Opportunity Lost and the 2012 Puerto Rican Olympic Baseball Team
The Puerto Rican National Baseball Team may not have the historical success some of the other teams you’ll see written about over the next two weeks, but they’ve seen a bit of a resurgence over the last decade:
5th place in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006
Gold medal in the 2008 Americas Baseball Cup
5th place in the 2009 World Baseball Classic(4-2, lost by 3 combined runs)
4th place in the 2009 Baseball World Cup
4th place in the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games(4-2, lost by 2 combined runs)
10th place in the 2011 Baseball World Cup
7th place in the 2011 Pan Am Games
Silver medal in the 2012 Haarlem Baseball Week
You can see that 2011 was a step back for Puerto Rico, but they came back strong in 2012 going 6-1 in the tournament and splitting two games with Gold Medal winning Cuba. There is a chance that with a little roster tweaking the Puerto Rican National Team could have contended for a medal in the 2012 Olympic games. Without further ado, let’s get to the roster.
The backbone of this team is it’s pitching, with six former major leaguers on the squad. Javier Vazquez and Joel Piniero lead the rotation, they won’t put runners on base via walks and can work deep into games. Efrain Nieves and Julio Rodriguez round out the starters, both have experience with the National Team and either could work in relief of the other should we only need three starting pitchers. Giovany Soto provides another arm capable of going multiple innings should a game go extras, he’s also a second lefty in the pen with Luis Cruz. Luis Atilano, Fernando Cabrera, Kiko Calero and Saul Rivera bring a combined 20 years of MLB experience and could help to lock down games from the 7th inning on.
The veteran heavy pitching staff is very important because the offense is a mix of older players brought in for leadership(and hopefully some pop left in the bat) and young players with something to prove. There’s no Yulieski Gourriel here, so the pitching staff has to keep the team in each game.
Probably the biggest no-brainer when putting this team together was at catcher, where Pudge Rodriguez can provide good defense and the ability to work well with any of the pitchers and hopefully show some life left in his bat from the 3 hole. Toronto farmhand A.J. Jimenez backs him up, keeping the defense strong behind the plate while provide doubles power and surprising speed on the bases. A third catcher isn’t a necessity, but we have one in Jorge Posada who will man 1B as our cleanup hitter and provide an emergency backstop should the need arise. He’s backed up by Neftali Soto from the Cincinnati Reds system. Soto provides big power from the right side, and could play some 3B in a pinch with almost 150 games there under his belt in the minors.
Ramon Vazquez mans the hot corner, he’d slot in as the #2 hitter, able to advance runners when needed but also providing a good eye that should put him on base frequently for the big guns to drive him in. Next Vazquez is 18 year old Indians prospect Francisco Lindor, our #9 hitter and a defensive whiz. Don’t let his age fool you, he’s more than holding his own in the tough Midwest League this year and ranked 11th on the Bullpen Banter Midseason Top 100. He will provide speed as we turn over the batting order, serving as a defacto second leadoff man. His double play partner is Royals farmhand Christian Colon, hitting 8th. Another Kansas City player, Irving Falu backs up the majority of the infield and provides insurance should Lindor struggle.
National Team vet Jesus Feliciano is in left field and hits 5th behind Posada. Patrolling center field is the speedy leadoff hitter, Reymond Fuentes. Cardinals breakout prospect Anthony Garcia rounds out the outfield and hits 7th, providing good power potential. Eddie Rosario is our designated hitter, though he could play some second base when Posada or Pudge need a break from the field. Long time National Team member Hiram Bocachica and Miguel Velazquez of the Rangers round out the bench, offering good power for late inning matchups.
There is no guarantee this squad would end up on the podium when it was all said and done, but with a less heralded group giving Cuba all it could handle earlier this year, the Puerto Rican National Team could have made an impact at the Olympics.
1. Reymond Fuentes CF
2. Ramon Vazquez 3B
3. Pudge Rodriguez C
4. Jorge Posada 1B
5. Jesus Feliciano LF
6. Eddie Rosario DH
7. Anthony Garcia RF
8. Christian Colon 2B
9. Francisco Lindor SS
A.J. Jimenez C
Neftali Soto 1B/3B
Irving Falu INF
Miguel Velazquez OF
Hiram Bocachica OF
Javier Vazquez RHP
Joel Piniero RHP
Julio Rodriguez RHP
Efrain Nieves LHP
Kiko Calero RHP Closer
Fernando Cabrera RHP
Saul Rivera RHP
Luis Atilano RHP
Giovany Soto LHP
Luis Cruz LHP