By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
With 20 days to go until the World Baseball Classic begins, here’s a look at a player to watch from each of the National League’s 15 teams.
Atlanta Braves – Ronald Acuna Jr., the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, will play in the outfield for Venezuela in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, despite the Braves front office pleas for him to sit out. The three-time All-Star will be a key cog in the offense for Venezuela.
Other Braves in the WBC: Luis De Avila, LHP (COL – DPP), Roel Ramirez, RHP (MEX – DPP), Alan Rangel, RHP (MEX – DPP), Yacksel Ríos, RHP (PUR), Eddie Rosario, OF (PUR), Chadwick Tromp, C (NED).
Chicago Cubs – Marcus Stroman already won a World Baseball Classic MVP in 2017 with Team USA. This year, he’ll be the anchor of the Puerto Rico pitching staff as the island looks to make a third consecutive WBC championship game.
Other Cubs in the WBC: Javier Assad, RHP (MEX), Owen Caissie, OF (CAN), Danis Correa, RHP (COL), Ben Deluzio, OF (ITA), Roenis Elías, LHP (CUB), Miles Mastrobuoni, INF (ITA), Matt Mervis, INF (ISR), B.J. Murray, INF (GBR), Michael Nittoli, RHP (ITA), Branden Noriega (GBR – DPP), Fabian Pertuz, INF (COL), Liam Spence, INF (AUS), Seiya Suzuki, INF (JPN), Curtis Taylor, RHP (CAN), Nelson Velazquez, OF (PUR), Jared Young, INF (CAN).
Cincinnati Reds – Luis Cessa will bring a veteran presence and arm capable of two-inning relief appearances to the Mexico bullpen.
Other Reds in the WBC: Donovan Benoit, RHP (GBR), Silvino Bracho, RHP (VEN), Fernando Cruz, RHP (PUR), Alexis Díaz, RHP (PUR), Arij Fransen, RHP (NED – DPP), Pedro Garcia, RHP (COL), Ian Gibaut, RHP (GBR), Kyle Glogoski, RHP (AUS), Tayron Guerrero, RHP (COL – DPP), Evan Kravetz, LHP (ISR), Brandon Leyton, INF (NCA), Nicolo Pinazzi, LHP (ITA), Henry Ramos, OF (PUR), Reiver Sanmartin, LHP (COL).
Colorado Rockies – Daniel Bard was a dominant reliever in the 2022 MLB season, posting an ERA+ of 262. The USA will need him to finish off some potent offenses to repeat as WBC champions.
Other Rockies in the WBC: Jake Bird, RHP (ISR), Elias Díaz, C (COL), Kyle Freeland, LHP (USA), Justin Lawrence, RHP (PAN), Germán Márquez, RHP (VEN), Michael Petersen, RHP (GBR), Alan Trejo, INF (MEX).
Los Angeles Dodgers – Mookie Betts, the 2018 NL MVP, will be one of the best outfielders in the WBC and play on a loaded Team USA. While his numbers have fallen off since his MVP season, he could feast on weaker pitching.
Other Dodgers in the WBC – Austin Barnes, C (MEX), Liam Doolan, RHP (AUS), Freddie Freeman, INF (CAN), Clayton Kershaw, LHP (USA), Adam Kolarek, LHP (ISR – DPP), Jose Ramos, OF (PAN), Miguel Rojas, INF (VEN), Will Smith, C (USA), Trayce Thompson, OF (GBR), Julio Urías, LHP (MEX).
Miami Marlins – Sandy Alcantara is coming off a season that saw him win the NL Cy Young Award. Bringing a WBC championship home to the Dominican Republic would be another jewel in the crown for the dominant right hander.
Other Marlins in the WBC: Luis Arraez, INF (VEN), Johnny Cueto, RHP (DR), Enmanuel De Jesus, LHP (VEN – DPP), Jesús Luzardo, LHP (VEN), Anthony Maldonado, RHP (PUR), Jean Segura, INF (DR).
Milwaukee Brewers – Matt Hardy, a Brewers prospect, will pitch for Panama in the WBC. The 27-year-old righty split last season between Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Biloxi, and posted a .821 WHIP in 28.1 innings pitched with Caguas in Puerto Rico this winter.
Other Brewers in the WBC: Willy Adames, INF (DR), Victor Castaneda, RHP (MEX – DPP), Alex Claudio, LHP (PUR – DPP), Sal Frelick, OF (ITA), Javy Guerra, RHP (PAN), Alex Hall, OF (AUS), Joel Payamps, RHP (DR – DPP), Carlos Rodriguez, RHP (NCA), Robert Stock, RHP (ISR), Rowdy Tellez, INF (MEX), Abraham Toro, INF (CAN), Luis Urías, INF (MEX), Michele Vassalotti, RHP (ITA), Devin Williams, RHP (USA).
New York Mets – Francisco Lindor is, arguably, the best middle infielder in the world at the moment, and part of a star-studded Puerto Rico lineup. It’s hard to pick just one Met, but Lindor’s offensive and defensive ability combine with his star power to push him to the top.
Other Mets in the WBC: Pete Alonso, INF (USA), Jonathan Arauz, INF (PAN), Edwin Díaz, RHP (PUR), Eduardo Escobar, INF (VEN), Dominic Hamel, RHP (PUR), Elieser Hernandez, RHP (VEN – DPP), Francisco Lindor, INF (PUR), Jeff McNeil, INF/OF (USA), Humberto Mejia, RHP (PAN), Omar Narváez, C (VEN), Camrin Opp, LHP (GBR), Adam Ottavino, RHP (USA), José Quintana, LHP (COL), Brooks Raley, LHP (USA), Claudio Scotti, RHP (ITA).
Philadelphia Phillies – JT Realmuto might be the best catcher in baseball following Yadier Molina’s retirement, and he’ll be catching a stellar staff with Team USA.
Other Phillies in the WBC: José Alvarado, LHP (VEN), Erubiel Armenta, LHP (MEX), Malik Binns, RHP (GBR – DPP), Jesus Cruz, RHP (MEX), Jaydenn Estanista, RHP (NED), Vito Friscia, C (ITA), Vimael Machin, INF (PUR), Brian Marconi, LHP (ITA – DPP), Kyle Schwarber, OF (USA), Noah Skirrow, RHP (CAN), Gregory Soto, LHP (DR), Garrett Stubbs, C (ISR), Ranger Suárez, LHP (VEN), Trea Turner, INF (USA), Taijuan Walker, RHP (MEX), Nick Ward, INF (GBR), Rixon Wingrove, INF (AUS).
Pittsburgh Pirates – David Bednar pitching in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA gives him a chance to help his team win something meaningful before rejoining the Pirates for the season.
Other Pirates in the WBC: David Bednar, RHP (USA), Tsung-Che Cheng, INF (TPE), Roansy Contreras, RHP (DR), Alessandro Ercolani, RHP (ITA – DPP), Santiago Florez, RHP (COL – DPP), Antwone Kelly, RHP (NED), Jeffrey Passantino, RHP (ITA – DPP), Josh Palacios, OF (NED), Tahnaj Thomas, RHP (GBR), Duane Underwood Jr., RHP (PUR), Chavez Young, OF (GBR), Rob Zastryzny, LHP (CAN)
San Diego – Xander Bogaerts is the player to watch on the Netherlands, and it’ll be his first game action since signing an 11-year, $280 million deal with San Diego. If the Netherlands makes it out of pool play, Bogaerts will almost certainly be part of the reason they do.
Other Padres in the WBC: Xander Bogaerts, INF (NED), Miguel Cienfuegos LHP (PAN), Nabil Crismatt, RHP (COL), Nelson Cruz, INF (DR), Jarryd Dale, INF (AUS), Yu Darvish, RHP (JPN), Jose Espada, RHP (PUR – DPP), Ruben Galindo, RHP (COL), Luis García, RHP (DR), Ha Seong Kim, INF (KOR), Manny Machado, INF (DR), Evan Mendoza, INF (COL), Jake Sanchez, RHP (MEX), Juan Soto, OF (DR), Brett Sullivan, C (ITA), Julio Teheran, RHP (COL – DPP).
San Francisco Giants – Joc Pederson is one of the few Giants in this year’s WBC, and the two-time All-Star will be a key bat for Israel.
Other Giants in the WBC: Jonathan Bermudez, LHP (PUR – DPP), Camilo Doval, RHP (DR), Joey Marciano, LHP (ITA), Joc Pederson, OF (ISR), Kai-Wei Teng, RHP (TPE).
St. Louis Cardinals – Nolan Arenado is just part of the constellation of stars Team USA will throw out daily during this tournament.
Other Cardinals in the WBC: Nolan Arenado, INF (USA), Génesis Cabrera, LHP (DR – DPP), Tommy Edman, INF (KOR), Giovanny Gallegos, RHP (MEX), Paul Goldschmidt, INF (USA).