MLB

Top 20 Players from the Caribbean in the World Baseball Classic

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Top 20 Caribbean Players in the WBC

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The third edition of the World Baseball Classic is underway with 15 teams looking to dethrone Japan as the event’s two-time champion.

Three of those 15 teams come from the Caribbean islands, just miles off the coast of the United States. Two of the three nations, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, are known to produce some of the best baseball players in the world. The third country is Cuba, which has produced stars like Yoenis Cespedes and Araldis Chapman, but no notable Cubans are participating in this year's WBC. The World Baseball Classic has had problems attracting the world's top players in the past, but this year's Dominican and Puerto Rican rosters have many top-notch guys.

Many of these top-notch Dominicans and Puerto Ricans have already found their way to the Big Leagues and they will continue to play in Major League Baseball for years to come. Hopefully, for the sake of the WBC, these players continue to play in the spring tournament that takes place every four years. The Classic has the potential to be a great event if the players continue treating it like a big-time event.

This year's edition of the WBC will be as entertaining as ever, and several teams have a legit shot at winning it all.

With that said, both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico have great shots at winning it all this year. The edge has to go to the Dominicans because of their advantage in pitching, but both teams will be competitive.

Without further ado, I give you the best 20 Caribbean baseball players in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

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20. Jose Veras, Dominican Republic

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The veteran reliever is getting a shot at the closing job for the Houston Astros this year. While the journeyman may not be the most exciting guy, his numbers last year (3.63 ERA, 10.6 SO/9) are deserving of credit.

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19. Miguel Tejada, Dominican Republic

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Tejada is certainly slowing down in his old age, but he is one of the best Dominican players ever and the fact that he’s still on the roster at age 38 (we think…) says something.

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18. Mike Aviles, Puerto Rico

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Aviles plays the game the right way and his versatility is what gets him on this list. He can play a variety of positions, handles the bat well and has great speed.

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17. Octavio Dotel, Dominican Republic

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Dotel is one of the game’s most travelled journeymen. He’s with his 13th different team (the Detroit Tigers), but proved last year that he can still get it done (3.57 ERA, 1.057 WHIP).

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16. Pedro Strop, Puerto Rico

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Strop is one of the league’s bright up-and-coming stars. The hard-throwing Strop had 24 holds and a 2.44 ERA last season with the Baltimore Orioles and will be Puerto Rico’s best reliever in the WBC.

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15. Alejandro De Aza, Dominican Republic

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The Chicago White Sox have quite a good young player in De Aza. In his first full season of action, he hit .281, drove in 50 runs, stole 26 bases and recorded 29 doubles.

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14. Edinson Volquez, Dominican Republic

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Volquez put together a solid year for the San Diego Padres last season, finishing 11-11 with a 4.14 ERA. He’ll be the likely #2 starter for the Dominican Republic.

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13. Carlos Santana, Dominican Republic

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Santana is one of the best young catchers in baseball today and one of the most exciting as well. Santana is never afraid to swing for the fences and his 45 HR and 155 RBI over the past two seasons reflect that.

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12. Erick Aybar, Dominican Republic

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Aybar is one of the best fielding shortstops in baseball, hands down. He won the Gold Glove two years ago and his range is matched by few, if any. To add to that, Aybar is coming off one of his best seasons in the batter’s box in which he hit .290 with 31 doubles.

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11. Angel Pagan, Puerto Rico

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Pagan is another player with great versatility. His fantastic speed allows him to play any outfield position and his bat helped the San Francisco Giants win it all last season.

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10. Wandy Rodriguez, Dominican Republic

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Even for the lowly Astros, Rodriguez put up solid numbers in terms of wins and ERA (80-84, 4.04). Now with the rising Pittsburgh Pirates, Rodriguez is poised to put together a nice season in 2013. He will be the Dominican Republic’s go-to starter in the WBC.

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9. Alex Rios, Puerto Rico

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Rios had a great year in 2012, hitting .304 with 91 RBI and 25 HR. He is also one of the smoothest runners and fielders in the game.

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8. Nelson Cruz, Dominican Republic

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Even though Cruz’s batting average dipped to .260 in 2012, he maintained his power numbers, slugging 22 homers and driving in a career-high 90 runs.

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7. Yadier Molina, Puerto Rico

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Molina won his third Gold Glove in 2012 and had a great season batting as well. He posted career-bests in nearly every category, including HR (22), RBI (76), BA (.315) and OBP (.373).

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6. Hanley Ramirez, Dominican Republic

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Ramirez’s numbers have been declining since 2010, but it seems he’s found a nice new home in Los Angeles. Since joining the Dodgers midway through last season, Ramirez has hit .271 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in just 60 games.

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5. Fernando Rodney, Dominican Republic

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Rodney was one of the best players in the MLB last year and he deserved the Cy Young and MVP consideration he got. His 48 saves, 0.60 ERA and .777 WHIP made his 2012 season truly remarkable.

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4. Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico

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At age 35, Beltran is beginning to slow down, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still one of the best in the business. He drove in 97 runs while belting 32 homers in 2012, which earned him his 7th All-Star appearance.

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3. Edwin Encarnacion, Dominican Republic

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In what was his best season in the MLB, Encarnacion hit 42 bombs and drove in 110 runs in 2012. He also got on base at a nice .384 clip.

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2. Jose Reyes, Dominican Republic

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Reyes struggled a bit last year, but was still able to put together a productive season. Any time a guy is struggling and still steals 40 bases, bats .287, and hits 37 doubles and 12 triples, he’s a special player.

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1. Robinson Cano, Puerto Rico

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Cano is the type of player that doesn’t come around very often. He has now hit .300 or better in four straight seasons, averaging better than 45 doubles, 28 HR and 100 RBI in those seasons as well.