The Premier 12 is a brand new tournament created to take the place of the Baseball World Cup, which was ended in 2011 in favor of awarding the title of World Champion to the winner of the World Baseball Classic. It is organized by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), a merger of the International Softball and Baseball Federations in a re-branding effort to sell baseball and softball as a single sport sport with male and female disciplines, rather than separate sports, with an eye toward getting the American pastime back into the Olympics. In the (at this point quite likely) event that baseball-softball returns to the Olympics in 2020, the 2019 Premier 12 tournament would serve as the qualifying tournament for the games.
As one might imagine the tournament, hosted jointly by Taiwan and Japan, will feature 12 teams culled from the previous year's final WBSC rankings. Four teams total will be eliminated from the two six-team groups after round robin play. From there, teams will play single elimination games until a champion is crowned. The designated hitter will be used throughout the tournament, with the WBSC boldly bucking the MLB trend by not allowing each group to decide for themselves what the rules of the game are. A 15-run and 10-run mercy rule after the 5th and 7th innings, respectively, will also be in effect during round robin play.
All MLB players that are not part of their clubs 40-man rosters are eligible for participation, and the Brewers' Brett Phillips joins shortstop Gavin Cecchini (Mets) and outfielder Jacob May (White Sox) as the top prospects on the second-ranked Team USA roster. The Americans feature a mix of young prospects and veterans with major league experience, including former Brewer and somehow-still-a-major-league-pitcher Dana Eveland, who made 10 appearances with the Atlanta Braves as a 31-year-old in 2015 (Eveland turned 32 last week). Eveland pitched for Milwaukee from 2005-06, tossing 59.1 largely ineffective innings, and owns a career 5.27 ERA over a 10 year career.
Team Canada features a trio of Brewers' farmhands. Erstwhile infield prospect Taylor Green, now merely organizational filler after spending his entire age-28 season with AA-Biloxi, hit sixth as Canada's DH on his birthday in Monday's exhibition between Canada and USA at Maryvale. Also starting in that game was Pete Orr of AAA-Colorado Springs, who played third and hit second. Dustin Houle, who after an impressive showing at High-A Brevard County -- .300/.337/.375 -- to end 2015 might be Milwaukee's most exciting catching prospect, will serve as Canada's backup catcher. Former Brewer Brock Kjeldgaard, who spent the better part of the last two years in indepedent ball, also started and hit fifth for Canada on Monday.
Another pair of Biloxi Shuckers grace the roster of Team Mexico. Brandon Macias is a 27-year-old infielder who hit .262/.319/.369 in 2015, splitting time between Brevard County, Biloxi and Colorado Springs. Martin Viramontes, a right-hander who spent the entire season in Biloxi, complied a 6.93 ERA over 37 appearances.
The tournament kicks off on Sunday evening (local time) with a match-up between South Korea and top-ranked Japan. Mexico, Canada and the USA all begin play on Monday, with the Americans opening pool play against the Dominican Republic. The full schedule can be found here. All games will be streamed live here.