MEXICALI, Mexico -- Not so long ago, the Caribbean World Series was considered the only true test of nationalistic baseball pride. Now the series has been overshadowed by the World Baseball Classic. Players who once proudly suited up for their countries are now passing on the Series to play in the WBC.
Last season, Cubs closer Carlos Marmol closed for the Licey Tigers in the Series in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Though Licey is once again participating in the Series, Marmol will not participate. He is not the only one.
The lack of stars is likely to create a more competitive tournament, though the Dominican Republic, and its group of established major leaguers, is still considered the favorite.
Here is a brief roundup of each team (rosters are subject to change until the start of Game 1 on Monday):
Team: Venados de Mazatlan
Note: The Venados are likely to field an infield comprised of all players either born or raised in Tijuana, Mexico. The Venados are also the last Mexican team to win the Caribbean World Series (2005).
Who you know: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B. Gonzalez is undoubtedly the most recognized and established major leaguer in Mexicali. An All-Star in 2008, Gonzalez will also play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Oscar Robles has spent part of the past two seasons as a utility player for the Padres.
Who you might know: Ruben Rivera, OF. Rivera joins the long list of former, overhyped Yankees prospects who never established themselves in the majors. Rivera was traded by the Yankees in 1997 to the San Diego Padres in exchange for the rights to Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu. Rivera played three seasons with the Padres but never became a solid regular.
Who you should know: Edgar Gonzalez, INF. Edgar Gonzalez, Adrian Gonzalez's older brother, is likely to earn a bench job with the San Diego Padres after a rookie season in which he hit .274 with seven home runs as a part-time player.
Team: Tigres de Aragua.
Note: Aragua became just the third team in Venezuelan league history to win three consecutive league championships.
Who you know: The Venezuelan roster is short on stars. Ronny Cedeno, recently traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Seattle Mariners, most fits the bill of a recognizable player. Cedeno hit .286 with a .350 on-base percentage for Aragua this winter. Raul Chavez, C, has bounced around the majors for several teams. Oscar Salazar played last year with the Baltimore Orioles.
Who you might know: Jackson Melian. In 1996, the New York Yankees gave Melian the highest signing bonus ($1.6 million) ever given to an international amateur at the time, a figure which has since been surpassed several times. Melian was traded by the Yankees, along with Drew Henson, to the Cincinnati Reds for Denny Neagle in 2000. He has never reached the majors after 12 seasons in the minor leagues.
Team: Tigres de Licey
Note: The Tigres are managed by former major leaguer Jose Offerman, who also played part time for Licey this season.
Who you know: The Dominican team is full of established major leaguers such as Ronnie Belliard, Jorge Sosa, Erick and Willy Aybar, and Ronny Paulino. Because of this list, Licey is considered the favorite entering the tournament.
Who you might know: Emilio Bonifacio, INF. Bonifacio was traded twice in the past year after coming up in the Arizona Diamondbacks' system. This offseason he has landed with the Florida Marlins, where the fleet-footed infielder is likely to compete for a starting job.
Who you should know: Fernando Martinez, OF. Martinez is considered the top position-player prospect in the New York Mets' system and is one of the most highly regarded prospects in baseball. He will make his big-stage debut in this series.
Team: Leones de Ponce
Note: The Puerto Rican league returns to the Caribbean World Series after a one-year absence due to financial problems.
Who you know: Bill Pulsipher was once regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball, and along with Paul Wilson and Jason Isringhausen, he was part of the Mets' Generation K trio of prospects in the mid-1990s. Eli Marrero was a regular for several teams, including the Cardinals.
Who you might know: Robinson Cancel played in 15 games for the Brewers in 1999 and spent the next eight years in the minors before getting his next shot at the majors. Cancel spent part of the season with the New York Mets in 2008.
Who you should know: Fernando Cabrera played last year with the Orioles and signed an offseason deal with the Boston Red Sox this winter. Once considered a top reliever prospect, Cabrera has an outside shot of making Boston's 2009 roster.
Jorge Arangure Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.