By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
In 2023, the Dominican Republic could put the World Baseball Classic’s best infield of all time on the field.
The Dominican Republic’s infield is led by San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado. Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte, and Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña round out the infield. Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez was slated to play, but backed out due to an injured thumb., but the D.R. was able to withstand Ramirez’s injury due to tremendous depth.
This infield is dynamic and will cause opposing teams fits. Their offense is off the charts, and their defense on the left side of the infield will be elite with Peña and Machado. Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was forced to be the designated hitter due to Machado’s ability, and several of their backups would start for most MLB teams. Brewers shortstop Willy Adames is a prime example, and Marlins infielder Jean Segura will also provide good depth. Veterans Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano will round out the infield.
Cano just won the Caribbean Series with Tigers del Licey and will be looking for more hardware in what could be the final games of his career. This Dominican team is the favorite to win the World Baseball Classic at +200 via DraftKings sportsbook. The USA is second at +250, with Japan being third at +275.
The last time Team USA played the Dominican Republic, Machado was part of a key moment that would go down as one of the most memorable plays of the tournament.
Machado hit the ball to deep right-center field with the Dominican down 4-2 in the seventh inning. It appeared to be a home run until his then-teammate Adam Jones leaped, reached over the wall and pulled the ball down, robbing Machado of a home run. It would’ve been a one-run game, but Jones had other ideas. Machado tipped his helmet and showed respect to his teammate. That was the turning point in the game and Team USA didn’t look back. The Dominican Republic got upset in the quarter-finals.
Machado was asked about this play and if he was happy Adam Jones won’t be in center field for the US. at the San Diego Padres fan fest on February 4.
“Yea they’re stacked though, but I’ve seen Mike Trout make some pretty amazing catches. At least it won’t be done in my home park,” Machado said in the interview, which was posted to YouTube by Marty Caswell.
Machado hit one home run and had two RBI in six games in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He will be expected to do much more this time, having now become one of the premier third basemen in MLB. He was the runner-up for National League MVP this past season and has a career WAR of 52 in 11 seasons. His defense also stands out with two Gold Gloves and one Platinum Glove.
Machado was asked about what it means to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic.
“I think it’s big for the country, it’s big for the Dominican. I have a lot of fans who support me there and follow my career. To put on that uniform makes my family proud and a lot of people in the Dominican Republic. It’s just a special moment that you not only get to play yourself but you’re the whole country,” Machado said in the same interview.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be playing in the first World Baseball Classic. His father, Hall of Fame right fielder Vladimir Guerrero was going to play in the World Baseball Classic in 2006, but a family tragedy made him withdraw. The Guerreros have strong ties to the Dominican Republic and are one of the most talented father-son duos in MLB history. Vladimir Guerrero had a lifetime batting average of .318, 449 home runs and one of the strongest outfield arms of all time. Guerrero Jr. has 104 home runs, 310 RBI and an OPS of .862 in four MLB seasons.
The Dominican Republic has won this tournament in 2013. Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Rodney Linares is 44 years old and will manage the team. He was picked by general manager Nelson Cruz. They formed a relationship when Cruz was the designated hitter for the Rays. They’ll play in pool D with Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Israel and Nicaragua. They’ll play these games in Miami at LoanDepot.
Linares was interviewed by ABC news anchor Kyle Burger in Tampa Bay on August 8th, 2022. He explained the significance of the World Baseball Classic to the Dominican Republic. “As a kid, your first gift is a bat and ball. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. We’re always playing baseball. Most of the guys, that’s one of the things we do, especially to escape poverty,” Linares said.
Will this dominant Dominican Republic infield help deliver them another World Baseball Classic title?