World Baseball Classic: Top 20 Pitchers

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World Baseball Classic: Top 20 Pitchers

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 World Baseball Classic will be played a lot differently than the previous two classics, with the implementation of the new pitch count rules. The rules committee decided to implement these rules to limit pitcher usage, similar to what we see in the Little League World Series.

A pitcher can Throw no more than 65 pitches per game in the First Round of the Tournament, 80 pitches per game in the Second Round of the Tournament and 95 pitches per game in the Championship Round of the Tournament

This means that teams cannot rely on one pitcher throughout the tournament and will have to carry many relief pitchers.

In 2009, we saw Yu Darvish emerge as a star for team Japan, as he pitched his team to the championship. However, Darvish will not be a member of team Japan this year as they try to defend their title. Veterans Masahiro Tanaka and Toshiya Sugiuchi will carry a bulk of the innings for the Japanese squad.

Team USA will have to do without many of the best American pitchers in the 2013 classic. Some notable pitchers not participating are: Justin Verlander, David Price, CC Sabathia, Stephen Strasburg, Jered Weaver and Clayton Kershaw. USA manager Joe Torre will be forced to rely on some lesser-known starters and a ten-man bullpen to carry the team into the late rounds of the tournament.

It is disappointing to see some of the best players in the world not representing countries in the World Baseball Classic, but there are still many talented pitchers in this year’s classic. Here are the Top 20:

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20. Jesse Crain, USA

Denny Medley- USA TODAY Sports

Jesse Crain of the Chicago White Sox will add a very lively arm to the bullpen for team Canada and will also add 9 years of MLB experience. Crain struck out 11.25 batters per nine innings and had an average fastball of 93.7 mph last year.

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19. Carlos Zambrano, Venezuela

Steve Mitchell- USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Zambrano pitched with Miami Marlins last year, but is not currently with any MLB team. With the absence of Felix Hernandez, team Venezuela will rely on Zambrano to throw innings. The pitch count rule will not be a friend of Zambrano’s as he struggles with control (career BB/9 rate of 4.13).

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18. Jeremy Affeldt, USA

Kelley L. Cox- USA TODAY Sports

LHP Jeremy Affeldt was a key part of the San Francisco Giants championship teams in 2010 and 2012, Team USA hopes that will be a key part of World Baseball Classic champion team in 2013. Affeldt has been very tough on left-handed hitters in his 11 year MLB career, with a .236 opponent batting avg.

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17. Chien-Ming Wang, Chinese Taipei

Brad Barr- USA TODAY Sports

Chien-Ming Wang made a very good impression in 2013 WBC debut, going six innings, only giving up four hits on 61 pitches in for Chinese Taipei in a win against Australia. With the new pitch count rules efficiency like this will go a long way. Wang is not with any MLB team right now, but if he continues to pitch like this, he will have a job very soon.

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16. Derek Holland, USA

Jim Cowsert- USA TODAY Sports

Derek Holland has plenty of experience in high pressure situations, as he has made 13 postseason appearances in the last three years with the Texas Rangers. Joe Torre will have the option to use Holland as a starter or as a reliever. This flexibility gives Holland a lot of value for Team USA.

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15. Edinson Volquez, Dominican Republic

Jake Roth- USA TODAY Sports

Edinson Volquez of the San Diego Padres has the stuff to be a #1 starter, but has not shown the consistency necessary to headline a rotation. Volquez led the National League with 105 walks last year, but also had 174 strikeouts. If Volquez can show better control, he will be very valuable for the Dominican Republic in 2013 classic.

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14. Jameson Taillon, Canada

Kim Klement- USA TODAY Sports

Jameson Taillon is one of the top prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and will likely be the #1 starter for team Canada. Taillon possesses a fastball that many scouts would consider elite, however, he has not pitched above AA at any point in his career. Taillon will get a great chance to display his talents on a very high level in the WBC.

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13. Jason Grilli, Italy

Brett Davis- USA TODAY Sports

2013 will be a very exciting season for RHP Jason Grilli, not only will he get his first chance to be a closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he will also get to pitch in another World Baseball Classic for his native Italy. Grilli will need to throw a lot of innings in the classic, because Italy will be overmatch in every game in Pool D play.

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12. Ross Detwiler, USA

Brad Mills- USA TODAY Sports

LHP Ross Detwiler made a big impact with Washington Nationals as their fifth starter in 2012. Detwiler made 27 starts with 3.40 ERA. Detwiler is not very well known to American fans, but he will have a chance to make a big impact for team USA.

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11. Rafael Fernandes, Brazil

Kirby Lee- USA TODAY Sports

Team Brazil would not be in the World Baseball Classic without RHP Rafael Fernandes. In the qualifier against Panama, Fernandes threw six shutout innings, clinching a spot in the classic for Barry Larkin’s Brazilian squad. Fernandes also started against the mighty team Japan on Saturday, allowing one run in three innings. Fernandes has not had much of professional career, but he has proved himself as one of the best pitchers in international play.

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10. Toshiya Sugiuchi, Japan

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Toshiya Sugiuchi has been one the best pitchers in the Japanese league over the last two seasons, with an ERA under 2. Sugiuchi was a member of the 2009 World Baseball Classic championship team and threw three scoreless in his 2013 WBC debut in a win over team Brazil on Saturday.

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9. Fernando Rodney, Dominican Republic

Kim Klement- USA TODAY Sports

Fernando Rodney is coming off of what is by far the best season of his career. Rodney had an astounding ERA of 0.60 with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012. Rodney adds 11 years of MLB experience to a very young pitching staff for the Dominican Republic.

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8. Anibal Sanchez, Venezuela

Andrew Weber- USA TODAY Sports

RHP Anibal Sanchez received a huge contract from the Detroit Tigers in the off-season, 5 years, worth $90 million, more than what Justin Verlander makes. With no Felix Hernandez pitching for team Venezuela, Sanchez will be the #1 starter.

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7. Masahiro Tanaka, Japan

Mark J. Rebilas- USA TODAY Sports

Masahiro Tanaka could be the next Japanese pitcher to make himself known to the world in the WBC. Following the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, Tanaka will ace of the staff for team Japan. Tanaka is 36 years old, but could posted after the 2013 season and pitch in the MLB in 2014.

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6. Yovani Gallardo, Mexico

Scott Rovak- USA TODAY Sports

Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers will be #1 starter for team Mexico in 2013. Gallardo has been very consistent throughout the course of his career, with an ERA of 3.63. Gallardo will have one goal for the WBC and that is to beat team USA. Mexico has a chance to steal the glory from team USA if Gallardo throws well.

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5. Sergio Romo, Mexico

Tim Fuller- USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Romo will be another very important player for team Mexico in the WBC. Romo, the closer for the San Francisco Giants, will look to win another championship for his native country of Mexico. Romo is not your typical overpowering closer, but he is able to use excellent control to close games.

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4. Gio Gonzalez, USA

Joy R. Absalon- USA TODAY Sports

LHP Gio Gonzalez was not on the provisional roster put out by USA manager, but after his name was on a list of players associated with a Miami PED clinic, Gonzalez needed to do something to regain favor with baseball fans. With Gio on the roster, Joe Torre now has one the best young pitchers in the MLB on his staff.

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3. Ryan Vogelsong, USA

Kyle Terada- USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Vogelsong proved himself as one the best clutch pitchers in the MLB last year. Vogelsong made four starts in the playoffs with the Giants, winning all of them and posting an ERA of 1.09. Vogelsong’s ability to pitch in big games will be a valuable asset for team USA.

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2. R.A. Dickey, USA

Derick Hingle- USA TODAY Sports

Although R.A. Dickey is bearing the red Canadian maple leaf on his cap, the reigning 2012 NL Cy Young award winner will be pitching for team USA in the WBC. Dickey’s knuckleball will be baffling to most international hitters, as they have likely never seen anything like it before. If team USA is to make to the championship game, there is no other pitcher that I would want on the mound.

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1. Craig Kimbrel, USA

Kim Klement- USA TODAY Sports

In a World Baseball Classic that will depend heavily on the performance on relief pitchers, it is fitting that the best reliever in the world would be #1 on this list. Kimbrel had one the best seasons ever put up by a closer in 2012. Barely anyone reached base against Kimbrel in 2012, with a WHIP of 0.65. Craig Kimbrel is by far the most talented pitcher that will take the mound in the 2013 WBC.