1. South Korea – The Koreans will be going all out this year with their national team. It was announced that KBO will be sending 23 players to play this year, while suspending the league for 16 days. It includes homerun sensation Byung-Ho Park and Kang Jung Ho and ace Kim Kwang Hyun who’s having a nice bounce back season after couple of years of injury. The reason why it’s taken very seriously is because winning a gold medal would exempt players from mandatory two year military service. After winning the Little League World Series, it doesn’t look like they will stop here. Prediction: They have the strongest roster in the tournament. Anything short of a gold medal would be a major disappointment.
2. Chinese Taipei(Taiwan) – The CPBL won’t be sending any players to play for the national team. Instead, they will have players from the minor leagues and the Taiwan Popcorn League. At least 10 Taiwanese players from the states will be participating, including LHP Wang Wei Chung (Brewers), C Jhang Jin De (Pirates), and RHP Wang Yao Lin(Cubs). Some of these prospects can throw at least 95 MPH plus and could give Team Korea some trouble. Prediction: Most likely silver, but can win the gold if they dominate in pitching.
3. Japan – the Japanese team will be mostly made up of players from the Industrial and Independent League. This tournament isn’t high on their priority list, but it doesn’t mean they won’t be putting up a good fight. They pulled an upset against Team Korea in 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. They also finished 3rd in 2010 Asian Games, and 1st in 2012 Asian Baseball Championship and last year’s East Asian Games. Prediction: They will either win Silver or Bronze, but can possibly upset Team Korea again.
4. China – The Chinese team will be lead by veteran catcher Wang Wei and a bunch of young players who played in last year’s WBC and East Asian Games. They have beaten Taiwan 3 times since 2008 and played a relatively close game against Japan in 2013 WBC. There has been a steady increase of collegiate and amateur baseball being played in China. Sadly, the professional league couldn't reach a deal to restart this year, which continues to hinder the promotion of the sport. Prediction: China will probably reach the semis, but would need to pull an upset to play in the championship game. Since, this is a blog about Chinese baseball, let’s hope they win it all!
5. Thailand – Thailand is another team that will probably have players from 2013 WBC qualifying round except Johnny Damon. Even with Damon, they failed to beat the Philippines and New Zealand. They also finished 3rd in their group in the 2010 Asian Games. I’m not sure how much baseball is being played in Thailand, but once in a while some Americans would start an amateur club to promote the sport there. Prediction: Since the Philippines won't be playing, they have a good chance of finishing 3rd in the preliminaries.
6. Pakistan – Pakistan is probably one of the best team from the Western Asia region. They finished 1st in the 2010 Asia Baseball Cup, 3rd in their group from 2010 Asian Games and 6th in last year’s East Asian Games. They should know how to hit since the nation loves cricket. Recently, they’ve been boasting about being put in an easier group. They been training in universities and studying videos of the Chinese team. Prediction: They can be the major surprise of the tournament if they beat China, but will probably finish 3rd in their group. Great team spirit though!
7. Hong Kong – It’s amazing that such a small region can have a competitive baseball team. Recently, Hong Kong has been playing a lot of international tournaments. They finished last in 2010 Asian Games, and 6th in last year’s East Asian Games. They even made a movie about baseball in 2008 called “A City without Baseball.” Prediction: Will most likely finish last. They just don't have enough depth or talent to improve the team.
8. Mongolia – It’s impressive that they even have a national team put together. Over the years, the Japanese have sent coaches to help them out, but the outcome hasn’t been pretty. They were outscored 63 to 0 in the 2010 Asian Games and 150 to 1 in last year’s East Asian Games. Perhaps their best chances would be against Iran, but both aren’t in the same group. Baseball is unpredictable anyway, so let’s root for the ultimate underdog to score at least one run.
Anyway, I had a tough time finding the roster list for the lower ranking countries. If anyone knows any information about them, please leave a message and I’ll update it. If there are any readers, how do you feel about the upcoming tournament? Which teams will you be rooting for? Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Update 8/30: What a bummer... turns out Philippines and Iran wont be participating in this year's tournament. Still trying to find the source. Sorry for the confusion!