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Five Standout Players from the World Baseball Classic So Far

Baseball, MLB article at Knup Sports

The World Baseball Classic has seen a number of impressive performances from players around the globe.

The first World Baseball Classic kicked off action on Wednesday March 8 with twenty of the best national baseball teams in the world coming together to compete in the competitions 5th edition. After a six year absence, the World Baseball Classic returns with possibly the most talented field of competitors the competition has ever seen.

Although there are still many games yet to be played, there have been a few standout players among the teams that have dominated their few opening contests and have helped get their countries off to great starts. Below I’ve listed five of the standout players from the first week of action at the World Baseball Classic.

Shohei Ohtani – Pitcher/Designated Hitter, Japan

Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani has taken the MLB by storm since he joined the Angels just a few years ago, and he’s continued his two-way dominance for Japan at the World Baseball Classic. Ohtani has appeared as the designated hitter in all four of Japan’s games, as well as making an appearance as the starting pitcher in one game, and has led the team to a perfect 4-0 record.

In his sole pitching appearance, Ohtani had five strikeouts while only giving up one hit in four innings of action. However, his real dominance has come at the plate as he has 8 RBIs, 6 hits, 5 runs, 1 home run, .500 batting average, .684 on-base percentage, and 1.000 slugging percentage in just 12 at bats. It is safe to say that Ohtani is the MVP of the competition up to this point.

Jose De Leon – Pitcher, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican pitcher Jose De Leon has had a bumpy ride since he joined the major leagues in 2016. He has been in and out of the minor leagues since 2021 and is trying to make it back to the top level with his new team, the Minnesota Twins.

However, De Leon looked like one of the best pitchers in baseball during his sole appearance for Puerto Rico, as he led his country to a perfect game in their 8th inning mercy-rule win over Israel racking up a WBC high 10 strikeouts. Although not currently on a major league roster, I think we can expect that to change if De Leon can emulate his perfect first outing.

Yu Chang – First Base, Chinese Taipei

After appearing for four different MLB teams in 2022, first baseman Yu Chang seems to have found some solid ground with his national team, Chinese Taipei. Most recently, Chang was the hero in Chinese Taipei’s victory over the Netherlands on Saturday March 11, as his grand slam helped power them ahead 9-5.

However, this isn’t the only highlight of Chang’s time in the World Baseball Classic. The first baseman leads all players with 8 RBIs, as well as contributing 7 hits, 5 runs, 2 home runs, .438 batting average, .500 on-base percentage, and .938 slugging percentage in 16 at bats. Chang has been one of the most effective players thus far at WBC, and Chinese Taipei will need him to continue his production if they hope to make it out of the group stage.

Nicky Lopez – Third Base, Italy

Despite being born in Naperville, Illinois, Kansas City third baseman Nicky Lopez is representing team Italy in the 2023 WBC, and the Azzurri are certainly happy to have him. Lopez has been one of the most prolific batters at the WBC and has led Italy to a respectable 2-2 record.

Lopez has by far been the most effective player for Italy and leads his team in practically every offensive category, as he has 7 RBIs, 8 hits, 2 runs, .500 batting average, .529 on-base percentage, and .688 slugging percentage in 16 at bats. Although Lopez has demonstrated his great talent thus far, his teammates on team Italy will need to pick up some of the slack if they want to make some noise in the knockout stage.

Se Woong Park – Pitcher, Korea

After losing their first two matches, Korea was desperately in need of a boost. Luckily for them Se Woong Park, a veteran of the Korean Baseball Organization, came to the rescue and guided Korea to a 7-3 victory over Czech Republic on Saturday March 11.

Despite only appearing in two of their games, Park has made the greatest impact out of all members of the Korean team thus far in the WBC. Across his two appearances, Park only gave up a single hit and registered 10 strikeouts in 6 innings pitched. In addition to this he ranks 2nd among all pitchers with a 0.17 WHIP, behind only Jose De Leon. Park has been basically unhittable up to this point and Korea hopes that it’ll have been enough to get them out of the group stage.

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