The list of players who have decided (or have been told) not to appear in the World Baseball Classic this year seems to overwhelm the guys who are playing in the tournament. Guys like Justin Verlander, Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, and Yu Darvish -- who played in the previous installments of the tournament -- will not be representing their countries this time around, but that doesn't mean the tourney isn't still chock-full of exciting players to watch.
Several established, house-hold names will be taking the field, of course -- including Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Braun -- but the really fun guys to watch may be the young guys getting their first real chance at playing ball for a world audience.
Here are five young guys to really keep your eye on over the next two weeks:
1. Jose Dariel Abreu - 26- 1B - Cuba
The "Cuban Barry Bonds" has absolutely obliterated pitching in Cuba's Serie Nacional over the last three years, mashing 81 home runs in 629 at-bats. That is not a misprint. The guy has been otherworldly of late, so it should be interesting to see how he matches up against top-level pitching.
2. Masahiro Tanaka - 24 - RHP - Japan
There are no MLBers on Japan's squad this time around, but that doesn't mean they aren't still a force to reckon with. The right-handed Tanaka is the NPB's new Yu Darvish, and could come stateside as well before too long.
3. Xander Bogaerts - 20 - SS - Netherlands
Already a household name in Red Sox Nation, Bogaerts is supposed to be Boston's long-awaited solution to their shortstop merry-go-round of the last decade. Barely 20 years old, Bogaerts should get the chance to shine on a rather thin Netherlands squad.
4. Jen-Ho Tseng - 19 - RHP - Chinese Taipei
The young, flame-throwing right-hander will look to duplicate his last performance on the world stage, when he posted a 0.84 ERA, 22 strikeouts, and just two walks in 21⅓ innings at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Tseng has also made it known he wants to pitch in the MLB.
5. Leury Garcia - 22 - SS - Dominican Republic
The Rangers' other young, switch-hitting infield prospect will take the field for the Dominican Republic, likely with a chance of playing his way onto Texas' Opening Day roster as a bench player.
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