World Baseball Classic Power Rankings: Is USA or Dominican Republic on top?


It’s time for classic baseball! The International Baseball Tournament returns for the first time since 2017 and features some of the toughest lineups in baseball possibly… ever.

In its fifth edition, the World Baseball Classic will begin on March 8th. The game of billiards will be held in Japan, Taiwan, Florida and Arizona with the participation of 20 teams. Two will advance from each pool to fight in the quarterfinals in Tokyo and Miami. From now on, games will be held in Miami, the semi-finals will take place on March 19 and 20, and the championship game will take place on March 21 to conclude the tournament.

Which top team will win?

Will Mike Trout help the United States defend his title in 2017? Can Japan win its third championship with Shohei Otani at the helm? Or will a strong team from the Dominican Republic led by Manny Machado and Juan Soto win a second title?

We ranked all 20 participants – from those with the most chance of winning to those who are just happy to be there. Sportzshala’s Alden Gonzalez, David Schonfield, and Bradford Doolittle explain the rankings, identify the player to know for each team, and give us the MLB equivalent of each of the top teams.

Let’s dive in.

Best chance to win

1. Dominican Republic

Why he can win it all: I mean, just look at this lineup. The Dominican position player boasts 34 All-Star trips, 20 silver sluggers and six gold gloves. People like Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, who are now in the later stages of their careers, have received a fair share of that accolade. But this team is adorned with numerous superstars in their prime – Machado, Soto, Rafael Devers, Julio Rodriguez, Vander Franco, Jeremy Peña. It’s tiresome.

The only question here is how Dominican Rodney Linares will divide playing time, especially at second base, third base and shortstop, who are incredibly crowded. The supply staff is almost as lethal, led by current National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara and has a slew of legitimate, late bullpen players (Rafael Montero, Gregory Soto and Camilo Doval, to name but a few).

The player should know: Christian Javier burst onto the scene in Game 4 of the World Series, throwing the first six no-hitters. It was an enduring image of what was already a brilliant season for the 25-year-old right-hander with a devastating fastball. Javier, originally raised for $10,000, has since signed a five-year, $64 million extension with the Houston Astros and is poised to take the next step as one of the most dominant hands in the sport during the 2023 regular season. First, he will be a key member of the Dominican Republic’s starting rotation, which also includes Johnny Cueto and Roanci Contreras. It’s still March, so Alcantara can’t carry that staff like the Miami Marlins did last season. If the Dominican Republic is going to live up to high expectations, Javier will probably have to dominate as well.

They remind us of the MLB team: New York Mets 2023 – if they signed Carlos Correa. Correa’s presence would give the Mets a ludicrous – and bordering on unfair – amount of talent across their entire roster, paired with a devastating rotation top and a scary bullpen back end. This is the Dominican Republic team this year. It features top-notch defenders, dangerous base invaders, amazing sluggers and some of the best clean hitters in the world, all backed up by a powerful array of proven power weapons. There’s a reason DR is a huge favorite.

— Gonzalez

2. USA

Why he can win it all: The USA is the reigning champion and their roster is the strongest they have ever put together in the World Baseball Classic. And includes Trout for the first time. Indeed, while social media has initiated a love affair with the Dominican team, and the Dominicans are in first place here according to 2022 data, the US lineup is stronger. Using wRC+, Team USA introduces No. 3 forward since 2022 (Paul Goldschmidt), No. 4 (Trout), No. 8 (Nolan Arenado), No. 12 (Mookie Betts), No. 14 (Pete Alonso) and No. 16 (Jeff McNeil) ). Oh, plus he has the best catcher in the game at JT Realmuto, NL home run leader Kyle Schwarber, and two of the best all-around players in Trea Turner and Kyle Tucker. This roster is absolutely complete and should be considered one of the best in the history of the sport, be it the WBC or even the All-Star Game.

The player should know: Brady Singer. There is no clear ace on Team USA, and manager Mark DeRosa can rely on St. Louis Cardinals veterans Adam Wainwright and Miles Mykolas for the most important games, but watch out for Singer. He may have had the best 2022 of any U.S. starter — he just came in with the Kansas City Royals, so no one noticed. USA has a deep bullpen led by Devin Williams, Ryan Pressley, Jason Adam, Daniel Bard and Adam Ottavino, but the starters will also need to prove themselves.

It reminds us of the MLB team: The 2022 Los Angeles Dodgers, who led the majors in both scoring and fewest runs allowed. Other teams can equal or surpass the US in starting pitching, but no team has an overall US pitching depth of 1 to 15. Of course, we all know what happened to the Dodgers in the postseason.

— Shenfield

3. Japan

Why he can win it all: Japan has won the World Baseball Classic twice already and is back with perhaps the best and most balanced roster that brings together a compelling mix of proven major league talent, young NPB stars and veteran Japanese players who know what it’s like to navigate tournaments like this. . We know the likes of Otani, Yu Darvish and Lars Nutbaar. But Masataka Yoshida signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Boston Red Sox this offseason and is a great hitter. Munetaka Murakami has won back-to-back Central League MVP titles and is only 23 years old. Yoshinobu Yamamoto is regarded as the best pitcher in Japan with back-to-back Sawamura Awards (NPB equivalent of Sai Young). And Rocky Sasaki might even be better.

The player should know: Scouts and major league executives are already salivating at the prospect of someday getting their hands on Sasaki, the 21-year-old right-hander who hits his triple-digit fastball and lost perfect games almost consecutively last season. Sasaki finished the year with a 2.02 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 129 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Murakami hit a .318/.458/.711 slash and hit a career-high 56 home runs. At the end of last season, speaking about the prospect of facing each other in the WBC, Otani told Trout that he was probably not the best pitcher and not the best striker for the Japanese team. Trout didn’t believe him. Soon, after getting to know Sasaki and Murakami intimately, he may well.

It reminds us of the MLB team: Seattle Mariners 2001. Led by a Japanese rookie named Ichiro Suzuki, these Mariners may not have had the sexiest line-ups, but they did it well. They folded, hit mid-range, stole bases, played solid defense, and served unusually well. By the end of the season, they had won a whopping 116 games, establishing themselves as one of the most dominant teams in recent memory. It could be the Samurai of Japan.

— Gonzalez

4. Venezuela

Why he can win it all: Venezuela probably has the third best squad in the tournament and is especially busy in midfield with José Altuve, Andrés Jiménez, Luis Arráez and Gleiber Torres. If he wants to get all those bats in the lineup, he can move Jimenez to shortstop, Arraez to first and let Altuva DH (with Eugenio Suarez or Eduardo Escobar at third base). Ronald Acuna Jr., Salvador Perez and Anthony Santander add power. Venezuela has had talented teams in the past, but has only reached the semi-finals once in four WBC World Championships (back in 2009). However, the team has never had this depth of kickoff with the likes of Martin Pérez, Pablo Lopez, Jesus Luzardo, Eduardo Rodriguez, Luis Garcia and Ranger Suarez – deep enough that some of that group could be used to assist.

The player should know: Akuna’s strength waned last season when he returned from ACL surgery in 2021. This will be an opportunity to show everyone that he is back at full strength and still one of the best players in the game and he definitely has the firepower to lead the offense. if he gets hot.

It reminds us of the MLB team: The 2017 Houston Astros, which had a deep and balanced roster including the all-star mid-infield duo Altuve and Correa. When the bullpen crashed early in the playoffs, they still had such great starting pitching depth that manager AJ Hinch was able to use them outside the bullpen when the Astros won the World Series. Let’s hope Venezuela takes the garbage out of this comparison.

— Shenfield

5. Puerto Rico

Why he can win it all: After finishing second in the past WBC, Puerto Rico will try to channel some of the 2021 Mets swagger with the flamboyant middle infield of Javi Baez and Francisco Lindor, and Edwin Diaz hiding in the back of the bullpen. Speaking of swagger, manager Yadier Molina will show his unique combination of bravado and drive in his new role. While a number of key hitters for Puerto Rico are coming out of the game at a low level – Baez, Eddie Rosario, Quique Hernandez – it also means they have a lot to prove. And Molina has a messy bullpen to work with Diaz, his brother Alexis, Jorge Lopez, Alex Claudio and Emilio Pagan.

The player should know: MJ Melendez is looking to build on his solid MLB debut last season and is doing well. While he’s unlikely to see much time behind the plate in a lineup that includes Martin Maldonado and Christian Vazquez and is under the care of Molina – one of the greatest defenders in history – Melendez should feature in the corner. DH mix as one of the few left-wing swingers on the Puerto Rican list.

It reminds us of the MLB team: Queens 2015. Lots of aggressive hitters, flashy defense and athleticism, and a bullpen that can close the deal if you get…


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