If Pool A in this year's WBC is relatively straightforward and boring, Pool B looks quite different. In this group, there's 2009 WBC runner-up Korea, there's one of the stronger international teams in Chinese Taipei, and there's Australia and the Netherlands, both of whom field fairly strong teams for non-traditional baseball countries. After the jump, let's break down the rosters and make some predictions.
In general, the WBC seems to be full of disappointing performances. Chinese Taipei (the officially sanctioned name under which Taiwan competes in international sporting events) certainly turned in one of the most disappointing performances of the last WBC, in getting trounced by South Korea, then upset by their political rivals from China in a two-and-done outing. This year they're hosting Pool B and they flat-out cruised in the qualifying round by sweeping through their pool without allowing a run. Taiwan's actually become something of a recruiting hot bed in recent years, though the only name on the Chinese Taipei roster you're likely to recognize this spring is Chien-Ming Wang, as the Orioles Wei-Yin Chen decided not to compete. If you're a Red Sox or Astros fan, you might also know outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, who played in nine games with Boston last year and is in camp with Houston. Yao-Lin Wang is a minor league pitcher in the Cubs organization.
South Korea has one of the more accomplished national baseball teams in the recent history. Besides their 2009 WBC silver medal, they won the last gold medal in Olympic baseball history by beating Cuba in 2008 and they finished third in the first WBC in 2006. That said, this Korean team is almost completely comprised of players that play internationally in either Korea or Japan. In fact, the only player with any big league experience in the roster is Jae Seo. Yes, that Jae Seo. Taekyun Kim and Hyunsoo Kim both made the all-tournament team in 2009 and are back in action with Korea this year. Pitcher Sukmin Yoon and infielder Dae Ho Lee won the KBO MVP award in 2011 and 2010, respectively. Legendary Korean slugger Sung-Yeop Lee is also on the team, though his numbers have been declining in NPB over the last efw seasons.
If there was a feel-good story in the last WBC, it was almost certainly the Netherlands. They upset the Dominican Republic twice to advance to the second round of pool play before being eliminated by the United States and Venezuela. There are a few familiar faces on this club. Andrelton Simmons' sparkling glove should make him the Braves' starting shortstop this year. He's not the only impressive young shortstop on the club: Boston's Xander Boegarts is one of baseball's best prospects. The outfield mix includes Andruw Jones, Roger Bernadina, and Wladimir Balentien There's also starter Shairon Martis, who had a fairly poor career with the Nationals, but who also threw the WBC's only no-hitter back in 2006. Loek Van Mil spent time with the Triple-A affiliates of Cleveland and the LA Angels last year and if he ever does make his big league debut he'll immediately become the tallest player in MLB history.
Australia was nearly as big a surprise as Netherlands was in the last WBC. They beat Mexico 17-7 in the first round and nearly upset Cuba (they lost 5-4) when a win would've put them through to the second round. Their second matchup against Mexico went badly; they lost 16-1 and went home. Their team this year is probably best described as an odd assortment of players. Some of the roster is made up of ex-MLB journeymen like Chris Snelling and Luke Hughes and Justin Huber and Ryan Rowland-Smith. The rest of the roster is mosly low-level minor leaguers without much of a ceiling.