The 2023 World Baseball Classic is set to be one of the most anticipated editions of the tournament in its brief history.
The fifth edition will feature some of the biggest baseball stars in the world competing for their countries in the international tournament. Seven of the past 14 MVP winners will be playing in the event. The reigning NL Cy Young winner will be on the mound. The back-to-back winner of the Pacific League MVP and Eiji Sawamura Award in Nippon Professional Baseball will be joined by the back-to-back Central League MVP and the 2021 American League MVP.
Baseball fans are undoubtedly excited about the 2023 World Baseball Classic, but with so much talent, it might be difficult to know which teams are the ones with the best chances to win the tournament.
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The Sporting News is taking a look at the teams with the best odds to win it all, as well as a few sleepers that could potentially make some noise. Here’s what you need to know about the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
2023 World Baseball Classic odds
Updated odds courtesy of BetMGM
Who will win the World Baseball Classic in 2023?
Three teams clearly stand above the rest of the field: the Dominican Republic, United States and Japan.
It is obvious why those three are a cut above the rest. For starters, they are the only three teams that have ever won the tournament. Japan won the first two WBCs in 2006 and 2009, the Dominican Republic won in 2013 and the United States is the reigning champion from 2017.
But on top of the history, those three teams are also clearly the most stacked rosters. The Dominican Republic and United States are led by current MLB stars, while Japan boasts some of the brightest young baseball talent in the world along with perhaps the most gifted player to ever play the game.
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Here’s why the three teams have the best odds:
Dominican Republic (+210)
There is a reason the Dominican Republic remains the odds-on favorite even after Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was forced to bow out. This is probably the most balanced roster in the field. It starts with the lineup that will see Juan Soto and Julio Rodríguez in the same outfield along with Teoscar Hernández and Eloy Jiménez, and Manny Machado and Rafael Devers battling for time at third base. The middle infield is also insanely deep, with Wander Franco, Ketel Marte, Jeremy Peña, Jean Segura, Willy Adames, Robinson Canó looking to fill in two spots up the middle. The rotation is led by NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and Cristian Javier, who hurled six no-hit innings in the World Series. The bullpen has some elite arms with Camilo Doval, Gregory Soto, Diego Castillo and Bryan Abreu giving the team a shutdown group of options to end games in the late innings.
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United States (+250)
Bats, bats and more bats. That’s what the USA will be sending out in the World Baseball Classic. Mike Trout is the biggest name on the team, but he’s far from the only big name. The outfield figures to be Trout and Mookie Betts along with some combination of Kyle Tucker, Cedric Mullins, Kyle Schwarber and Jeff McNeil. The infield is just as loaded. The middle infield features dynamic talents like Trea Turner, Bobby Witt Jr. and Tim Anderson. The first base spot will come down to 2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt and Mets slugger Pete Alonso, while the hot corner will be handled by perennial Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado. Even at catcher, the team is buoyed by two of the best in baseball in J.T. Realmuto and Will Smith. The pitching lacks the star talent of the Dominican Republic or Japan, but with Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright fronting a staff that features Kendall Graveman, Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly in the bullpen, there is plenty of depth to make this a formidable squad.
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If you’re looking for pitching, look no further than Japan. MLB fans will be familiar with Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this deep rotation. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the 24-year-old ace for Orix Buffaloes, pitched to an ERA of 1.39 in 2021 and 1.68 in 2022 en route to winning the Eiji Sawamura Award, which is given to the best starter in Nippon Professional Baseball, and the Pacific League MVP in both years. Roki Sasaki, the 21-year-old sensation for the Chiba Lotte Marines, pitched 17 straight perfect innings and had a 2.02 ERA and 173 strikeouts in just 129.1 innings of work in 2022. This isn’t just a pitching team. Along with Ohtani, Yakult third baseman Munetaka Murakami launched 56 home runs with a .718 slugging percentage and is coming off back-to-back Central League MVPs. Murakami’s teammate, second baseman Tetsuto Yamada, has drawn comparisons to Mike Trout with 271 NPB home runs and 190 stolen bases with a career .285/.383/.496 slash line.
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World Baseball Classic 2023 sleepers
Those three are the clear favorites to win the World Baseball Classic, but there are others that could potentially make some noise. Back in 2017, Israel shocked the world by winning its pool to reach the second round in its first time advancing past qualifying.
Which teams could make the most noise in 2023? Here’s a look at three options beyond the Big Three.
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Puerto Rico (+1800)
Puerto Rico isn’t exactly the biggest sleeper in the world, having made it to back-to-back finals in 2013 and 2017. But the team is playing in perhaps the most difficult pool with the likes of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in the field. This team has plenty of talent, with Francisco Lindor and Javier Báez back to lead an exciting middle-infield duo. The rotation is led by Marcus Stroman and José Berríos, and the bullpen features the dominant brothers Alexis and Edwin Díaz as well as Twins closer Jorge López. Don’t be surprised if Puerto Rico makes some noise again in 2023.
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Another team with plenty of history with back-to-back fourth place finishes, Netherlands enters with low odds despite plenty of talent on the roster and an easier pool, with Cuba representing its toughest competition. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is loaded at middle infield, in particular, with Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Jonathan Schoop and Andrelton Simmons giving the team a number of big-league veterans capable of playing short and second. The back end of the bullpen also has a pair of experienced hurlers in Kenley Jansen and Pedro Strop, who should make things difficult for opposing teams late in games.
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It might be a tad surprising to some to see Canada with such low odds, but being in the same pool as the United States and Canada does pose its challenges. Still, don’t be dismissive of Canada just yet. Freddie Freeman is the team’s big star at first base, but Tyler O’Neill gives the team a strong second bat in the middle of the order. Twins prospect Edouard Julien blossomed in 2022 and could be primed for a big 2023 — even beyond the WBC — and Bo Naylor is an exciting, young catcher who can hit. Cal Quantrill gives Canada a reliable No. 1 on the mound and 2022 rookie Matt Brash should help give them a strong second arm in the rotation.
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