The 2023 World Baseball Classic started its first exhibition games on March 7th. For baseball fans who remember, the classic was last held in 2017, which was one for the history books.
Now, for people who aren’t big baseball fans or none at all, you may be asking what the World Baseball Classic is. To summarize it, it is basically the Olympics but for baseball specifically. It is a very fun event that mixes in MLB, international (NPB, KBO), minor leaguers, and even some unknown international players.
Pool play will begin first and after pool play, eight of the teams will advance to the quarterfinals. Then down to four in the Semifinals.
18. Czech Republic
17. Great Britain
16. Chinese Taipei
11. Dominican Republic
Without a single doubt, Freddie Freeman is the best player on this team but there is some quality players alongside him like Tyler O’Neil, Abraham Toro, and Bo Naylor for the position side of players. The pitching side for this team is definitely the strong point of this team as they are led by Cal Quantrill, Nick Pivetta, and Matt Brash.
The most significant non-MLB player on this team is the 2022 KBO MVP Jung-Hoo Lee. Ha-Seong Kim and Tommy Edman however are the most notable MLB players highlighting this team and their pitching staff is said to cause a lot of ground balls which is a great thing.
Team Italy would be primarily led by Kansas City Royals infielder Nicky Lopez (8-for-16) and Milwaukee Brewers prospect Sal Frelick (7-for-18), the Italian offense hit a solid .283 in pool play. The other side of the ball saw former New York Mets ace Matt Harvey re-emerge into the spotlight via seven one-run innings across two starts.
Italy would fall in the quarterfinals to Japan 9-3.
The Australians did make an impression in this tournament by winning 3 out of 4 games in the pool play with an average of 5.3 runs. Their offense would do most of the heavy lifting with 4 being from Brewers prospect Alex Hall and Royals minor leaguer Robbie Glendinning.
Australia would fall in the quarterfinal to Cuba 4-3.
6. Puerto Rico
Up the middle, there will be an amazing double-play combo in Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor. Behind the plate is Martian Maldonado with backups MJ Melendez and Christian Vazquez. Other position players will include Enrique Hernandez, Jose Miranda, and Eddie Rosario.
An interesting twist here is that Marcus Stroman leads this staff instead of representing team USA this time. Taking a lead into the 8th for the team may set up the Diaz brothers. Alexis Diaz and Edwin Diaz are that one-two punch to close all the games.
There is a stockpile of big MLB talent on this roster. Jose Altuve, Ronald Acuna, Andres Gimenez, Gleyber Torres, Luis Arraez, Salvador Perez, Eugenio Suarez, and Anthony Santander. The bench includes David Peralta, Miguel Rojas, and Miguel Cabrera. The starting rotation could include Pablo Lopez, Jesus Lazardo, Martin Perez, and German Marquez.
Position player-wise, this team starts with White Sox stars Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada who were the biggest names on this team, and catcher Ariel Martinez Marrero who spent his last three seasons in Japan’s NPB.
Now, this Cuba team would put up a good enough fight to reach the Semifinals but they would be no match for the USA.
Wow, this roster was sneaky good in the tournament this year but Japan would end all of that in the Semifinals.
However though, arguably, this is the best the Mexico roster has ever looked in the Classic. The position players are led by Alejandro Kirk, Alex Verdugo, Randy Arozarena, Rowdy Tellez, and Joey Meneses. This pitching staff is also very good and top-heavy with Julio Urias, Jose Urquidy, Tauijan Walker, and Patrick Sandoval.
The starting rotation seems to be a fantastic one with Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Kyle Freeland, and Brady Singer. The backend of the bullpen will be stout with Ryan Pressly, Devin Williams, and Kendell Graveman to name a few.
As far as the position players go, Team USA consists of J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith, Pete Alonso, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Trea Turner, Mookie Betts, Kyle Tucker, Kyle Schwarber, and baseball’s best player Mike Trout.
USA is the defending champion from 2017 and they plan on becoming the second-only repeat champion as they take on Japan Tuesday night.
Japan’s team has been nothing short of impressive so far. They have simply dominated in every victory so far with the exception being against Mexico in the Semifinal. Japan’s average margin of victory before playing Mexico was eight runs, this happened because of their great offense and great pitching keeping the other teams at bay.
Now, whenever you take a look at this roster you won’t know the majority of this team, but the two that stick out are Lars Nootbar and of course, former MVP Shohei Ohtani.
Japan and the USA will face off in the championship on Tuesday Night.