Way-too-early World Baseball Classic predictions
Look for the Dominican Republic and the U.S. to fight for the WBC title
The Dominican Republic secured its 22nd Serie del Caribe championship Friday. That’s the most of any country since the tournament’s inception in 1949. Now, Quisqueya la Bella looks to the World Baseball Classic to prove its dominance in the game.
Can they do it? Can they get past Nolan Arenado and the United States?
They’ll have to get past two other teams to do it. Before we get to that, a little bit on the history of the tournament.
After a six year hiatus, the WBC is back, and the field has expanded from 16 teams in 2017 to 20 in 2023. New additions include the Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Nicaragua. Panama returns after missing the last two Classics.
The 20 teams are divided into four pools. They’ll play a round robin-style before competing in what is essentially an eight-team tournament.
|POOL A – Taiwan
|POOL B – Japan
|POOL C – Arizona
|POOL D – Florida
The last time the tournament took place, the United States won it all. Japan won the championships in the first two go-arounds in 2006 and 2009. The Dominican Republic won it all in 2013.
The competition is set to take place March 8 to March 21, 2023.
Pool A – Cuba and the Netherlands
In order to set the stage for the eight-team field – beginning in the second round – the top two teams in each Pool have to advance from the first round. Based on previous years and this year’s rosters, here’s who I believe are the Elite Eight teams.
Cuba is a consistent Top-eight finisher in every tournament. Their worst finish came in 2017 when they ranked seventh.
This year could see Cuba rise in the ranks once again. The island finished second in 2006, their highest positioning ever. In December, the United States announced that they would permit Major League Baseball players from Cuba to represent their island in the World Baseball Classic.
Yoán Moncada, Luis Robert, and Yoenis Cespedes will be able to represent their country of birth.
Another WBC powerhouse is the Netherlands. After finishing 11th in 2006, the northern European country increased its place from seventh in 2009 to fourth in 2013 and 2017.
The Netherlands features an experienced pitching staff with pitchers like two-time NL Reliever of the Year Kenley Jansen and Pedro Strop. They also field an elite infield with the likes of Andrelton Simmons, Didi Gregorius, and five-time All-Star Xander Bogaerts.
Pool B – Japan and Korea
Having gone the last two go-arounds without a championship, Japan will look to secure its third championship. Don’t be surprised if they do either.
Though many of the names on Japan’s roster aren’t familiar, the ones who are are really good. We’re talking about Yu Darvish, Seiya Suzuki, and phenom Shohei Ohtani.
Japan is the only team to have Top Three finishes in each of the WBC tournaments. Expect this time to be no different. Japan may be the best sleeper team in the WBC.
After two Top Three finishes in the first two tournaments, South Korea finished ninth and 10th in the last two Classics. This time, the South Koreans will look to regain their standing as a worldwide baseball powerhouse.
It also helps that Pool B includes a neophyte Czech Republic team and two other teams with an average ranking of 13 and 14 in the standings.
Pool C – United States and Mexico
In this Pool of teams, there’s no question that the United States and Mexico will reign supreme. The United States features a roster loaded with All-Stars.
Their lineup will have perennial MVP candidates like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Mookie Betts. The rotation features future Hall of Famers like Clayton Kershaw. The corner infield is anchored by a pair of Cardinals, 10-time Gold Glove winner Arenado and 2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt.
Currently, oddsmakers have the United States finishing runner up in the tournament. Don’t be surprised if the Americans win it all for the second time in a row.
With one of the scariest pitching staffs in the whole Classic, Mexico is looking to regain its status as a baseball force. They haven’t been one of the elite eight teams since 2009.
Expect that to change with a rotation that includes José Urquidy, Taijuan Walker, and the 2023 ERA title winner Julio Urías. If pitching wins games, then I expect team Mexico to go far in this tournament.
Pool D – Dominican Republic and Venezuela
This Pool is the toughest in the World Baseball Classic. It includes three juggernauts in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Unfortunately, only two teams can advance.
We start with the Dominican Republic. Listed as favorites on all casino apps, the D.R. features a roster that resembles the NBA’s Dream Team.
At every position, this team has All-Star caliber players, highlighted by elite players like the 2023 NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, perennial MVP candidates Manny Machado and Juan Soto, and young ace Cristian Javier.
Good luck getting past that team.
While team Puerto Rico has been one of the most dominant teams in the tournament – they finished runner-up the last two WBCs – this time around, Venezuela will advance.
Venezuela features future Hall of Famers, batting champions, and perennial MVP award candidates. The kicker, most recently Ronald Acuña Jr. announced he would participate in the Classic. That move alone makes Venezuela one of the teams to beat in 2023.
Who will win the 2023 World Baseball Classic
My prediction at the start of this was that the Dominican Republic would have to get past two teams to secure its second WBC Championship. Those teams are the United States and Venezuela.
First, they will have to defeat Venezuela, which is establishing itself as another baseball-obsessed Latin American country. While Venezuela will pose a threat, the D.R. will advance to face the United States in the Championship Round.
Several bad breaks are working against the D.R. showing its dominance in baseball around the world. Players once thought to be competing (Framber Valdez, Luis Severino, Jose Ramirez, and Emmanuel Clase) will not participate. This will ultimately cost Quisqueya.
While the Dominican will be difficult to beat, in the end the United States’ overwhelming roster will help Team USA secure its second consecutive World Baseball Classic title.
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