One week from today, the 2023 World Baseball Classic final will take place in Miami. We’re already a week in to the tournament, which has provided a lot of entertainment and surprises in pool play. With one week down in the WBC, here are six thoughts on the action over the past couple of days.
Related: Five Former Major Leaguers That Have Made an Impact at the 2023 World Baseball Classic
1. Who is the most disappointing team?
At the end of pool play tomorrow, 12 teams will be axed from the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Eight have been already shown the door, including 2017 semifinalist Team Netherlands and powerhouse Team Korea.
Let’s start with Korea, which saw things fall off the rails after an upset loss to Australia. It was a good tournament for the likes of Baek-ho Kang and Jung-Hoo Lee, the latter of whom went 6-14 in what was a probable audition for MLB teams this upcoming winter. But flush with talent in a weaker group, it’s hard to state that this wasn’t a disappointment.
On the other hand, Team Netherlands started the tournament 2-0 in Pool A. The Dutch beat both Cuba and Panama, both teams that sported a fair amount of talent. Xander Bogaerts and free agent Jurickson Profar did fine, but failures against Italy and Chinese Taipei killed what could have been a promising run.
2. Surprises from Taipei and Great Britain
Prior to the start of the tournament, three teams — Czech Republic, Chinese Taipei, and Great Britain —looked to be serious underdogs. However, all three did accrue at least one win in the tourney.
Chinese Taipei’s story is something else. Powered by utilityman Yu Chang, who tallied seven hits and eight RBIs in pool play, the host nation went 2-2 before being eliminated on a tiebreaker.
Great Britain, meanwhile, saw star catching prospect Harry Ford play a key role in a massive victory over Columbia. With Ford and Jazz Chisholm Jr. in tow for the future, Great Britain’s future is quite bright.
3. Let’s Talk About Team USA’s Pitching
When we made our predictions for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, we predicted that the defending champion Team USA would be bounced in the quarterfinals. Why? Pitching, which has been a real concern so far for the United States thus far.
Yes, Lance Lynn pitched exceptionally well against Canada. But, the pitching the US received against Mexico was not ideal. Because of this format and when it comes on the calendar, it’s not hard to see why marquee names like Gerrit Cole, Shane Bieber, and Max Fried wouldn’t want to pitch in the WBC. Team USA boasts an incredible amount of offense, but pitching will be the key for the United States moving forward.
4. A Look at the Quarters in Tokyo
The 2023 World Baseball Classic quarterfinals start Wednesday morning in the United States. Australia will take on Cuba on March 15 (6 AM ET), followed by Italy and Japan on March 16 (6 AM ET).
We picked this exact matchup a week ago in our predictions, so we’ll stick with Japan to move on to Miami. In the other matchup, we’ll take Cuba over Australia.
5. Who’s making it out of Pool D?
Pool C is in chaos at the moment. Should Mexico defeat Great Britain on March 14, the final of pool play will see three 2-1 teams compete for two spots. But, the “pool of death” in Pool D is really something to behold.
Assuming the Dominican Republic wins against Israel, the game on March 15 between Puerto Rico and the DR will be must-watch television. Both teams would come in at 2-1, with the loser of that game being eliminated. We picked the Dominican Republic, with all of its star power, to win it all in 2023. But, the loss to Venezuela made the path much harder.
Can probable starter Johnny Cueto push the Dominican Republic through to the quarters? We’ll see.
6. Hats Tip to Hebbert
We can’t end this without mentioning now-Tigers pitching prospect Duque Hebbert from Team Nicaragua. Hebbert struck out three MLB All-Stars — Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Julio Rodriguez — in Nicaragua’s loss to the Dominican Republic. That performance earned Hebbert a contract with the Tigers. Even though this tournament is a precursor to the MLB regular season, this tournament can change the lives of countless ballplayers. Hebbert is one such individual.