The World Baseball Classic, which is back after a hiatus of six years, has been expanded to 20 teams with all the sides that participated in the 2017 edition plus four additional spots obtained through qualification.
|What||World Baseball Classic|
|Where||Venues in Japan, Taiwan and United States|
|When||8th March - 21st March, 2023|
|How to watch||N/A|
|Odds||Dominican Republic 5/2, USA 5/2, Japan 3/1, Puerto Rico 17/2|
Following the successful 2017 edition of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) held in the United States, South Korea, Japan and Mexico, the tournament organisers have expanded the overall competition to 20 teams including four qualifiers.
This will be the fifth edition of the world tournament with three debutants making their first appearance in the competition. Czech Republic, Great Britain and Nicaragua will be there for the first time, while Panama will be returning for their third appearance in the tournament.
The United States are the current champions, having defeated Puerto Rico in the championship game in 2017, and they will be one of the fancied sides to take the crown again. Team USA will have captain Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels featuring after missing the 2017 edition.
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Team USA will have the likes of Trout, Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers), Pete Alonso (New York Mets), Nolan Arenado (St Louis Cardinals), Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox) and Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals) in their squad.
The Team USA players will be part of their Spring Training routines with their various clubs whilst getting ready for the WBC.
Trout, for example, will report for training with his club and be part of Cactus League play before leaving to join up with Team USA. The title defence will begin on 11th March when the USA will play against Great Britain at Chase Field as part of Pool C, where Colombia, Canada and Mexico will feature.
The world will be wanting to see the USA take on Japan as the two old foes will hope to do battle later in the tournament. Trout will be hoping to play against his Angels teammate Shohei Ohtani.
Trout said to MLB.com: "Talking to Shohei about (Team Japan), he tried to tell me that he doesn’t think he’s the best player on the team. There’s no way that there’s somebody better than Shohei. But he knows his baseball players. I’m looking forward to the matchup if we get there and have to face them."
As it stands, the Dominican Republic (winners of the 2013 edition) are one of the fancied sides to take the title. Their roster reads like a star-studded line-up with Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Vladamir Guerrero Jr as the batting and fielding talent.
On the pitching roster they can include reigning Cy Young award winner Sandy Alcantara, Luis Castillo, Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez among their potential options.
The tournament was based on the FIFA World Cup following the Olympics' decision to remove baseball as one of its participant sports.
The World Baseball Classic was born in 2006 when it was held in Japan, Puerto Rico and United States and the inaugural tournament was won by Japan who defeated Cuba 10-6, which is one of two editions that the Japanese have won.
The first tournaments had teams included by invitation featuring the same 16 countries. A qualifying process was added to the 2013 tournament. Brazil and Spain were the first new countries to earn a berth in the World Baseball Classic via qualification.
The next editions featured the top 12 finishing teams from the previous WBC being automatically entered into the following edition.
The success of the 2017 edition had people buzzing about the tournament. The extra workload of some pitchers has meant some players have stayed with their various clubs and not made themselves available for the tournament.
However, the Team Israel coach believes this edition will be exciting, as he told MLB.com: "I believe the 2017 WBC created a ton of interest amongst the players.
"Because they saw the excitement, they saw the environment, they saw the crowds and the intensity of it. And Team USA winning helped, as well. You see the stars committing to this. It definitely has its place in baseball."