The fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic is here. Following a two-year, pandemic-related hiatus, the international returns in 2023 with its largest field yet.
Baseball’s answer to the World Cup, the World Baseball Classic is an international baseball tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) in partnership with MLB to grant the winner the title of “World Champion.” While the four previous versions had only 16 teams, this year’s tournament will have 20, with the United States looking to repeat as champions after beating Puerto Rico 8-0 in the last WBC back in 2017.
Following two qualifying events last September, the Classic is set to begin with pool play on Tuesday, March 7th, and will continue around the globe for two weeks, culminating in the championship game at LoanDepot Park in Miami on Tuesday, March 21st.
World Baseball Classic Schedule:
The complete schedule for the World Baseball Classic is as follows:
- Pool A: March 8-12
- Pool B: March 9-13
- Pool C: March 11-15
- Pool D: March 11-15
- Quarterfinal 1: March 15-16 in Tokyo (winners and runners-up from Pools A and B)
- Quarterfinal 2: March 17-18 in Miami (winners and runners-up from Pools C and D)
- Semifinals: March 19-20 in Miami
- Championship game: March 21 in Miami
World Baseball Classic Teams
Pool A – Taichung, Taiwan
- Cuba (+2800 odds to win)
- Chinese Taipei (+6500 odds)
- Netherlands (+6500 odds)
- Italy (+15000 odds)
- Panama (+15000 odds)
Pool B – Tokyo, Japan
- Japan (+275 odds to win)
- Korea (+1200 odds)
- Australia (+13000 odds)
- China (+20000 odds)
- Czech Republic (+25000 odds)
Pool C – Phoenix, AZ, USA
- United States of America (+250 odds to win)
- Mexico (+1800 odds)
- Colombia (+13000 odds)
- Canada (+6500 odds)
- Great Britain (+20000 odds)
Pool D – Miami, Fla., USA
- Dominican Republic (+210 odds to win)
- Venezuela (+900 odds)
- Puerto Rico (+1200 odds)
- Israel (+15000 odds)
- Nicaragua (+20000 odds)
How to Watch the World Baseball Classic:
Games will be available live on FOX, FS1, FS2, Tubi, and FOX Deportes. Highlights, recaps, condensed games, and other tournament coverage will also be available on MLB.com, WorldBaseballClassic.com, MLB Network, and in the MLB App.
The daily schedule with TV information for each game can be found here.
What to Know About the Favorites:
The Dominican Republic and Team USA have the most name recognition in the tournament with essentially their entire teams being made up of MLB players. The Dominican team could have the best lineup you will ever see as they are set to feature hitters like Manny Machado, Rafael Devers, Wander Franco, Julio Rodriguez, Eloy Jimenez, Juan Soto, Teoscar Hernandez, and more.
The Americans, who won the last World Baseball Classic, will counter with a lineup that features Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Kyle Schwarber, Paul Goldschmidt, Pete Alonso, Nolan Arenado, Trea Turner and J.T. Realmuto. However, the starting pitching may be a problem for an American team that essentially has Adam Wainwright as its ace.
That pales in comparison to the team from Japan, which might have the best pitching in the entire tournament, led by a rotation that features Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, and Roki Sasaki, a 21-year-old ace in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB) in Japan who gained notoriety last year when he threw a perfect game with 19 strikeouts and then threw eight perfect innings in his next start.
World Baseball Classic Best Bets
When games begin, you will be able to bet on them as you would any baseball game. Each game will have moneyline, total, and spread odds, which can be found at any major sportsbook. You can also bet on World Baseball Classic futures, which entails betting on who will win the entire tournament.
The Dominican Republic (+210) is the betting favorite at the World Baseball Classic and for good reason as their lineup is tremendous. However, +210 doesn’t give you a lot of room for profit, and betting on the favorite is never exciting. They are certainly a good bet and will almost undoubtedly emerge from Pool D, but we’ll cover some longer odds bets that could be valuable.
The roster for Japan (+300) is excellent, featuring Ohtani, Darvish, and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar from Major League Baseball. However, Japan’s NPB is the second-most competitive baseball league in the world after MLB, allowing Japan to produce strong talent on a yearly basis, like former NPB stars Kodai Senga and Masataka Yoshida, who both signed lucrative deals with the Mets and Red Sox respectively this winter.
Japan is a great bet to win their pool and would then face the runner-up of Pool A, which likely means Cuba or the Netherlands. Japan would have either Ohtani or Darvish on full rest for that game and then would have the other, or Sasaki, to throw the semifinal game. Given the format of the World Baseball Classic, Japan can throw Ohtani, Darvish, and Sasaki twice each on full rest if they make it all the way to the finals, which gives them a major advantage.
We also can’t forget about Puerto Rico (+1200) since they were the runners-up in the last tournament. They will be managed by 10-time all-star Yadier Molina and feature a talented lineup with players like Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Kiké Hernandez, Jose Berrios, Marcus Stroman, and Edwin Diaz. Many of them are veterans who played in the 2017 tournament and have shown that they can produce in big moments.
If they weren’t in a pool with the Dominican Republic, they would likely have much better odds, but they can certainly come in second and then claw their way through the knockout stages.
Lastly, the team from Korea Republic (+1200) is another intriguing long-odds bet for the World Baseball Classic. The KBO is another strong overseas league and this team is essentially a KBO All-Star team with some MLB players as well. The Koreans were runners-up in 2009 and they seemed almost assured of winning Pool B. They would then face the winner of Pool A in the quarterfinals, which is the weakest of the pools and would likely be Cuba or Netherlands, who Korea can beat.
That would set up a matchup with the Dominican Republic in the semi-finals, but if you’re telling me I can get (+1200) odds on a team that feels destined to reach the semi-finals at worst, that’s not a bad risk.