The Detroit Tigers are making their presence felt for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, with 15 players making the rosters of seven different countries. Nine of the organization’s contingent are on the 40-man roster, headlined by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Francisco Rodriguez who will represent the Venezuela team. The United States and Venezuela teams are managed by former Tigers manager Jim Leyland, and first-base coach Omar Vizquel, respectively.
American League Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer will pitch for the United States, along with Alex Wilson and Ian Kinsler. This will be an interesting test for Fulmer. He is coming off a spectacular 2016 season in which an early season call-up led to an impressive run that eventually cemented him as a key piece in the Tigers’ starting rotation.
After blowing through his career-high in innings, Fulmer finished the 2016 season somewhat shaky by comparison. The question isn’t will he be rested enough, but whether he can display the same kind of dominance in 2017 that his 2016 season produced. The WBC also runs through spring training, when the Tigers are normally prepping for the 2017 regular season. Even after an offseason to recover, Fulmer and the Tigers will face a balancing act as they look to maintain his long-term production.
Kinsler’s selection is no surprise, as he’s one of the top second basemen in the league, but Wilson being named to the roster is. It shows how much of an impression he’s made in the last two years as one of the premiere utility relievers in the game, and comes with the expectation that he’ll be dependable in any inning and situation.
One interesting exclusion from the U.S. roster, though, is J.D. Martinez. It’s not possible to name every heavy hitter to the rosters, but given his ability to bring severe pop to any lineup, even from the bench, is a noticeable absence.
Michael Fulmer, RHP
Alex Wilson, RHP
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Bruce Rondon, RHP
Francisco Rodriguez, RHP
Leon Arcenio, RHP *
Joe Jimenez, RHP
Efren Navarro, 1B/OF *
William Cuevas, RHP *
Daniel Pinero, SS *
Dustin Molleken, RHP *
Warwick Saupold, RHP
Travis Blackley, LHP *
* - Player is not on the Tigers’ 40-man roster
Another notable selection is Joe Jimenez, who will represent Puerto Rico. Seen as the Tigers’ closer of the future for the better part of a year, the organization has been in no hurry to rush him to the main stage. A two-time selection for the All-Star Futures Game, this will not be Jimenez’s first time showcasing his work at a national level, but this is the biggest spotlight for his career thus far.
Right-handed pitcher Warwick Saupold is one of two Tigers players representing Australia, and the only other player on the 40-man roster not already a well-known name in the organization.
The World Baseball Classic begins on March 6 in Seoul, South Korea, and ends on March 22 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. The U.S. and Venezuela teams will not play their first games until March 9, a little over three weeks after the Tigers report to spring training in Lakeland, Fla.