Mexico vs Japan Odds, Picks, Predictions | World Baseball Classic Semifinal Betting Preview
Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Mexico celebrates its WBC quarterfinal victory.
Mexico vs. Japan
|Over/Under||8.5 (-114 / -105)|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|TV||Fox Sports 1|
Following round-robin pool play, the World Baseball Classic field of 20 was reduced to a single-elimination bracket of eight teams — appropriate for the start of March Madness.
In Tokyo, the Pool A winner, Cuba, and Pool B winner, Japan, won their quarterfinal matchups on Wednesday and Thursday. And Miami, Mexico, and the USA won their quarterfinal matchups on Friday and Saturday.
The United States defeated Cuba on Sunday to advance to Tuesday’s final, where it will play the winner of Mexico-Japan to determine the 2023 WBC champion.
Below, I’ll provide my projections for Monday’s matchup (first pitch at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1) and utilize those projections to find an actionable betting edge for the game.
Mexico’s Roster and WBC Path
Mexico advanced to the semis with a dramatic 5-4 victory over Puerto Rico, where it rallied from behind after a four-run first-inning deficit.
Mexico’s best pitcher and arguably its best overall player, Julio Urias, has struggled in the tournament, nearly costing the team the quarterfinals in addition to the opening game against Colombia.
Mexico eventually overcame its only loss and won Pool D on a tiebreaker since it defeated Team USA head-to-head.
Patrick Sandoval (3.91 xERA in 2022) will aim to win over Japan after defeating the Americans in pool play (3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K).
Mexico’s manager, Bengi Gil, will need to manage the middle innings and find a way to bridge the gap between Sandoval and his best reliever, Giovanny Gallegos (2.92 xERA in 2022).
Javier Assad (4.49), Luis Cessa (4.43), JoJo Romero (5.26) and Mexican-leaguer Jake Sanchez have been effective, but all are shaky options compared to other bullpens we have seen in this tournament. That said, Mexico’s arms should be rested after consecutive days off.
Mexico has a talented offense, consistently producing runs (6.4 per game in the tournament) and playing steady defense.
Randy Arozarena and Joey Meneses in particular have provided massive contributions; and it’s a shame this roster missed out on having Alejandro Kirk and Andrez Munoz just before the tournament; otherwise, I planned to and would have taken this team more seriously from a futures perspective.
Japan’s Roster and WBC Path
After defeating Italy 9-3 in Tokyo on March 16, Japan will play its first game in four days and be led by Roki Sasaki, arguably the world’s top pitching prospect.
Sasaki last pitched on March 11 against the Czech Republic (3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K) — so perhaps there will be some rust — but his arm is electric, and his stuff is nasty, leading to a streak of 17 perfect innings in NPB play last April. Sasaki regularly hits triple-digits with his fastball, and this start against a major league-caliber lineup is must-see TV.
Japan has dominated the tournament, defeating its four opponents by a combined margin of 47-11 and an average of more than seven runs per game (average score of 9.4 to 2.2).
If Sasaki falters, Japan can turn to Yu Darvish (3.49 xERA in 2022) for a piggyback appearance or several quality relief pitchers. Ideally, Japan would like to save Darvish for the final — when Shoehei Ohtani might also be available to pitch in relief; but it needs to get there first.
Japan has the best starting pitching in the tournament, played a schedule that allowed them to rest, and should have a pitching advantage in the finals against USA (if it advances).
Japan’s position player group has dominated, averaging more than nine runs per game on offense. Its MLB players — Lars Nootbaar, Shohei Ohtani and Red Sox rookie Masataka Yoshida — have dominated alongside NPB stars like Kensuke Kondoh and Munetaka Murakmi — potentially the top position player prospect outside of MLB circles.
While it can be challenging to compare and contrast players from different professional leagues, I rate Japan’s offense as superior but make the teams about even on the defensive end.
Projections, Price Targets, and Bets
I am firm on my price targets; that is the minimum price I need to place a bet.
Based on my projection, I bet Under 8.5 (-105, 0.25u) and Mexico +1.5 (+120, 0.25u) at DraftKings. Alternatively, you could bet Mexico +2.5 (-120) at BetMGM (to -127).
I will update this column and post a note on Twitter if I add any additional bets before game time.
Bets: Mexico +1.5 (+120, 0.25u at DraftKings) | Under 8.5 (-105, 0.25u) at DraftKings
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