The second round of the World Baseball Classic has finished. While the moments it created are for another article entirely, no longer can one dispute how important “Pride of Country” is to the participants. Your Texas Rangers are no exception. Of the eight that went to play for five different countries, half are moving on to Los Angeles and Chavez Ravine. The other four will be back in camp by the time the semi-finals start.
Jurickson Profar, Netherlands – The Neophyte Dutch Center Fielder showed no signs of slowing down in Round 2. In the three games during which the Netherlands went 2-1, Profar smacked a cool .500 (6-for-12) with three walks and five runs. His most impressive performance came during the thorough Dutch trouncing of the Cuban team – a run-rule shortened game during which Profar had a double and run batted in over four at-bats.
While Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields are certainly making impressive strides across Arizona, the performance of Jurickson Profar should not and is not being overlooked by the Rangers’ organization. His ability to maintain production at the plate while undertaking the premier position of center field is not going unnoticed across Major League Baseball either.
Adrian Beltre, Dominican Republic – Sporting a powerhouse of a roster, it is stunning that the defending WBC Champions did not escape the round robin portions of the tournament. The Rangers captain, playing in the Classic one more time before he retires, left with a fizzle.
Beltre played in two of the three Round Two games. He was at third base in the losing effort to Puerto Rico and the designated hitter when the team was eliminated by the US. Beltre went 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and a costly error against Puerto Rico.
Fear not, however, Rangers fans. Your captain is returning in one piece. That’s it. That’s what you were hoping for once you saw that he was going to play, despite having a strained calf just a few days prior to the start of the tournament. Beltre, whose presence has been notably missed in Surprise, will come back to get a few reps in before the season kicks off in Arlington.
Rougned Odor, Robinson Chirinos, Martin Perez, Venezuela – Unlikely victors in the first round, Venezuela featured the most Rangers on its roster. They also played one more game than the other second round contestants, by virtue of a tiebreaker against Italy. Riding so much momentum, many viewed Venezuela as a dark horse to go all the way to the finals. Unfortunately, Venezuela lost all three of their second round games.
Robinson Chirinos had to take over as the primary catcher for the Venezuelans, as Salvador Perez was removed from the tournament after a scary collision with teammate Drew Butera in the first round. Chirinos accounted well for himself, going 2-for-8 with three strikeouts while holding the pitching staff together for three straight games.
Second Baseman Rougned Odor became Third Baseman Rougned Odor, in an effort to get both his and Jose Altuve’s bat in the lineup. While Odor carried an 0-for-4 against the Dominican Republic, he smacked home runs in each of the other two games, driving in three runs. The third base experiment was not a successful one, as he picked up two errors in the same frame against the United States. Thankfully, the Rangers are not employing him to be a third baseman.
Lefty Martin Perez, viewed as the Rangers’ number 3 starter, did not fare well in his second WBC game. Coming off of a wretched performance against the Italians in Round One, Perez may have only given up two runs against a better Dominican Republic lineup, but lasted only two and a third innings. The Rangers are aiming to refocus Perez’ game and keep his head and emotions in check. This is a potentially discouraging sign.
Alex Claudio, Puerto Rico – Alex Claudio, the odd-wind-up, slowball-tossing lefty continues to be an overlooked member of the Rangers’ bullpen. In a relief corps stacked with power arms, that’s not exactly difficult to believe. He was used for just one out in Round One, but his value as a multi-inning reliever with a screwy change-up proved to be vital as Puerto Rico swept the second round.
Claudio came in against the United States, tasked with preserving a then 4-3 lead over the United States with a runner on base. The 25-year old went ground-out (to end the sixth), then fly-out, fly-out, walk, ground-out to earn a hold. As he looks at an increased role in the Rangers’ bullpen, Claudio did exactly what he does best – get the outs he needs to get, however he needs to get them.
Sam Dyson, Jonathan Lucroy, USA – Two of the biggest keys for the Rangers in 2017 – their closer and their catcher – wore the colors of Old Glory well. Lucroy, controversially getting two starts to Buster Posey’s one, including the elimination game against the Dominican, made Jim Leyland look great. Against Venezuela, the backstop went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk, and against the DR, went 1-for-4 while putting his excellent defensive skills to use.
Sam Dyson’s light shone brightly in the same two games. Each time, asked to hold a lead, Dyson’s sinker worked like a charm. The righty recorded two fly ball outs and seven ground outs over three total innings, only needing a tidy 24 pitches to do it. Jeff Banister is valuing multi-inning relievers more than ever before, and while you don’t want your nominal closer having to go more than an inning, the fact that Dyson can do so effectively is nothing but a positive.
The tournament moves on to Dodger Stadium for the Semi-Finals and Final Round. Each of these games are winner-take-all, single-elimination games. First up, we’ll see how Jurickson Profar and the Kingdom of the Netherlands fares against Alex Claudio and the Puerto Rican squad on Monday evening at 8:00 CST.
On Tuesday at the same time, Dyson and Lucroy will lead the United States against Japan, another team who swept their Second Round pool. The winners of those two games will meet on Wednesday night at 8:00 CST to determine the 2017 World Baseball Classic Champions.
The WBC has really taken off this year. Share your opinions on the tournament with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.