Friday, January 18, 2013

Should Twins players compete in WBC?

At different points yesterday, Major League Baseball and the other countries that will be represented in the tournament announced the rosters for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. This will be the third time for the tournament being held and the United States has finished in fourth place in both other tournaments. The Japanese team has taken home the championship twice and some of the other rosters will look to dethrone the two-time defending champs in 2013.

There are Twins and former Twins scattered throughout the line-ups of many of the teams in the tournament. This includes some high profile minor league prospects and some of the best players on the major league roster. When teams allow their players to participate in the tournament, it can be a little bit of a tough decision. There are plenty of top-notch pitchers like Justin Verlander, David Price, and Clayton Kershaw that are staying with their team for spring training instead of representing their country. 

So this raises the question, should Twins players compete in the WBC?

Both of the team's former MVPs will be representing their respective countries in the WBC. Joe Mauer will be a catcher on Team USA and Justin Morneau will man first base for Team Canada. Last offseason, there would have been plenty of questions around them competing in this kind of event. But Mauer looked back to his old self last year and reports say that Morneau is having his first healthy offseason in multiple years. 

With the WBC coming during spring training, these players will have to get up to game speed more quickly than in a normal year. Mauer could be asked to catch nine innings faster than he would in the spring. Morneau will be taking hacks for the fences earlier with his surgically repaired wrist. This could compile into some bumps and bruises along the way.  

Lucky (or not lucky depending on how you look at it) for the Twins a couple of their starting pitchers are coming off of clean-up surgery so they won't be able to participate. Scott Diamond most certainly would have been on the Team Canada roster if not for his minor clean up. Liam Hendriks would likely have been asked to be on Team Australia but he also had an elbow surgery last fall. They will be able to participate in spring training workouts and get ready for what could be the first full season at the big league level for both of them. 

Twins closer Glen Perkins will be on the roster for Team USA. But since he will likely only be used in a relief role, there shouldn't be too much to worry about with him. He would be pitching in spring training games on a regular basis so this gives him a chance to compete against some tougher competition. Some pitchers will have to get a little more hyped up for the tournament so hopefully Perkins can handle this kind of stress earlier in the year.

Two of the Twins top ten prospects, Eddie Rosario and JO Berrios will be on the roster of the Puerto Rican Team. Rosario could have a tough time getting into games with a deep outfield that includes Carlos Beltran, Jesus Feliciano, Angel Pagan, and Alex Rios. Berrios is the youngest member of the team by three years and he might be asked to pitch in some tight situations. The international experience should be good for both players. 

It can be scary to think about what could happen if Mauer or Morneau were to get injured in the WBC. The team has a lot of money invested in Mauer over most of the next decade. Morneau could be the team's best trade chip at the deadline but that is only if he can stay healthy for the rest of the year. Even a small injury in the WBC could have a big impact on the 2013 season and the future of the club.

An injury to Perkins could make it tough for the Twins in the late innings of games. Jared Burton would most likely be asked to take over the closer's role and that could leave a hole in the late innings of games. Team USA and Team Canada will probably be relying more on Morneau and Mauer than Perkins will be relied on by his manager since the US has a deep bullpen. He still should have a smaller workload so he most likely has a better chance of staying healthy. 

For younger players like Rosario and Berrios, it is going to be a couple of seasons before they step on the field at the big league level. The experience could help them for the future and an injury won't debilitate the 2013 Twins. This is also their first chance to show off their talents to a large audience. 

Mauer, Morneau, and Perkins are expected to play a large role in trying to turn around the Twins next season and it's not exactly ideal for them to compete in this exhibition. Some of the younger prospects will get to rub elbows with very good players for a couple of weeks. Hopefully they can be a sponge and take in a lot of knowledge over the course of the tournament and bring that back to the Twins organization.

What do you think? Should the Twins let some of their star players compete in the WBC? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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