The World Baseball Classic runs from March 8th to March 21. Pool play will take place in Taiwan, Japan, Phoenix, AZ, and Miami, FL, Quarter Finals will be held in Tokyo and Miami, and Semifinals and the Championship game will be hosted in Miami. Pool play will be a round-robin style tournament. The top two teams from each pool will move on to the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship are all a single elimination format. In this article, I will predict pool play, the quarterfinals, the semifinals, and then who the champion will be.
Pool A consists of Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Italy, the Netherlands, and Panama. The favorite in this pool has to be Cuba. They have the most Major Leaguers, including several all-stars and rising stars. Regarding who will finish second, this should be very tight between Chinese Taipei, Panama, and the Netherlands. In the end, the Netherlands will win the pool, and Cuba will finish second. I think both teams will go 3-1, but the Netherlands will beat Cuba head-to-head, which will be why the Netherlands will win this pool. I believe that in the game between Netherlands and Cuba that Jair Jurrens and Kenley Jansen will shut down Cuba’s offense which will lead to the Netherlands victory and pool triumph.
Pool B consists of Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and the Czech Republic. This is a pretty deep pool of talented teams. I feel the favorite is Japan, but I see three teams fighting neck and neck for the two spots in the quarterfinals. The Japanese roster has Seiya Suzuki, Yu Darvish, Roki Sasaki, Lars Nootbaar, Masataka Yoshida, and Shohei Ohtani. I could see Japan go undefeated in pool play, with Korea taking second in the Quarterfinals.
Pool C consists of Canada, Columbia, Mexico, USA, and Great Britain. I feel there are four of the five who have a shot for the two spots. All the other four rosters have many Major League baseball players, but the U.S. has the most talent by far, and they are also the defending champions from 2017. The rosters from Canada, Columbia, and Mexico are also quality rosters with many household names like Julio Urias, Patrick Sandoval, Rowdy Tellez, Cal Quantrill, Freddie Freeman, Nick Pivetta, Jose Quintana, and Gio Urshela. I believe that the US and Mexico will come out of Pool C.
Pool D consists of the Dominican Republic, Israel, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. This might be the strongest of the four pools. It is led by the Dominican Republic, with a plethora of stars on both sides of the diamond. Some of the MLB stars on the Dominican team are Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Julio Rodriguez, Sandy Alcantara, and Manny Machado. Puerto Rico has many stars as well, like Jose Berrios, Marcus Stroman, Christian Vasquez, Francisco Lindor, Javy Baez, and MJ Melendez. The Venezuela team is also star-laden. They have Pablo Lopez, Luis Garcia, and Martin Perez on the mound, Robinson Chirnos, Luis Arraez, Luis Rengifo, Ronald Acuna Jr, and Miguel Cabrera on their roster. I think, in a small surprise, Venezuela wins group D with the Dominican Republic finishing second.
In the quarterfinals, the winner of Group A will take on the runner-up of Group B, with the Group B winner playing the Group A runner-up. That would pit the Netherlands versus Korea in one matchup and pit Japan against Cuba in the other. In two well-played games, the Netherlands will beat Korea on a late-game home run hit by the new San Diego Padre Xander Bogaerts. In quarterfinal matchup two, I feel that Shohei Ohtani dominates on the mound and drives in 2 runs at the plate to push Japan forward by the count of 5-1. In the opposite quarterfinal, Venezuela faces Mexico, and the Dominican Republic will face the United States. On the mound for team Mexico is Patrick Sandoval, and he pitches very well. Still, in the end, the power of the Venezuela lineup is too much for the Mexico relievers, and Venezuela goes through on the strength of their offense. In the best game of the tournament, on paper so far, the Dominican Republic gets a late game 2 run home run by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. off of Ryan Pressly to push the Dominican Republic through to the semifinals while knocking out the defending champion U.S.A.
In one semifinal match, the Netherlands would take on Venezuela, and in the other, Japan would take on the Dominican Republic. I predict that the Venezuela team will put up a bunch of offense and also get a gem on the mound from Pablo Lopez to make it through to the finals. In a very anticipated second semifinal, the Dominican Republic sends Sandy Alcantara to the mound to face Roki Sasaki. In a game with web gems all over the diamond, a pair of stellar pitchers on the mound who throw inspired frames, and some timely hits, in the end, Seiya Suzuki has the most timely base hit of all, which walks off Team Japan into the finals by the count of 3-2.
In the finals, I feel that Team Venezuela’s overall depth across the diamond will score them the WBC crown and have them celebrating a title in Miami on March 21st. Most baseball fans will watch the WBC with bated breath, which will be the perfect segue into the Major League Baseball season.