World Baseball Classic 2023 predictions from experts

The 2023 World Baseball Classic gets underway Tuesday night, with a field of 20 international teams ready to do battle over the next two weeks.
When all is said and done, which team will be celebrating on the field at Miami’s loaned Depot Park on March 21st? And which player will cement his legacy by winning the tournament’s MVP Award?
Only time will tell, but for now, has enlisted a group of experts to offer their predictions on what this classic will have in store.
Semifinal 1: Dominican Republic over Italy
Semifinal 2: USA over Japan
Championship: United States over the Dominican Republic
MVP: Trea Turner (USA)
Good pitching will not hit well in this World Baseball Classic. Japan and the Dominican Republic have the best pitching staffs — and Roki Sasaki, in particular, is the player I’m most excited to see in this entire tournament — but the USA lineup is going to outperform both of them. And Trea Turner is going to be the catalyst for it all…that’s why he’s my MVP. A US-DR championship could feature two of the best top-to-bottom lineups ever, and while the Dominican team has a deeper staff, Mike Trout & Co. in a winner-take-all game find a way to get to them and repeat as WBC champs. Bold prediction: Italy will be this year’s Israel and make a surprise run before facing the big boys in the semi-finals. They are better than you think with a lot of big league talent on the roster.
Semifinal 1: Dominican Republic over Korea
Semifinal 2: Venezuela over Japan
Championship: Venezuela over the Dominican Republic
MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr. (Venezuela)
While Japan, the United States and the Dominican Republic are attracting a lot of attention, Venezuela might be the best team no one is talking about, especially after Ronald Acuña Jr. join the list. Now 100% healthy after returning from his 2021 ACL tear last season, Acuña is looking to re-establish himself as a perennial MVP candidate and could start by taking home the hardware in this year’s Classic. Acuña leads a loaded lineup that could also feature Jose Altuve, Salvador Perez, Gleyber Torres, Luis Arraez and World Baseball Classic veteran Miguel Cabrera, who is entering the final season of his illustrious career. The Venezuelans are also deep in the field – Pablo López, Martín Pérez, Jesús Luzardo, Eduardo Rodriguez and Luis Garcia all have big starting experience, and Phillies teammates Ranger Suárez and José Alvarado showed their ability in the postseason in 2022. It won’t be an easy road for the Venezuelan team, which shares the pool with DR and Puerto Rico and may have to play the USA already in the quarter-finals, but this squad has the talent to win it all.
Semifinal 1: Dominican Republic over Cuba
Semifinal 2: Japan over the US
Championship: Dominican Republic over Japan
MVP: Jeremy Peña (Dominican Republic)
Peña already has an ALCS and World Series MVP, and you can expect his postseason accomplishments to continue to multiply. This tournament is going to be so much fun to watch and I’m really excited to see each of these teams. I could see Puerto Rico, Venezuela, or Mexico making my picks on the P and D sides wrong, and on the other hand, I could see Korea or the Netherlands doing it—or any team, really. I expect this team in the Dominican Republic to dominate, and there were so many options for a potential MVP, which speaks to that depth. This is going to be the best WBC ever and it feels like we have at least three super teams on our hands with the Dominican Republic, USA and Samurai Japan. Here we go.
Semifinal 1: Dominican Republic over the Netherlands
Semifinal 2: USA over Japan
Championship: Dominican Republic over the United States
MVP: Julio Rodriguez (Dominican Republic)
Many teams in this year’s tournament have an obvious weakness. Maybe it’s not having enough pitching, maybe it’s bad defense, maybe it’s just not having enough professional hitters. Team DR has none of those problems. They have a reigning Cy Young winner leading their staff, they have an infield and outfield fit for an All-Star team, they have a bullpen full of World Series-winning arms. Even their GM, at age 42, still strikes fear into a pitcher’s mind when he steps into the batter’s box.
Holland is my pick to make some noise this year. They have a talented infield, good coaching and a good mix of veterans who have performed well in past Classics. I’m just not sure they have enough starting pitching to get them past the powerful Dominican lineup. Team USA’s offense matches up pretty well with DR, but like the Dutch, the depth of their pitching could be an issue. Juan Soto said that Team Dominican Republic is a Dream Team, and well, Dream Teams don’t usually lose.
Semifinal 1: Dominican Republic over Cuba
Semifinal 2: Japan over Venezuela
Championship: Japan over the Dominican Republic
MVP: Shohei Ohtani (Japan)
Even without Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Dominican Republic looks like a powerhouse. Have you seen that lineup? And did I mention they also have the reigning National League Cy Young winner in Sandy Alcantara? I can easily see them winning their second title in the history of the event. But then you also have the reigning champions, the USA, with arguably a better team than they had in 2017. Venezuela looks like a solid team. Mexico could be the dark horse in the Classic, and Puerto Rico is on the way after not winning the last two finals. But what do they all have in common? They play on the same side of the bracket. That’s the main reason I’m leaning towards Japan. They have the talent and experience in international events, and they have Shohei Ohtani, who hasn’t missed an opportunity to start sending balls to the moon in preparation for the event. Japan wins its third World Baseball Classic title by defeating the Dominican Republic in a spectacular game.
Semifinal 1: Dominican Republic over Korea
Semifinal 2: Japan over the US
Championship: Japan over the Dominican Republic
MVP: Roki Sasaki (Japan)
There are, in my opinion, three top teams in this tournament. But with USA’s starting pitching lagging far behind Japan’s and the Dominican Republic’s, it’s pretty easy for me to come up with a final pair, and who wouldn’t want to see “clearly the best starting pitching” (Japan) against “maybe the best lineup ever” (Dominican)? I’m going with Japan simply because I think there’s so much high-level non-MLB talent there that American fans don’t know about. So sure, focus on Yu Darvish, Shohei Ohtani and Lars Nootbaar. But I’m most excited to see Munetaka Murakami (56 homers last year), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (back-to-back winner of Japan’s highest pitching award) and most Sasaki, just 21 years old, who threw a perfect 19-strikeout game last year. That’s good enough to take the championship here.
Semifinal 1: Japan over Venezuela
Semifinal 2: Dominican Republic over Korea
Championship: Japan over the Dominican Republic
MVP: Munetaka Murakami (Japan)
Shohei Ohtani warned us when he said he wasn’t even the best player on Samurai Japan. While you might not believe him (we certainly don’t), that should tell you a lot about how deep this team is, with slugger Munetaka Murakami and pitching studs Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto leading the way along with Ohtani. Take all that talent, plus the fact that they’ve been training together for much longer than other superpowers like Team USA and the Dominican Republic, and there’s my favorite to win the Classic for a third time. As for an upset, all the major league starters on Team Venezuela will lead Ronald Acuña Jr. and company to the semifinals after sending Team USA home during the quarterfinal single-elimination match in Miami.
Semifinal 1: Mexico over Korea
Semifinal 2: Japan over the US
Championship: Japan over Mexico
MVP: Shohei Ohtani (Japan)
Will I quickly regret not picking either the USA or the Dominican Republic – arguably the two best teams in the tournament – ​​to even enter the championship? Possibly, or maybe even likely. But it’s more fun to go a little under the radar. Mexico’s roster is probably stronger than you think, led by a starting rotation that frankly now looks better than a somewhat depleted American group. But when it comes to pitching, no one can match the elite arms on Team Japan. That includes Ohtani, who looks to make his mark on the World Baseball Classic and bring his country its third championship in five tries.
Semifinal 1: Korea over Mexico
Semifinal 2: Dominican Republic over Japan
Championship: Dominican Republic over Korea
MVP: Rafael Devers (Dominican Republic)
I’m bullish on Mexico, whose roster could be a bit overlooked with the star power of the Dominican Republic, USA and Japan. A starting rotation that includes Julio Urías, José Urquidy and Taijuan Walker is formidable. Losing Alejandro Kirk hurts, but I still think they have just enough offense and just enough bullpen to go far. However, the Dominican Republic, despite injuries that rule out names like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and others (and Juan Soto’s availability delayed), too much talent to lose, even against USA’s juggernaut lineup. With some under-the-radar talent of their own, Korea reaches the finals, but DR will not be denied and take their second WBC title in the past three tournaments.
Semifinal 1: Korea over the Dominican Republic
Semifinal 2: Japan over the US
Championship: Korea over Japan
MVP: Chang-Mo Koo
The top 4 teams (heck, you could make the case for 6 to 8) are so overpowered, so loaded, and so incredibly gifted at every position that it’s nearly impossible to choose between them. Do you like the Dominican Republic lineup that could see them hit around 800 home runs again? What about the USA with potential Hall of Famers all over the diamond? Ultimately though, I think our final will feature the two most balanced teams possible. Japan doesn’t just have Shohei Ohtani — what else can we possibly say about him? — but they have a superstar at third base in Munetaka Murakami (56 home runs last season), young superstar Roki Sasaki and back-to-back Sawamura winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Korea matches up quite nicely with future MLB star Jung-Hoo Lee in the outfield, dynamite defense up the middle with Tommy Edman, Ha-Seong Kim and catcher Euiji Yang, and perhaps the best bullpen in the tournament. If Korea and Japan played 10 times, Japan might win 7 of them, but in this one winner-take-all game, I give it to Korea by the slimmest of margins. Having failed to escape the first round in the past two tournaments, the country will be playing with a chip on its shoulder and may just surprise the world with its performance.
Semi-final 1: USA over Cuba
Semi-final 2: Dominican Republic over Japan
Championship: Dominican Republic over the United States
MVP: Manny Machado (DR)
There are some loaded teams in the WBC field, but none as stacked as the Dominican Republic. Machado still has to wonder how Adam Jones robbed him of a home run in the 2017 WBC, but this time he does enough to lead his team to the title and win MVP honors in the process.

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