As of press time, the Czech Republic put up some surprisingly huge numbers on Germany and avoids elimination -- I think this is their first Qualifier win. Unfortunately our beloved Donald Lutz and team Germany have to go home. We are waiting on Mexico v. Nicaragua in the winner's bracket.
But this post isn't really about the Great Blandino and Team Nicaragua -- it's about the other qualifier going on right now - Pool 3, which has a slightly different arrangement of European and Latin American teams.This one is being played in Panama, in Rod Carew stadium. It's also called Estadio Nacional de Panama, but that's less fun. Teams in this qualifier include home team Panama, Colombia, Spain and France.
Panama has one of the better 2013 qualifier records. After losing to Brazil by one run, they beat Nicaragua and Colombia, but were bested by Brazil in the final game - again, by one run. Panama was actually able to call on some reasonably formidable major league talent: Carlos Ruiz, Carlos Lee (who is managing the team this year), Ruben Tejada, but just couldn't score against Brazil. Or maybe Barry Larkin is made of magic or something, I don't know.
Panama has it's own league, which finished up in late January. Learn more about it! It's funny because the url is "probeis" which I'm sure is short for pro beisbol, but it looks like probe is, which means something totally different! Amazing! I guess there's a documentary coming out soon on baseball in Panama, which looks kind of cool.
Carlos Ruiz is back with Team Panama this year. Y'all know who Carlos Ruiz is, so I won't explain it, but apparently in 2006, the president of Panama called up Carlos Ruiz to ask him to play for Panama in the WBC. (Note to President Obama: if you call me to ask me to play in the WBC for the US, I will say yes, just FYI). Manny Corpas threw 374 innings in relief, mostly for the Rockies between 2006 and 2013. He was actually quite good in 2007 - for what it's worth, his ERA+ that year was 232, and with a WHIP of 1.064, that's not bad. He spent 2015 in the Mexican league, but it didn't go all that well. Davis Romero only got 16 innings for the Blue Jays back in '06. They were not spectacular.
John Sickels considers RHP Arial Jurado a "prospect on the rise", which is not nothing. For the 2015 Rangers low-A team, Jurado put up the standard good prospect-y ERA, K% and BB%, but also a GO/AO of 3.13. According to this BA chat, he dropped down to a 3/4 delivery, and is getting a lot of sink on his two-seam fastball now. Edmundo Sosa (SS) is a highly ranked Cardinals prospect Alberto Baldonado is already a relief prospect at age 22 in the Mets system -- he did have a nice season this year in A, putting together a 16 2/3 scoreless inning streak. Andy Otero (LHP) is doing well in the Braves system. He pitched in the Panama baseball league this year -- for some reason, their statistics page shows like 10 offensive stats, and only 1 pitching stat - so I can tell you that he was tied for second in the league with 4 wins, or he was as of December 22, 2015. Javier Guerra (SS), in the Red Sox system, gets a fairly in depth report on him, here.
Luis Machuca was an RHP in the Reds system, but left after 2009, after stalling out in the rookie levels for 5 years.
Former MiLB: Alberto Acosta (RHP, Rk, Yankees), Euclides Bethancourt (RHP, Rk, Rays), Angel Cuan (LHP, AA, Mets), Saul Gonzalez (RHP, A-, Marlins), Eliecer Navarro (LHP, AA, Pirates), Jose Camarena (C, AA, Braves), Ramon Castillo (C, AAA, Braves), Jorge Bishop (IF, A+, Pirates), Edgar Munoz (3B, Rk, Pirates), Anthony Amaya (OF, Rk, Red Sox), Luis Castillo (OF, AA, Tigers), Jorge Miranda (LF, Rk, Phillies), Jonathan Saavedra (OF, Rk, Diamondbacks), Isaias Velasquez (OF, AA, Rays)
In 2013, Colombia was in the same qualifier as Panama - after a solid win against Nicaragua, they lost to Brazil and Panama. In 2013, their best hitter was Donovan Solano, who has been a backup infielder for the Marlins since then, and signed with the Yankees this winter. Colombia and Panama will have a rematch this evening.
Dilson Herrera (2B) got a cup of coffee in 2014 with the Mets, and an extended look in May and June of 2015. He is just 22 and hit very well in AAA last year, when not with the MLB squad. It looks like he's still mostly likely headed back to AAA in 2016, as the Mets have Neil Walker. Luis Martinez (C) has seen a handful of MLB appearances (2011/12, Padres/Rangers), and is currently in the Red Sox system. He played in AAA Pawtucket last year, but no word on whether he has met the Great Ryan Hanigan.
In 2010,Randy Consuegra (RHP) threw 1/3 of one inning for an affiliated minor league team (Red Sox Low-A Lowell). He allowed 10 runs, all earned, on 10 walks, 2 HBP, and 6 wild pitches. He did this in two games. God bless baseball. Charlie Mirabal (CHARLIE MIRRORBALL, PEOPLE) left the Dodgers system in 2012, and has played a little independent league since then, but the best thing is this. Apparently, this Kentuckian likes to send notes to current and former baseball players, asking them a few questions, and a lot of them write back. Charlie's favorite sports team is the Lakers. Steve Brown is a Xavier U grad and also played a couple years for the Lexington Legends, as a Houston prospect. Since then, he's spent a lot of time in Canada. I mean, to play baseball, not just, like, generally.
Actually, the Colombian squad has a lot of young guys in minor league systems, and many of them look pretty good - I just didn't really find anything in particular to say about them.
Current MiLB: Nabil Crismatt (RHP, Rk, Mets), William Cuevas (RHP, AAA, Red Sox), Kevin Esorcia (LHP, Rk, White Sox), Jhonatan Escudero (RHP, A+, Cardinals), Yeizer Marrugo (RHP, Rk, Orioles), Greg Nappo (LHP, AAA, Marlins), Dewin Perez (LHP, A, Cardinals), Jesus Posso (C, A-, Phillies), Mauricio Ramos (3B, A+, Royals), Reynaldo Rodriguez (1B, AAA, Twins), Adrian Sanchez (IF, AA, Nationals), Harold Ramirez (OF, A+, Pirates), Carlos Vidal (OF, Rk, Yankees)
Former MilB: Kendy Batista (RHP, AA, Dodgers), Arismendy Mota (RHP, Rk, White Sox), Yesid Salazar (RHP, A, Padres), Karl Triana (RHP, A-, Diamondbacks), Angel Vilchez (RHP, Rk, Pirates), Ronald Luna (IF, A, Braves), Jesus Valdez (OF, AAA, Nationals)
Spain actually qualified for the 2013 WBC, but couldn't stand up to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela -- going 0-3 in the first round. That makes it a little sad that today, Spain lost to France in the loser's bracket of this qualifier, and is eliminated. but you know, c'est la vie. Oof, sorry, dudes, that wasn't even intentional.
Here's some video of baseball in Barcelona. The pitcher is Jorge Balboa (who is on this roster, incidentally)
Rhiner Cruz pitched in relief for Houston in 2012-2013, and has been playing for the Rakuten Eagles of the NPB since 2014.
I'm not totally sure, but I think Carlos Sierra is the Cuban defector who just signed with the Astros this winter. This April 2015 report places him in the Spanish Canary Islands. Also not sure, but I think >40 year old catcher Rolando Merino is also a former Cuban national team star, and maybe also is player-managing a French league team? Rogelio Armenteros (RHP) is another Cuban defector, who signed with the Astros before the 2015 season.
Engel Beltre was once a pretty well regarded Rangers prospect, and spent 2015 in the Giants and White Sox system. Luis Guillorme (SS) was named South Atlantic League MVP in 2015 (Mets sytem), with a high OBP, low SLG, plus fielding profile.
Former MiLB: Richard Castillo (RHP, AA, Rockies), Jose Cruz (RHP/OF for minors, Rk, Tigers), Ivan Granados (LHP, Rk, Athletics), Ricardo Hernandez (LHP, A+, Marlins), Leslie Nacar (RHP, Rk, Giants), Antonio Noguera (LHP, A, Astros), Sergio Perez (RHP, AAA, Astros), Richard Salazar (LHP, AAA, Orioles), Iker Franco (C, AAA, Cardinals), Blake Ochoa (C, AAA, Mariners), Oscar Angula (IF, Rk, Brewers), Jesus Golindano (IF, Rk, Dodgers), Jesus Merchan (IF, AAA, Padres), Yunesky Sanchez (IF, AA, Pirates), Gabe Suarez (IF, A+, Dodgers), Lesther Galvan (OF, Rk, Twins), Yasser Gomez (OF, AA, Braves)
France lost two games in the 2013 WBC qualifiers - to Spain (8-0) and to South Africa, which is why it's so nice to see them do well today. This is their first WBC qualifier win, which is very exciting. This year, they are being managed by former MLB pitcher Eric Gagne. I think maybe he could pitch for them, too, but hey.
France's team is sort of amazing. Most of the players come from the French baseball league, which plays 28 games a year, on weekends. They have a father and son pair: Ernesto Sr. is 43 and defected from Cuba, Ernesto Jr. is just 16 and dreams of the big leagues. They have this baseball pinup model guy (bonus Reds hat!)
Andy Paz (C) was born in Cuba and has been signed with the Athletics since 2011. Players with some previous minor league experience include Keino Perez (RHP, A-, Indians), Rene Leveret (1B, A+, Twins), Frederic Hanvi (OF, Rk, Twins)
So far, Frederic Hanvi has hit very well for in this 2016 qualifier - 3/5 with two doubles. (Ernesto Sr. is also doing well - 3/5 with a walk). Leonel Cespedes pitched 4 2/3 good innings against Spain today, allowing 1 run (unearned), with 2K and no BB.
I mean, I'm not rooting for France or anything, but I'm kind of rooting for France.
Currently, Colombia is playing Panama, and Mexico is facing Nicaragua - the losers of those games will go on to face France and Czech Republic respectively on Saturday, with the final games on Sunday.