by Justin Bishop '24
The United States Will Win
Justin Bishop ’24
The World Baseball Classic will take place from March 7-21 in Miami, Florida. The tournament will feature teams from 20 countries around the world. The teams will compete in a pool play format, with five teams in each pool. After four days, the top two teams from each pool will move on to the quarterfinals, and then the bracket will assume a traditional tournament format. The championship will determine the best baseball country in 2023. The reigning champion is Team USA, which won back in 2017. It was the country’s first title in its fourth appearance in the tournament. The 2021 scheduled tournament was canceled due to the 2021 MLB lockout and rescheduled for this March.
The updated betting favorite coming into this year’s tournament is the Dominican Republic, overtaking Team USA with a loaded roster. Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerro Jr., and reigning MLB Rookie of the Year Mariners outfielder Julio Rodrigez headline the star-studded roster. The Dominican Republic has yet to win a championship over the four tournaments thrown. However, they reached the final in 2013 and the semifinal in 2009. In my opinion, this history will repeat itself, as they are not going to win this year’s World Baseball Classic.
Team USA will win this year. Currently the second-place betting favorite at +250, this team has loaded up its roster with players that have experienced winning culture. A stacked infield highlighted by ten-time Gold Glove winner Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado paired with his teammate four-time Gold Glove winner and reigning National League MVP Cardinals infielder Paul Goldschmidt. It also helps having ten-time All-Star, three-time AL MVP, and once in a generation player in Mike Trout playing left field and six-time All-Star, two-time World Series Champion, and 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts playing Right Field. All four of those guys won gold with team USA at the tournament back in 2017, so they know what is needed to win.
The team will face their pool opponents Great Britain, Mexico, Canada, and Colombia from March 11 to 15 and then take on the winner of Pool D in the quarterfinal. Regardless of which team the USA plays in that quarterfinal, it will be the game to watch because Pool D consists of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. Puerto Rico and Venezuela are fourth and fifth in the betting rankings.I believe that after Team USA wins in the quarterfinal, it will be hard to predict who they will play next. Predicting rankings and seeds after the quarterfinals are always tricky in general. My prediction for the final: Team USA will beat Team Cuba.
Team USA faces Team Mexico on March 11 at 10 p.m.
The Dominican Republic Will Win
Will Murphy ’23
The World Baseball Classic, featuring some of the brightest stars in baseball who represent their countries, kicks off later this month. The USA team is coming off its first-ever championship in 2017 and will look to defend its title with a lineup stacked with MLB all-stars. Team USA’s lineup has no shortage of talent and looks to have a well-rounded offensive attack. Led by Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, and Paul Goldschmidt, the team’s lineup has incredible firepower which should be able to keep them close in every game. One concern for Team USA is their pitching. Their starting pitching is the main concern, with a rotation headlined by Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. Wainwright has had a storied MLB career as a dominant starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, but it is fair to question if he can maintain his high level of play at the age of 41. Their bullpen, however, should be able to help pick up the slack and help the team close out late leads throughout the tournament. Devin Williams and Paul Pressy are two of the most successful relievers in the game over the past few seasons and should have no problem filling late-inning roles for Team USA.
Despite all this talent suiting up for Team USA, it will be far from a cakewalk for the reigning champions. Their primary competition is the Dominican Republic team, armed with the talent to compete with Team USA. Led by some of the brightest young stars in the game, including Rafael Devers, Juan Soto, and Vlad Guerrero Jr., this is one of the most talented lineups ever assembled. The power in this lineup could be the x-factor throughout the tournament as many different players can hit the long ball, so opposing pitchers will have to be careful with every pitch. On that note, pitching is another immense strength of the Dominican Republic’s squad. They are led by Sandy Alcántara, last year’s unanimous selection for the National League’s Cy Young award, which is given to the best pitcher in each league. Sliding in behind Alcántara is Christian Javier, who sported a stellar 2.54 earned runs per game and nears the top of the leagues in strikeouts. Finally, the backend of the Dominican Republic’s bullpen is just as impressive as the rest of the roster. Rafael Montero and Gregory Soto are two of the best relievers in baseball and should help secure any late leads. Ultimately, this year’s World Baseball Classic may end up being a battle between Team USA and the Dominican Republic for the championship. While both lineups are incredibly potent, and both squads have impressive bullpens, the Dominican Republic’s edge over team USA in starting pitching may prove to be the differentiator and lead to their first-ever World Baseball Classic championship.