World Baseball Classic 2023 Predictions from Experts

The 2023 World Baseball Classic begins Tuesday night, with 20 international teams slated to take the field over the next two weeks.

When it’s all said and done, which team will be celebrating at Lone Depot Park in Miami on March 21? Which player will cement his legacy by taking home the tournament’s MVP award?

Only time will tell, but for now, MLB.com enlisted a panel of experts to make their predictions on what this classic has in store.

Semi Final 1: Dominican Republic over Italy
Semi Final 2: America over Japan
Championship: United States over the Dominican Republic
MVP: Tree Turner (USA)

Good pitching is not going to beat good hitting in this World Baseball Classic. Japan and the Dominican Republic have great pitching staffs — especially Rookie Sasaki, who is the player I’m most excited about this entire tournament — but the USA lineup is going to outshine both of them. And Trey Turner is going to be the catalyst for the whole thing … that’s why he’s my MVP. A US-DR championship could feature two great lineups from top to bottom, and despite the deep personnel on the Dominican team, in a winner-take-all game, Mike Trout & co. Repeat for them and as WBC champions. Bold prediction: Italy will be Israel this year and make a surprise run before going out against the big boys in the semi-finals. They’re better than you think, and there’s a lot of big league talent on that roster.

Semi Final 1: Dominican Republic over Korea
Semi Final 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 getting a lot of attention, Venezuela may be the best team no one is talking about, especially after Ronald Acuna Jr. joined the roster. Now 100% healthy after returning from a 2021 ACL tear last season, Acuña is poised to re-establish himself as a perennial MVP candidate and could take home the hardware in this year’s Classic alongside Jose Altuve, Salvador Perez, Gleyber Torres, Luis Arrez and World Baseball Classic winner Miguel Cabrera. Aguna leads a loaded line-up that also includes, as he enters the final season of his illustrious career. The Venezuelans are also deep in the outfield — Pablo Lopez, Martin Perez, Jesus Luzardo, Eduardo Rodriguez and Luis Garcia all have extensive starting experience, and Phillies teammates Ranger Suarez and Jose Alvarado have shown their potential in the 2022 posts. It won’t be an easy road for Venezuela, which shares a pool with the DR and Puerto Rico and will have to play the USA before the quarter-finals, but this team has the talent to win it all.

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Semi Final 1: Dominican Republic over Cuba
Semi Final 2: Japan over America
Championship: Dominican Republic over Japan
MVP: Jeremy Pena (Dominican Republic)

Bina already has an ALCS and World Series MVP, and expect his postseason accomplishments to continue to mount. This match will be a lot of fun to watch and I am really excited to see each of these teams. I could see Puerto Rico, Venezuela or Mexico wrongly draw in Pools C and D, while on the other hand, I could see Korea or the Netherlands doing so – or Any team, indeed. I expect this Dominican Republic team to be dominant, and there were so many options for MVP that speaks to that depth. It will be the best WBC ever and we have at least three super teams with Dominican Republic, USA and Samurai Japan. Here we go.

Semi Final 1: Dominican Republic over the Netherlands
Semi Final 2: America over Japan
Championship: Dominican Republic over the United States
MVP: Julio Rodriguez (Dominican Republic)

Several teams have obvious weaknesses in this year’s tournament. Maybe it’s not good enough pitching, maybe it’s bad defense, maybe it’s not enough professional hitters. Team DR has none of those problems. They have a Cy Young winner leading their staff, they have infield and outfield fit for the All-Star team, and they have a bullpen loaded with World Series winning weapons. Their GM, at 42, still strikes fear into a pitcher’s mind when he steps into the batter’s box.

The Netherlands is my pick to make some noise this year. They have a good mix of talented infield, good coaching and experienced players who have performed well in past classics. I’m not sure they have enough starting position to get past the powerful Dominican lineup. Team USA’s offense matches up well with DR, but like the Dutch, their pitching depth could be an issue. Juan Soto said that the Dominican Republic team is a dream team, and dream teams usually don’t lose.

Semi Final 1: Dominican Republic over Cuba
Semi Final 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. Did you see that line? And did I mention they also have a National League Cy Young winner in Sandy Alcantara? I can easily see them winning their second title in the history of the event. But you also have the reigning champions, the US, with a better team than in 2017. Venezuela looks like a solid team. Mexico may be the dark horse of the Classic, with Puerto Rico having failed to win the last two finals. But what do they all have in common? They play on the same side of the bracket. That is the main reason why I lean towards Japan. They have talent and experience in international events, and Shohei Ohtani has not missed an opportunity to send balls to the moon in preparation for the event. Japan would capture its third title in the World Baseball Classic, defeating the Dominican Republic in a thrilling game.

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Semi Final 1: Dominican Republic over Korea
Semi Final 2: Japan over America
Championship: Japan over the Dominican Republic
MVP: Rogi Sasaki (Japan)

In my opinion, there are three top teams in this competition. But with America’s starting pitching lagging far behind Japan and the Dominican Republic, it’s pretty easy for me to go to the final pair, and who wouldn’t want to see “clearly the best opener” (Japan).Possibly the best lineup of all time” (Dominican)? I’m going with Japan because I think there’s a lot of high-level non-MLB talent there that American fans don’t know about. Of course, focus on Yu Darvish, Shohei Ohtani and Lars Knootbar. But I’m excited to see Munedaka Murakami (56 homers last year), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (winner of Japan’s highest pitching award) and the 21-year-old Sasaki, who mostly threw 19-strikeouts. Last year’s game. It is enough to take the championship here.

Semi Final 1: Japan over Venezuela
Semi Final 2: Dominican Republic over Korea
Championship: Japan over the Dominican Republic
MVP: Munedaka Murakami (Japan)

Shohei Ohtani warned us that he wasn’t even the best player in samurai Japan. Even if you don’t believe him (we certainly don’t), slugger Munedaka Murakami and pitching studs Rogi Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto alongside Ohtani should tell you a lot about how deep this team is. Take all of that talent with the fact that they’ve been training together longer than other superpowers like Team USA and the Dominican Republic, and it’s my favorite to win the Classic for a third time. During the quarterfinal single-elimination game in Miami, all of the big league starters on the Venezuelan team will lead Ronald Acuna Jr. and company to the semifinals.

Semi Final 1: Mexico over Korea
Semi Final 2: Japan over America
Championship: Japan over Mexico
MVP: Shohei Ohtani (Japan)

Will I soon regret not choosing the United States or the Dominican Republic — arguably the top two teams in the tournament — to play in the championship game? Maybe, or maybe even. But going under the radar is a lot of fun. Mexico’s roster may be stronger than you think, led by a starting rotation that, frankly, is better than a now somewhat depleted U.S. squad. But when it comes to pitching, no one can match the elite arms in the Japan squad. That includes Ohtani, who looks to make his mark on the World Baseball Classic and bring his country its third championship in five tries.

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Semi Final 1: Korea over Mexico
Semi Final 2: Dominican Republic over Japan
Championship: Dominican Republic over Korea
MVP: Rafael Devers (Dominican Republic)

Mexico’s roster may be somewhat overlooked with star power in the Dominican Republic, United States and Japan. A starting rotation that includes Julio Urias, Jose Urgudi and Taijuan Walker is strong. Losing Alejandro Kirk hurts, but I still think they have enough offense and enough bullpen to go far. However, the Dominican Republic, despite taking on names like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (and the late availability of Juan Soto), has too much talent to lose even against America’s juggernaut lineup. With a somewhat under-the-radar talent of its own, Korea reaches the final, but DR will not be denied and secures its second WBC title in the last three matches.

Semi Final 1: Korea over the Dominican Republic
Semi Final 2: Japan over America
Championship: Korea over Japan
MVP: Sang-mo Goo

The top 4 teams (heck, you could make a case for 6 to 8) are so powerful, so loaded, and so incredibly talented at every position that it’s nearly impossible to choose between them. Would you like the Dominican Republic’s lineup to hit 800 home runs again? What would America look like with Hall of Famers all over the diamond? In the end, I think our final will have two very balanced teams. Japan isn’t just about Shohei Ohtani — what else can we say about him? — but there is a superstar at third base in Munedaka Murakami (56 home runs last season), young superstar Roki Sasaki and Sawamura hitter Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Correa matches up very well with future MLB star Jung-Hoo Lee in the outfield, dynamite defense in the middle with Tommy Edman, Ha-Seong Kim and catcher Yuji 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 game, winner-take-all, I’d give it to Korea by a small margin. After failing to make it past the first round in the last two tournaments, the country will be playing with a chip on its shoulder and could surprise the world with its performance.

Semi Final 1: America on Cuba
Semi Final 2: Dominican Republic over Japan
Championship: Dominican Republic over America
MVP: Manny Machado (DR)

There are some loaded teams in the WBC field, but none as stacked as the Dominican Republic. Machado must still be wondering how Adam Jones robbed him of a home run in the 2017 WBC, but this time he’s doing enough to lead his team to the title, earning MVP honors in the process.

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