The World Baseball Classic is just around the corner, returning for the first time since 2017, and many believe that the 2023 WBC will be the best one yet. There are many stars that will be playing for the 20 different countries in the WBC, including players from the MLB, NPB, KBO, and more leagues across the world. One thing to note is the rules, which include limits on pitcher usage and a mercy rule. That is something you might want to look at (  So with that, let’s get straight into my predictions for the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

First Round

In the WBC, the 20 teams are split into four groups of five. Those four groups each play at different locations; with Group A playing in Taichung, Taiwan, Group B playing in Tokyo, Japan, Group C playing in Phoenix, Arizona, and Group D playing in Miami, Florida. Only the top two teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals, with the remaining three teams in each group being eliminated.

Pool A

Place Team
First Netherlands
Second Italy
Third Cuba
Fourth Chinese Taipei
Fifth Panama

The Netherlands are the most talented on paper in Pool A, even with notable absences from players such as Kenley Jansen, Jurickson Profar, and Ozzie Albies. I believe the Dutch team should win this group. They will be led by Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Schoop, and Andrelton Simmons, who are all playing in their third WBC together. The real question for me is who gets out of the group in second place.

The reason I have decided to go with Italy is because I feel like they have enough all-around talent to just edge out the rest of teams in the pool. I believe Vinnie Pasquantino of the Royals, who is nicknamed “The Italian Nightmare,” will come up big when Italy needs him to step up in the clutch. Cuba is led by Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada, but I don’t feel like they have enough talent around them to edge out Italy. The Chinese Taipei squad could get a win, as they host Pool A, but I don’t think they will make it out of the group either. I had Panama as high as third at one point, before deciding on them coming in last place.

Pool B

Place Team
First Japan
Second Korea
Third Australia
Fourth China
Fifth Czech Republic

I believe that Pool B should be the most straightforward of the four pools, with both Japan and Korea having the talent to make deep runs in the tournament. Japan will be led by Shohei Ohtani, who has been given the green light from the Angels to pitch and hit in the WBC. Japan also has MLB players such as Yu Dravish, Seiya Suzuki, Lars Nootbar, and MLB newcomer Masataka Yoshida. The one notable MLB exception from Japan’s roster is Kodai Senga, who was on the 2017 All-WBC Team. Japan also brings both of the NPB’s MVPs in Munetaka Murakami and Yoshinuobu Yammamoto, as well as much, much more talent.

Korea will be led by MLB players Tommy Edman and Ha-Seong Kim, as well as 2022 KBO MVP Jung-Hoo Lee, who will be posted to MLB teams after the 2023 season. One story to follow in this pool is the Czech team, as most of their players are regular citizens who work regular jobs. For China and Australia, I just don’t believe they have nearly enough talent to challenge Japan and Korea.

Pool C

Place Team
First Mexico
Second USA
Third Canada
Fourth Columbia
Fifth Great Britain

My first big surprise of the tournament pops up in my predictions for Pool C, as I have Mexico winning the group over the 2017 WBC champions in the USA. Mexico has been my dark horse team since the rosters were announced, and although they have since lost Alejandro Kirk, they still have a bunch of talent. They will be led by 2022 Cy Young finalist Julio Urias on the pitching side, and they have a solid group of position players including Alex Verdugo, Randy Arozarena, Isaac Paredes, Alek Thomas, and Luis Urias.

The USA probably has the strongest roster on paper in this pool, as they have a star studded team that includes Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, and more great players. Even with all that talent, the USA have lost some key pieces with both Nestor Cortes and Clayton Kershaw being forced to miss the tournament. That leaves the USA with a rotation being led by 41 year old Adam Wainwright, along with Brady Singer, Merrill Kelly, and Lance Lynn. The U.S. will have a very good bullpen, but with a weakened rotation they could be vulnerable against a team like Canada, who has a pretty good lineup with Freddie Freeman and Tyler O’Neill in the middle of it. I believe Columbia beats out Great Britain for fourth in the pool as they have more talent than the Brits, with a solid group led by Harold Ramirez, Gio Urshela, and Jose Quintana.

Pool D

Place Team
First Dominican Republic
Second Venezuela
Third Puerto Rico
Fourth Israel
Fifth Nicaragua

The Dominican Republic are the clear favorites to win Pool D, as they have what some are calling the greatest team ever. Even with Jose Ramirez missing the tournament, they are still stacked. They will roll out a lineup that includes Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Rafael Devers, Manny Machado, Julio Rodriguez, and more. They have a true ace in unanimous 2022 NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, with Cristian Javier to follow, and a bullpen that includes Camilo Doval, Jose Leclerc, Rafael Montero, Gregory Soto, and more.

The race to finish second in the group should be closer than some expect. Puerto Rico has a solid roster, but they will be without Carlos Correa and Javy Baez isn’t the same Javy Baez he was leading into the 2017 WBC. The two best starters Puerto Rico has are Jose Berrios, who is coming off a rough 2022, and Marcus Stroman, who also had a rough 2022. It’s worth noting, however, that Stroman played for the USA in the 2017 WBC, pitching a brilliant game against Puerto Rico in the final.

Venezuela will be led by Miguel Cabrera, and although he may not play a whole lot, there is a lot of other talent on this team. They have stars in Jose Altuve and Ronald Acuna Jr both available and ready to play. They have a great supporting cast with Luis Arraez, Andres Gimenez, Eduardo Escobar, Eugenio Suarez, Miggy Rojas, and Gleyber Torres all adding to a good but crowded infield.They have a solid rotation with Ranger Suarez, Pablo Lopez, Luis Garcia, Martin Perez, Jesus Luzardo, and more all being starting options. The bullpen doesn’t have a bg name closer, but with the amount of starters they have, a couple of good starters could find their way making an impact out of the pen. At the bottom of the group, Israel and Nicaragua both have some talent, but it probably won’t be enough to break into the top three in this group.

Second Round

After the first round, the eight remaining teams will face off in four quarterfinal games, where it is win or go home. The winner of Pool A will play the runner up in Pool B, the winner of Pool B plays the runner up of Pool A, the Pool C winner plays the Pool D runner up, and the Pool D winner plays the runner up of Pool C. Quarterfinals 1 and 2 will both be played in Tokyo Japan, while Quarterfinals 3 and 4 will be played in Miami, Florida.

Quarterfinal 1

Winner Korea
Loser Netherlands

The Dutch team finds the end of the road for them here in the quarterfinals, as they fall to Korea. I feel like not having a couple of their key pieces will hurt the Netherlands, and Korea will be a strong team that only finishes second in the group due to them being stuck in the pool with Japan, as I believe Korea would win Pool A if they had been assigned there. I believe that having Tommy Edman and Ha-Seong Kim up the middle will be one of the best middle infield pairings defensively, and having the reigning KBO MVP Jung-Hoo Lee in center gives Korea a very strong backbone in the WBC.

Quarterfinal 2

Winner Japan
Loser Italy

Here’s where we get the most lopsided matchup in the quarterfinals on paper, with Japan potentially being able to roll out Shohei Ohtani to pitch the quarterfinal against Italy, which would also perfectly line him up for the final if Japan were to get there. This Japan team has been touted as the greatest Japanese WBC team ever, and Japan won the tournament in 2006 and 2009. Italy would seemingly be outmatched, but it wouldn’t shock me if this game was pretty close. But Japan should be walking away with a win in this matchup.

Quarterfinal 3

Winner Mexico
Loser Venezuela

The third quarterfinal might have the most interesting matchup. Mexico would be coming off a surprising first place finish in Pool C, and Venezuela would be coming off a somewhat surprising second place finish in Pool D, eliminating Puerto Rico. Mexico would have Julio Urias ready to pitch this game with plenty of rest, and that is enough to get Mexico the win over Venezuela.

Quarterfinal 4

Winner Dominican Republic
Loser USA

As much as I would love for the USA to win this game to set up a semifinal where Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani are on opposing teams, I don’t see the USA getting past a Dominican team that would be able to pitch Sandy Alcantara or even Cristian Javier, when you also consider how outrageously good the DR’s lineup will be. Yes, the U.S. will have a very good team, but I’d give the lineup edge to the DR. The DR also gets a massive edge when it comes to the starting pitcher regardless of who the USA starts, especially if Alcantara gets the starting nod. 

Championship Round

The championship round in the WBC includes both semifinals, as well as the final. All four teams will be in Miami, as the semifinals and final will be played at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Florida. The winner from Quarterfinal 1 plays the winner from Quarterfinal 3, and the Quarterfinal 2 winner plays the winner of Quarterfinal 4.

Semifinal 1

Winner Mexico
Loser Korea

Mexico continues to roll in the WBC. This time they can’t ride the arm of Julio Urias due to restrictions on pitcher usage, but I think Mexico can win this game with Taijuan Walker, Patrick Sandoval, or Jose Urquidy. I thinkthis game would be a nail biter, with Giovanny Gallegos and the Mexico bullpen shutting the door on Korea late in the game.

Semifinal 2

Winner Japan
Loser Dominican Republic

This matchup between Japan and the DR is good enough to be the matchup in the final of the WBC, but due to how the tournament works, they match up in the semifinals. At this point in the tournament, Japan and the Dominican Republic would be the last two undefeated teams remaining in my hypothetical scenario that I’ve used to predict the entire tournament.The pitching matchup in this game would seemingly be Yu Darvish vs Cristian Javier, as Alcantara would’ve pitched in the quarterfinals. Both teams are supposed to be the best ever from their respective nations, and this game would be a battle between the two teams that would go back and forth. However, I think Japan gets a bit of an upper hand due to the DR’s lack of familiarity with them. It could be argued that Japan would also be unfamiliar with the DR, but they have some MLB pitchers that will have faced the players from the DR before. Darvish has also pitched in a WBC semifinal before, pitching out of the bullpen in the 2009 WBC against the USA.


Winner Japan
Loser Mexico

In the WBC final I have Japan defeating Mexico, and this is mainly down to Mexico being a little unlucky. Because Mexico only has three days in-between their quarterfinals game and the final, Julio Urias is unavailable to pitch, since he would’ve had to throw less than 50 pitches in the quarterfinals to be available. In this prediction, Mexico needs Urias to pitch deep into the quarterfinal game, with Mexico most likely relying on either Patrick Sandoval or Jose Urquidy, due to Taijuan Walker pitching in the semifinal game and also being unavailable. Japan could go to Ohtani to close out the tournament, but due to him usually pitching on an extra day of rest, I think Japan decides to give the ball to Roki Sasaki, a 21 year old who is one of the best pitchers in the NPB. I think Sasaki will shove against Mexico, and Japan will gets Sasaki the run support he needs to keep the lead and give Japan their third WBC crown.


Most Valuable Player

In every WBC, the MVP has gone to a player on the winning team who was important to his team’s tournament. Previous winners are Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006 and 2009, Robinson Cano in 2013, and Marcus Stroman in 2017. For the 2023 WBC, I have Shohei Ohtani winning the MVP award.

All-WBC Team

The All-WBC team is a team made up of 12 of the best performers from the WBC. It includes three pitchers, a DH, and the other eight fielding positions. I will note that I had no clue where to put Ohtani, but because I figured he’d play more games at DH than pitch, I put him at DH.

Position Player
C J.T. Realmuto (USA)
1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Dominican Republic)
2B Jose Altuve (Venezuela)
3B Luis Urias (Mexico)
SS Ha-Seong Kim (Korea)
LF Masataka Yoshida (Japan)
CF Jung-Hoo Lee (Korea)
RF Alex Verdugo (Mexico)
DH Shohei Ohtani (Japan)
P Roki Sasaki (Japan)
P Julio Urias (Mexico)
P Sandy Alcantara (Dominican Republic)

Players from teams who reach the finals normally make up around half of the list. Therefore, I’m predicting Japan getting three players on the All-WBC team in Shohei Ohtani, Masataka Yoshida and Roki Sasaki, and Mexico also getting three players with Julio Urias, Alex Verdugo, and Luis Urias all making the All-WBC team. The rest of the spots are players from teams that at least got out of the first round, and preferably into the semifinals. Lastly, I made sure to have a couple non-MLB players on the All-WBC team because with Japan and Korea both making a deep run, I figured that a couple of their players should be on the list. Those non-MLB players are Roki Sasaki and Jung-Hoo Lee, while MLB newcomer Masataka Yoshida also found himself making the team.

That wraps up my 2023 World Baseball Classic predictions. Will they happen? Probably not. Are my predictions unlikely to happen? Maybe. Let’s hope I don’t get too many things wrong.

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