After six years, the World Baseball Classic is back. The 2023 World Baseball Classic is set to begin on March 7 in the United States, with the Netherlands and Cuba set to kick things off. Both countries are a part of Pool A, arguably one of the toughest pools to project heading into the event. With that said, let’s take a look at the five teams and our picks for the top two.
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Pool A of the 2023 WBC
It’s fair to say that the Netherlands are the favorites to win this pool. The Dutch own a collection of very talented hitters, highlighted by superstar shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and a solid pitching staff. The bullpen, in particular, should be a strength for the Dutch. Long-time MLB veterans Pedro Strop and Kenley Jansen, the latter of whom was among the top closers in the game last year, should form a lock-down duo. The starting pitching staff is a bit of a question mark, but should be enough to get through the opening round.
After the Dutch, it’s pretty wide open. Chinese Taipei may be the underdog of this pool, but there’s some interesting talent to be found. Italy boasts a solid lineup that includes MLB regulars Vinnie Pasquantino and David Fletcher, while Panama’s roster includes arms like Paolo Espino and Javy Guerra.
Cuba’s national team, meanwhile, will feature longtime MLB veteran Yoenis Cespedes, alongside White Sox stars Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert. The Cuban national team won’t be as intimidating as it has been in the past, but this group should be formidable.
Our picks to advance through Pool A are the Netherlands (A1) and Italy (A2) to upset Cuba. While Italy’s pitching staff is a bit of a question mark, don’t underestimate this group’s collection of hitters. Pasquantino, David and Dominic Fletcher, as well as Brewers prospect Sal Frelick are immensely talented, and have the potential to push the Italians on to Tokyo.