The new world rankings were revealed yesterday by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation and, though the top six spots remained unchanged, there was significant movement elsewhere in the chart. Big winners included Australia, the Netherlands, and Nicaragua, while Venezuela, Italy, and the Dominican Republic continued to slide down the list.
Despite claiming world championships at the World Baseball Classic, Under-18, Under-15 (co-champions), and Under-12, the United States languished in second place. While the Stars-and-Stripes did gain ground on first place Japan, previous tournaments were factored in to the rankings, leaving the U.S. 184 points short. After 2016, Japan held a 771-point lead.
Korea, Taiwan, Cuba, and Mexico rounded out those countries unchanged in the rankings, though only Korea accrued more points than a year ago. Meanwhile, fresh off impressive performances at the Under-23, U18, and Oceania tourneys, Australia picked up 701 points to improve to No. 7. They were followed by the Netherlands, which won Europe’s U23 title last month to advance one place.
Venezuela has fallen three spots in the last two years, but remained in the Top 10, with Canada holding down the last spot in that group. Canada was the eighth-best nation after 2016, but had a disappointing finish as hosts in the recently concluded U18.
With the next Premier 12 only 18 months away, Puerto Rico and Italy currently qualify for the competition, but the latter has fallen three spots from its peak ranking of ninth in 2012 and 2015. Italy is now only a marginal leader over Nicaragua (by 93 points) and Czech Republic (212).
Nicaragua, traditionally a powerhouse in amateur and continental competitions, rose in the rankings for the eighth-straight year, accruing 320 points in 2017 to move up from No. 16. A strong showing in the upcoming Central American Games would inch the nation even closer to a spot in the Premier 12.
Meanwhile, a fellow COPABE member, Dominican Republic, continued its freefall, falling three spots to No. 16 as the Caribbean island does not compete in any adult competitions other than the WBC. The DR has now fallen 11 places since its historic 2013 Classic title. Brazil, down four spots from 2015 to No. 18, and No. 22 China, falling four from last year, were both big losers in the rankings. Great Britain (No. 32) has fallen three points this year.
There were several countries with helium rises, led by WBC darlings Colombia, which jumped two places thanks to 290 points in 2017. It has risen 10 places since 2010. No. 19 Israel (up 22 places in a year thanks to an infusion of Americans for the WBC) and No. 21 Argentina (up one spot, but seven since 2014) also have shot up this year.
A big riser was Serbia, which leaped eight spots since the spring thanks to a strong finish in European tournaments. Guam, which will have more points opportunities at the Oceania U15 tournament in January, ascended 22 places to 60 after several years of inactivity. Other performances of note include France, which improved its ranking for the eighth straight year, South Africa, up three in 2017, and European U23 bronze medal winners Belgium (No. 29 currently, rising from No. 30 in 2016 and No. 36 in 2014).
There are plenty of tournaments upcoming, including Pan-American and Asian youth championships (U10 and U15) in the next six weeks, along with the Asian Baseball Championship from October 2-8 in Taiwan and the Central American and Caribbean Games Qualifier starting October 27. The Central American Games (3-17 December) and the U15 Oceania Championship (18-23 January) are slated for the winter. It would appear that the Bolivarian Games from November 11-25 are not WBSC-sanctioned.