Ranking the top 50 players in the 2023 World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic is back after a six-year absence – originally scheduled for 2021 but postponed due to COVID-19 – and the 2023 version will be bigger and better than ever, with more teams and all-star lineups.
The field is expanding from 16 to 20 teams, including newcomers from the UK, Nicaragua and the Czech Republic. While the British roster is mostly American and Bahamas, the Czech team is almost entirely made up of Czechs with jobs outside of baseball, such as a high school geography teacher who moonlights as the team’s center fielder.
The teams are divided into four groups of five teams with round robin games in Taichung, Taiwan; Tokyo; Phoenix; and Miami. The top two teams in each pool advance to the single-elimination bracket of eight. The Dominican Republic and the United States are the two favorites, and while social media is raving about the potential Dominican lineup, the US lineup looks just as strong. The US is the reigning champion, although Markus Stroman, the 2017 WBC MVP, will be competing for Puerto Rico this time around.
Let’s rank the top 50 players participating in this year’s WBC. Instead of an arbitrary ranking, I created a WAR score – the average of each player’s total WAR for 2022 from Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, as well as their predicted WAR from ZiPS and Steamer projection systems. For leading international players, we will make a subjective assessment. Player #1? It was an easy call.