When Baseball Becomes a Classic

When the World Cup of Soccer kicks off once ever four years, there are only a handful of clubs that have a reasonable chance of winning. Probably the longest odds to win occurred in 1950 when Uruguay won the Cup over Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. Otherwise the winners have come from a select group of eight countries. Why even bother to bet if the club of your choice doesn’t have a chance? Sure, there have been long shots that have made the finals but only one of eight of these countries came through victorious.

It’s quite the same with the World Baseball Classic. Although the history of the WBC isn’t quite as long—soccer’s World Cup started in 1930, while the WBC kicked off in 2006. Out of 20 teams—expanded from 16 six years ago—there are only three dominant teams capable of realistically winning the tournament—Dominican Republic, USA and Japan, ironically the three teams who have won the first four WBCs. Of course, we should qualify that all three teams are the best “on paper.”

Odds to Win WBC

Team Odds
Dominican Republic +230
USA +240
Japan +280
Puerto Rico +800
Venezuela +1000
South Korea +1200
Cuba +1800
Mexico +1800

Odds Courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook

With 20 teams, each team will need to play four games instead of three to advance out of the opening round. This puts the favorite, Dominican Republic, in the most danger of not advancing because it’s in Pool D, the “Pool of Death” that includes Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Israel and Nicaragua.

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Dominican Republic Loaded with Talent

But the DR is stacked, which is why it’s the favorite to win the whole shebang. Included on their roster are some of the best power hitters in the game: Outfielders Juan Soto and Julio Rodriguez, shortstops Wander Franco, Willy Adames and Jeremy Peña, third basemen Manny Machado and Rafael Devers, first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Pitching is also strong with Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantra heading up a good staff, and to top it off, a great corps of relievers.

The U.S. isn’t that far behind, boasting some of the top hitters in the game include Captain Mike Trout, reigning National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Pete Alonso, J.T. Realmuto, Trea Turner and Tim Anderson. They possibly have the best top-to-bottom roster of the tourney. Pitching, however, is a little light with the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw having to step away because of insurance reasons, leaving Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn as the aces.

Japan is led of course the phenom Shohei Otani and his two-way game. Pitching is the strength of this team. Otani is followed by the Padres Yu Darvish and Roki Sasaki, the 21-year-old who thew Japan’s first perfect game in 28 years last season, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who has won the JPL version of the Cy Young two years running.

On the offensive side, the team unfortunately lost outfielder Seiya Suzuki to injury. They can still bring up to the plate Munetaka Murakami. He hit 56 home runs last season to break Sadaharu Oh’s single-season home run record by a Japanese-born player.

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Other Contenders

After that they quality drops off. Puerto Rico is led by its perennial stars Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Edwin Diaz and Jose Berrios. Marcus Strohman, who worked for the USA in the last WBC, leads the pitching staff.

Venezuela has a shot because it’s packed with lots of mid-level MLB talent. For the pitching staff, there are lots of choices, Ranger Suarez, Jesus Luzardo, Martin Perez, Pablo Lopez and German Marquez. In the field the selection includes Jose Altuve, first baseman/second baseman Luis Arraez and catcher Salvador Perez. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez, second baseman Gleyber Torres,second baseman/shortstop Andres Gimenez and infielder Miguel Rojas are also on the roster.

With an outside chance is Mexico, which is fielding its best roster ever. The pitching staff would make any MLB team jealous, led by NL ERA champ Julio Urias, followed up with righthander Jose Urquidy, righthander Taijuan Walker and lefthander Patrick Sandoval. The fielders include Randy Arozarena, infielder Luis Urias and outfielder Alex Verdugo, with Austin Barnes behind the plate.

Lots of fans started to watch South Korean and Taiwanese baseball during the pandemic and can name a raft of stars that are included on each team, so there are some dark horses. One team not many bettors get to see is that baseball hotbed of Cuba. For the first time, players that defected are being allowed to play for their former national team. White Sox teammates Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada lead the roster along with former all-star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

Whoever you bet on, the WBC is always lots of fun with players that play with passion for their countries. Sit back and enjoy and see if anyone can beat that Dominican Republic powerhouse.

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