Quick preview of Game 1 of the 2017 World Baseball Classic – South Korea vs Israel from the Gocheok Dome in Seoul.
Israel is playing in its first WBC game having advanced to the 2017 Tournament through winning a qualifier in late 2016. Team Israel swept through the qualifier in Brooklyn by defeating Great Britain twice and Brazil once.
Israel will be sending 38-year old MLB veteran Jason Marquis to the mound against what Israel manager Jerry Weinstein called “a formidable team”. Marquis helped pitch Israel into the main tournament with a pair of outings last September. He tossed 7.0 innings giving up just 1 run on two hits. He will need similar stats if Israel can come up with a win.
Marquis opponent on the mound will be Won-jun Chang of the Doosan Bears. Chang put together a record of 15-6 with an ERA of 3.32 in the KBO in 2016. He has WBC experience having pitched the Pool B final in 2013 against Chinese Taipei.
South Korea is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 WBC when they did not make it past Round 1. They finished pool play with a 2-1 record but failed to advance due to the tiebreaker rules on run differential.
Players to Watch:
Sam Fuld – Coming off a missed season due to shoulder surgery, and Fuld is looking to get a few at bats to impress perspective teams. He will face some good competition in Seoul and might work his way into a contract with a healthy showing.
Craig Breslow – A non-roster invitee to Spring Training with the Twins, Breslow could use a good showing in Seoul to help garner that next MLB assignment weather it is with the Twins or another team. There are a lot of good left-handed bats for Korea so he might come up in a big situation late in the game.
Nate Freiman – He absolutely crushed the competition in the 2012 Qualifier hitting 4 home runs, but Israel failed to make it to the big tourney. This time he will be facing off with a lefty and his big bat from the right side could play a big impact on the game and possible upset win over Korea.
Seung-hwan Oh – The Cardinals relief pitcher has been practically unhittable his entire career. If the game is close late, look for Oh to shut down the Israel bats with relative ease.
Hyoung-woo Choi – The Samsung Lions slugger put up incredible numbers a year ago (.376 avg/46 doubles/ 31 HR/ 144 RBI) but he has been in a slump (0-17) of late and might sit in Game 1. But look for him, if he doesn’t start, to have a big at bat off the bench. If he starts, look for him to bust out of his slump.
Tae-kyun Kim – The Hanwha Eagles slugger brings yet another big bat to the Korea lineup. In 2016, Kim slugged 23 home runs and 39 doubles. But the biggest thing that stood out to me is that he walked more times (108) than he struck out (97). So while he has a big bat and might swing and miss, he also has a good enough eye to take a walk setting up his teammates.
Game time is 4:30 AM ET and you can catch the action in several different places including MLB Network or MLB.TV.
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.