As Spring Training begins in Major League Baseball, other members of the league and beyond are preparing for the World Baseball Classic next week. The WBC pits 20 of the best baseball countries in the world into four separate pools consisting of five teams each.
The World Baseball Classic has not taken place since 2017, when USA took the crown. However, this year’s tournament is much closer, with multiple elite teams having a serious chance at the trophy. These are the best teams in the tournament and the biggest contenders for the trophy.
The Dominican Republic squad are the favorite coming into this tournament and bolsters one of the best rosters that the WBC has seen in a long time. DR has elite players in all fields, with the infield containing the likes of Manny Machado and Vladimir Guerrero Jr, and the outfield that is led by Juan Soto and a pitching staff that stars Sandy Alcantara.
The Dominican Republic has a chance of getting revenge on the USA. DR won their pool in 2017, but the USA were able to defeat them in the second round and sent them packing sooner than expected. This is the perfect team to rebound from the loss and use it to fuel their championship run.
The biggest competition to the Dominican Republic are the defending champions, the USA squad. This USA baseball team is loaded with talent with the likes of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Mookie Betts, and that is just the outfield. There truly isn’t an error that USA are not elite at and as long as they can stage off the Dominican Republic, there is no reason why they shouldn’t leave the tournament as back to back champions. If the 2017 roster was good enough to win it all, then this improved 2023 has just a good of a chance at repeating.
Of course, everyone will be excited to see the leader of the Japan squad, Angels Pitcher/Outfielder Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani finished last season as the AL MVP runner up and is one of the most unique players in decades. Ohtani has the chance to impact the game in both pitching and hitting and could be the impact player of this tournament.
This Japan team has a great mixture of players from the MLB and KBO and have the best chance of knocking off DR and USA, but they will have a tough road to win the championship.
There was a ton of speculation that young superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. would not be able to play in the tournament due to his injury, but the phenom is apart of the squad, thus giving them a great chance of winning it all. Venezuela has a great roster including multiple time World Series Champion infielder Jose Altuve, who can provide leadership to the squad. If everything goes right for Venezuela, they can leave the tournament as the unexpected champions right as everyone almost wrote them off.