2023 World Baseball Classic Preview

by | Mar 6, 2023 | Sports

The fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) has the potential to be the greatest one yet, with even more stars participating in this year’s tournament than ever before. As baseball fans eagerly await the first pitch of the 14-day journey to crown a champion of international baseball, let’s take a brief look at the teams competing in this year’s tournament.

All photos from MLB.com

Pool A: Chinese Taipei, Panama, Italy, Cuba, Netherlands

Beginning with pool A is Chinese Taipei, who arrive at the 2023 World Baseball Classic not expected to yield favourable results. As only four players return from 2017 where they finished with a record of zero wins and three losses, expect that the rookies appearing in their first WBC will struggle to handle the likes of Cuba and the Netherlands. Chinese Taipei has a chance to win a game or two at best, considering the bracket they are playing in. 

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Iván Herrera leads Panama’s return to the WBC after their absence in 2013 and 2017. Last season with the Cardinals AAA minor league affiliate, Herrera posted an on-base percentage (OBS) of .374 and a .770 for his on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). Herrera posting these stats showcased his potential to become a well-rounded catcher for St. Louis in the near future. Watch for him to be a bright spot on a Panama team that hopes to avoid finishing last in their pool.

Italy brings experience that gives them the edge over Panama and Chinese Taipei. I expect the depth of Italy’s pitching staff and position players to propel them close to the top of the pool. 

Outside of Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert, Cuba’s roster is underwhelming compared to last year’s. Cuba will bring a new crop of players to participate in their first WBC, only having a handful of veteran players return. Among the returning players on Cuba’s roster are Liván Moinelo, Jose Rodriguez, Yoanni Yera, Yurisbel Gracial and Roel Santos. Despite the loss of so many veterans, watch for the Cubans to clinch a fourth straight second-round appearance. 

The Netherlands will aim to produce a third consecutive semi-final appearance as they enter this year’s tournament. Xander Bogaerts, Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Schoop anchoring the middle infield, it’s clear that the Netherlands are the clear favourite to win pool A.


  1. Netherlands
  2. Cuba
  3. Italy
  4. Panama
  5. Chinese Taipei

Pool B: Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, Czech Republic 

The 2006 and 2009 champions will look to strike back and win it all in 2023. With superstar Shohei Ohtani headlining one of the best pitching staffs in the tournament, team Japan is destined for another title run. The 2009 runner-up South Korea, led by the Korean Baseball Organization’s MVP Jung Hoo-Lee, will hope to return to their former prominence in this WBC.

With two wins over South Korea in the 2019 Asian Baseball Championship, China could be a potential sleeper pick to make the second round. Although Australia swept the 2017 qualification tournament, they stand little to no chance against Japan or South Korea. Like Australia, the Czech Republic, who will make its first appearance at the World Baseball Classic, should finish near the bottom of the standings in 2023.


  1. Japan
  2. South Korea
  3. China
  4. Australia
  5. Czech Republic

Pool C: Great Britain, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, United States

As Great Britain prepares for its first World Baseball Classic appearance, most players are yet to have played in the MLB. At the same time, watch for Seattle Mariners prospect Harry Ford to lead the way for Great Britain in this tournament. After a disappointing finish to 2017, team Canada was determined to take a step forward in this year’s WBC. However, they will have to achieve that goal without Joey Votto and Josh Naylor due to their Injuries.

Team Colombia will have a difficult road ahead of them if they intend for José Quintana and Gio Urshela to advance them into the second round. With an aging core, this might be their last opportunity to break through and contend. After Team Mexico finished with an underwhelming record, they failed to qualify for the second round in 2017. However, this year Julio Urías and Randy Arozarena certainly have what it takes to lead Mexico to their first second-round appearance since 2009. 

As the defending World Baseball Classic champions, the United States hopes to pick up right where they left off in 2017 with another championship this year. Now adding Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, who will play in their first WBC, all signs point toward another championship-contending tournament.


  1. United States
  2. Mexico
  3. Columbia
  4. Canada
  5. Great Britain

Pool D: Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Israel, Nicaragua

After the Dominican Republic suffered a disenchanting second-round loss against the United States in 2017, the former champions look to reclaim the title in this year’s tournament. They are determined to do so with two-time Gold Glove winner Manny Machado anchoring the infield and 2022 National League Cy Young winner Sandy Alcántara as their ace. Watch for this Dominican Republic team to be dangerous again in this year’s World Baseball Classic. 

As the 39-year-old Venezuelan, Miguel Cabrera nears the end of his career, he will suit up one last time for his nation. But the former World Series Champion must have a sense of optimism when Ronald Acuña Jr. and José Altuve are headlining the team’s roster. They have a great chance at moving into the second round and could be a contender if everything goes right for them. While Puerto Rico failed to win it all in 2017, they still possess a great core with Francisco Lindor and José Berríos who will return for their second WBC. Watch for team Puerto Rico to take a step back this year as Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltrán and Yadier Molina will not be returning.

In 2017 Israel left the tournament, feeling content with the progress of their program; however, to qualify for the second round again, they will have to make improvements from their previous performance. Finishing off pool D is Nicaragua. Nicaragua will struggle with the amount of inexperience on their roster. As they appear in their first World Baseball Classic, watch for them to be no match for the likes of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.


  1. Dominican Republic
  2. Venezuela
  3. Puerto Rico
  4. Israel
  5. Nicaragua

Championship Prediction: The Dominican Republic

While the United States has the foundation to repeat as champions, it is difficult to buy in with uncertainty surrounding their pitching core. The Dominican Republic is overall, a more well-rounded team, making them my pick for this year’s winners. They have a decisive advantage over the United States in pitching, hitting and defence. Watch for the Dominican republic to be crowned champions in 2023.

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