homers are tied for second most in tournament history, meaning he could rewrite the record books with a standout performance this month.

Second base: , Dominican Republic
World Baseball Classic stats: 11 games, .400 average (18-for-45), two home runs, six RBIs, four walks, eight runs

Cano -- who is set to play in the 2017 tournament -- helped the Dominicans ditch the bitter memories of their first-round exit in '09 by helping his nation win the '13 Classic. Cano paced his team in nearly every offensive category and became the first position player to win the Classic Most Valuable Player Award.

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins, United States
World Baseball Classic stats: 15 games, .365 average (19-for-52), one home run, four RBIs, eight runs

Rollins climbed to the top of the baseball world when he helped the Phillies capture the 2008 World Series title, and he continued that roll the following spring, when he batted .417 and led Team USA to its only medal-round appearance thus far.

Third base: , Mexico
World Baseball Classic stats: 15 games, .317 average (20-for-63), four home runs, 17 RBIs, two walks, seven runs

Third base may have been the most competitive of any position on this team, with a host of deserving candidates, including of the Dominican Republic, Yuli Gurriel of Cuba and Cantu. Cantu's overall numbers are a bit superior, though, and his 2009 performance was particularly memorable, as he batted .360, clubbed two homers and five doubles and drove in six runs to help Mexico advance to the second round.

Left fielder: , Cuba
World Baseball Classic stats: six games, .458 average (11-for-24), two home runs, five RBIs, one walk, five runs

While Cespedes only got the chance to play in one Classic for Cuba before defecting, his blend of power, speed, average and defense in the 2009 tournament gave us a glimpse of the MLB star he would become.

Center fielder: , Puerto Rico
World Baseball Classic stats: 21 games, .278 average (20-for-72), three home runs, nine RBIs, 15 walks, 13 runs

Beltran may not have the speed to cover center field now, but we'll take him at his athletic peak, when he mixed rangy defense with awesome power at the plate. Our reliable switch-hitter has already played in a Classic-record 21 games, and he ranks among the tournament's all-time leaders with four steals (tied for second), 20 hits (tied for third), six doubles (tied for third), 13 runs (tied for fourth) and 35 total bases (fifth). At age 39, Beltran will join Cabrera as one of a select few suiting up this month for a fourth Classic appearance.

Right fielder: , Japan
World Baseball Classic stats: 17 games, .312 average (24-for-77), one home run, 10 RBIs, four walks, 14 runs

Japan's most popular player has also been its most prolific in Classic play. Though Ichiro will not play in this year's tournament, his 77 career at-bats are second behind Gurriel for the most in Classic history. Suzuki also ranks among the best all-time with 24 hits (tied for second) and 14 runs (third).

What Japanese fans will remember more, however, is that Ichiro helped lead his country to gold medals in the first two installments of this tournament. That includes perhaps the biggest moment in the event's young history, when he delivered a game-winning two-run single in the 10th inning of the 2009 final.

Designated hitter: Frederich Cepeda, Cuba
World Baseball Classic stats: 20 games, .449 average (31-for-69), six home runs, 23 RBIs, 15 walks, 17 runs

Cepeda has 69 career at-bats in the Classic, and all he's done is compile a fairly ridiculous .449/.548/.885 slash line. He is the king of the tournament at this point, seeing how he holds the career records for home runs, RBIs, runs, hits, doubles (eight) and total bases (59).

Cepeda will be just a few weeks shy of his 37th birthday when he suits up for his fourth Classic for Cuba. Based on his past performances, however, there is no better choice for a masher in the middle of our hypothetical lineup.

Pitcher: , Japan
World Baseball Classic stats: six starts, 6-0, 1.95 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings

Is there any other choice? A winner of two Classic Most Valuable Player Awards, Matsuzaka cemented his legendary status in Japan by becoming nearly untouchable on the international stage. He went 3-0 in each of Japan's championships, winning the gold medal game against Cuba in 2006 and the semifinal against Team USA in '09. Matsuzaka still sits atop the Classic's all-time list with 23 strikeouts, despite sitting out the 2013 edition.