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World Baseball Classic: Five potential breakout stars

The World Baseball Classic returns after a two-year gap and here we take a look at some of the players who could use the tournament to emerge as breakout stars.

WhatWorld Baseball Classic
WhereJapan, Taiwan, United States
When8th March - 21st March 2023
OddsDominican Republic 2/1, Japan 5/2, USA 11/4, Puerto Rico 9/1

Jeremy Pena (Dominican Republic)

Jeremy Pena was a World Series MVP in 2022 and a World Series champion as well with the Houston Astros. Adding the ALCS MVP award to the trophy cabinet was merely a starter to the main meal - Pena was that good in 2022.

However, that was then and this is now. Can Pena do it on a global stage at the World Baseball Classic with this star-studded Dominican Republic roster?

Over the regular season Pena hit .253 with 22 home runs and 63 RBI’s. It was his consistent performances for the Astros in the postseason that earned him the World Series MVP, as he became only the third rookie to win the MVP in the Fall Classic.

The Dominican Republic are 2/1 to win the World Baseball Classic and they will be a hard roster to match with Pena part of it.

Munetaka Murakami (Japan)

The 23-year-old Munetaka Murakami hasn’t been talked about much in MLB terms yet.

It’s thought he will end up coming to the USA to play, but not just yet as he is performing so well for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.

Murakami is an infielder and had a batting average of .281 in 2022 as the Central League MVP. The Swallows couldn’t build on their Japan series win in 2021 though, losing in the finals in 2022 to the Orix Buffaloes.

This will be Murakami’s first baseball classic and he will line up alongside the Japanese two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, as 5/2 Japan are much fancied to add to their two WBC titles.

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Bo Naylor (Canada)

The 22-year-old Bo Naylor is a catcher for Cleveland, with the young Guardians side having won the American League Central Divisional title under the expert leadership skills of Terry Francona.

The Guardians unexpectedly reached the playoffs last season and defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card series before taking the New York Yankees to Game Five in the AL Division Series.

Naylor was drafted in 2018 by the Guardians as a 29th pick in the first round. He will join Freddie Freeman for the Canadians in the WBC and look to impress.

Naylor made only five appearances for the Guardians towards the back end of the season, however, but will get a chance to shine in this tournament as Canada look to provide a shock.

Canada are 50/1 to win the World Baseball Classic in 2023.

Lee Jung-Hoo (South Korea)

Lee Jung-Hoo won the 2017 Korean Baseball Organisation’s Rookie of the Year. He has greatest pedigree being the son of the former KBO League MVP, Lee Jong-Beom, and is an outfielder who plays for the Kiwoom Heroes in the KBO League.

In 2022, Lee won the KBO MVP award and his fifth consecutive Golden Glove award. This will be his first World Baseball Classic, having represented South Korea at the 2018 Asian Games and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

MLB fans are likely to see this Korean superstar play in the league following his final season in the KBO in 2023. Hopefully, they will get an early glimpse of his best work in the World Baseball Classic for South Korea, who are 14/1 to win the tournament.

Harry Ford (Great Britain)

Harry Ford is eligible to play for GB Baseball despite being born in Atlanta, Georgia, as his parents are from Great Britain. He is a catcher and at 19 years old is a huge prospect for the Seattle Mariners, who selected him in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft as 12th pick.

It’s unlikely he’ll get called up for the Mariners in 2023, but fans may get to see some of his work in the World Baseball Classic.

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