It’s been six years, but the wait is finally over as we are ready to start making 2023 World Baseball Classic predictions. Thanks to the pandemic, the tournament didn’t proceed as scheduled in 2021.

That means we’ve had to wait two extra years for the world’s premier international baseball event. Needless to say, that made us want to put together a WBC preview and make some 2023 World Baseball Classic predictions.

2023 World Baseball Classic predictions & preview

Of course, we know that making 2023 World Baseball Classic predictions won’t be easy. There have only been four previous tournaments and three previous winners. Plus, a lot has changed about the scope of international baseball in the last six years, giving us vastly different rosters than we saw for the 2017 WBC.

That’s why we decided to take a deep dive into the 2023 World Baseball Classic with everything you need to know, including our pick for what country will win it all.

History lesson

Before making any 2023 World Baseball Classic predictions, let’s take a look back at the history of the tournament. It was first played in 2006 when Japan won the first-ever WBC title by beating Cuba in the final. It was a case of deja vu three years later with Japan winning the WBC again with Daisuke Matsuzaka winning MVP honors for the second time as well.

    

After that, there was a four-year gap between tournaments, as the next WBC was played in 2013. That was the year of the Dominican Republic.

Behind MVP Robinson Cano and a roster of some of the best Dominican players of all time, the Dominican Republic was a perfect 8-0 on the way to winning the WBC title. Of course, in 2017, it was finally time for the Americans to shine. Despite a couple of losses along the way, the U.S. took out the likes of Canada, the Dominican Republic, Japan, and Puerto Rico to win the WBC title for the first time. It’s now six years later, and the U.S. is ready to defend its title during the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

Format

For the first time, the WBC will have 20 teams participating in 2023. That means the World Baseball Classic groups will have five teams in each of the four groups. After a round-robin in each pool, the top two teams from each group will advance to the second round of the tournament. From there, it’s win-or-go-home all of the way to the final game.

The 2023 World Baseball Classic schedule kicks off on March 8 when Pool A gets underway.

Pool A will contain Chinese Taipei, the host for that pool, the Netherlands, Cuba, Italy, and Panama. In Pool B, Japan will host and compete with South Korea, Australia, China, and the Czech Republic.

    

Pool C will be hosted by the U.S. in Arizona and also include Mexico, Colombia, Canada, and Great Britain. Finally, Pool D will be played in Miami and include Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Israel, and Nicaragua.

Top teams

Most sportsbooks have the U.S. as the betting favorites to win the 2023 WBC and defend their crown, and it’s not hard to see why. The Americans will roll out a lineup that will include Pete Alonso, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, and others. There won’t be many easy outs for opposing pitchers.

However, the U.S. isn’t exactly bringing an intimidating pitching staff to the tournament, although veterans Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright should provide stability. Cuban-born Nestor Cortes should have a big role to play and the U.S. figures to have a solid bullpen.

Outside of the U.S., Japan might be the team to watch. It starts with Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani, giving the Japanese a huge lift on the mound. Meanwhile, Ohtani, Seiya Suzuki, and Masataka Yoshida bring plenty of power to the lineup. The rest of the Japanese team is filled with players who could probably play in the majors but will be unfamiliar to most of the teams at the WBC.

As the runner-up of the last two World Baseball Classics, Puerto Rico will also fancy itself as a favorite in this tournament. The top Puerto Rican players include Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, and Eddie Rosario. Of course, it’ll be on the mound where the Puerto Ricans could have a big advantage with Jose Barrios and Marcus Stroman, who pitched for the U.S. in 2017, leading the rotation. The Puerto Ricans will also have a strong bullpen that’s led by Edwin Diaz.

Finally, the Dominican Republic will be a force to be reckoned with at the 2023 WBC. It’s now been a decade since the Dominicans won the WBC but they still have a championship-caliber roster. The lineup will be filled with MLB power hitters like Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Rafael Devers, Jose Ramirez, Julio Rodriguez, Manny Machado, and others. There is also nothing wrong with the Dominican’s pitching staff, which features Sandy Alcantara, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and several prominent MLB relievers.

Sleepers

Cuba is arguably the biggest sleeper heading into the 2023 WBC. For starters, they are playing in a wide-open Pool A, giving them an easier path to the quarterfinals than some of the favorites. There is also a lot of mystery surrounding the Cuban team because many play at home and are unknown among major leaguers. There are also a few known stars like Luis Robert mixed into the team.

Meanwhile, Mexico could turn into a surprise in this tournament. They are loaded with quality arms like Julio Urias, Jose Urquidy, and Taijuan Walker. While the Mexican lineup isn’t exactly a murderers’ row, the likes of Alejandro Kirk, Alex Verdugo, Rowdy Tellez, Isaac Paredes, and Luis Urias should help the Mexicans score some runs.

There is another potential sleeper in Venezuela. Virtually all of the Venezuelan players are current major leagues, including veterans like Salvador Perez, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, and Avisail Garcia, as well as youngsters like Gleyber Torres and Andres Gimenez.

On the pitching front, Venezuela will rely on Pablo Lopez, Martin Perez, German Marquez, and a few other familiar names. The problem for Venezuela is getting out of a pool that also includes both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Finally, keep an eye on the Netherlands during this tournament. Much like Cuba, they are part of a wide-open Pool A, so there is a path to the quarterfinals. The Dutch squad features several players born in either Aruba or Curacao, including Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Schoop, Jurickson Profar, and Didi Gregorius. That’s enough talent to make them an interesting team to watch at the WBC.

2023 World Baseball Classic predictions

This will be the biggest WBC ever seen with regard to the number of teams involved. It will take both talent and depth to come out on top. Surely, there are at least half a dozen teams capable of winning the world title.

But we are going to back the Dominican Republic to win the 2023 WBC.

They have a scary amount of power in their lineup and a well-balanced pitching staff. Team USA doesn’t have quite enough starting pitching while Puerto Rico doesn’t have enough lineup depth to measure up to the Dominicans.

Japan will certainly have something to say and bring a different style of play to the WBC. However, the immense talent on the Dominican Republic roster will eventually win out, giving the Dominicans their second WBC crown.

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