2023 World Baseball Classic Odds, Predictions| Expert Picks For Japan, Dominican Republic, USA, More
Kenta Harada/Getty Images. Pictured: Ha-Seong Kim
- The World Baseball Classic begins late Tuesday night with Cuba-Netherlands, and other pools will open in coming days.
- The first iteration of this event in six years is ripe with intrigue, so how should you approach it from a betting standpoint?
- Expert betting analyst Sean Zerillo breaks down the entire field and makes his bets for the tournament, group play and more.
After a six-year hiatus, baseball returns to the global stage for the fifth World Baseball Classic from March 7 to March 21.
Past champions include the United States (2017), the Dominican Republic (2013), and two-time winner Japan (2006 and 2009).
A 20-team field will split into four pools. Each division will play a round-robin format. The top two teams from each pool will advance to a single elimination bracket, with the finals taking place at loanDepot park in Miami.
With an action-packed couple of weeks of baseball ahead, we’ll be looking to find an edge on these matchups on a game-to-game basis.
However, you might want to allocate some pre-tournament futures wagers to some undervalued teams.
To find those undervalued teams, I created a tournament power ranking: a combination of offensive, pitching and defensive/baserunning rankings for each of the 20 teams using the best data I could find.
For simplicity, I combined my multi-point power ranking into a list and numbered the teams from 1-20. If you’re curious how I would organize the teams into competitive tiers based on that ranking — I posted that list to Twitter.
WBC Power Rankings
Chance to Advance
— Sean Zerillo (@SeanZerillo) March 6, 2023
Obviously, I didn’t have projection data available for every player in the tournament (but I am delighted to watch firefighters and teachers represent the Czech Republic). And I’m not going to personally trust my game-by-game projections — for many of these round-robin matchups — with anywhere near the degree of certainty as my daily MLB model projections.
That said, the rankings do present a strong case for where the 20-team field stacks up relative to one another. Let’s use my WBC power ranking to break this tournament down, pool by pool.
The bracket’s most balanced and wide-open quarter.
There are no elite teams in Pool A. On average, I would set Cuba — the group favorite — between 52% to 58% in each game against its four opponents.
Every game involving these five teams should be lined competitively, unlike in the other pools, where some favorites will be -400 (80%) or higher against the lesser teams.
Cuba’s international talent pool isn’t as deep as in the past — after an influx of Cuban prospects to MLB’s minor leagues — leaving the powerhouse island as a vulnerable favorite. However, I prefer Cuba’s pitching to any other staff in its pool — which may be the difference.
Many are picking the Netherlands — led by Xander Bogaerts and Kenley Jansen — to upset the group.
However, I prefer Italy — which has an offense led by Vinny Pasquantino and pitching staff — which includes Matt Harvey — rated surprisingly well in my model.
Harvey is the most recognizable name in the Italy bullpen, but it has plenty of capable major-league arms.
I place Italy and the Netherlands on relatively level terms, yet the Italians are double the price to win Group A. We’ll poke those odds (+600 at Caesars) for small stakes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if either Panama or Chinese Taipei advanced or won this pool.
The former has some recognizable names, including Christian Bethancourt and Ruben Tejada, but lacks the depth or quality of the teams in front of it.
The latter will have to prove that its bats translate outside the confines of the CPBL — a potent offensive league. If so, Chinese Taipei could make a run in a pool skinny on quality pitching.
Ultimately, I don’t see any of these teams as a serious threat to winning the tournament.
Compared to Pool A — which is exceptionally balanced — Pool B has the broadest range of talent distribution.
Oddsmakers view Japan as roughly an 87% favorite to win Group B; however, I see this more as a two-team race, with Korea providing a serious challenger.
Australia, China and the Czech Republic are in the lowest tier of my WBC rankings, reserved for the teams which would genuinely need a miracle to advance to the knockout stage, let alone win the tournament.
I would set either Japan or Korea, at a minimum, as at least 74% favorites (-280 implied) — and likely higher — in an average game against any of the bottom three teams.
However, in an average game between Korea and Japan, I would set Japan around -122 (55% implied) on average.
So, why are we getting as high as +450 on Korea to win its pool when I expect the group to come down — very likely — to one game between Japan and Korea?
Korea to win Pool B (+450 at Caesars) is my favorite futures bet for the World Baseball Classic.
Concerning potential quarterfinals, I would set Korea and Japan as favorites against every team from Pool A (range of 54% to 62% for Korea and 59% to 67% for Japan). I would anticipate that both clubs are likely to reach the semifinals.
As a result, I’m comfortable placing a small bet on Korea to win the tournament (+1400 at bet365) on top of our Group B position.
I rank the United States as the best squad in the tournament in terms of top-end quality and depth. The Americans ranked first overall in my offensive ratings, pitching ratings and baserunning/defensive quality ratings, which I found surprising.
And while it isn’t in the weakest group in the tournament (that would be Pool B — average ranking 12.6, with three of the bottom five teams), it has the fewest direct challengers within its pool; there are at least two tiers of quality between the USA and its Pool C rivals. I would project Team USA at 64% (-178 implied) or higher in every game — and that’s a worst-case scenario against Julio Urias and Mexico.
If anything, Team USA is potentially undervalued to win Pool C at -400.
The Americans shouldn’t have an issue qualifying for the next round. Still, once they get there, a potential championship path through Venezuela (my No. 4 ranked team), Japan (No. 3), and the Dominican Republic (No. 2) seems incredibly daunting.
Mexico, Canada, and Colombia will each vie for a spot in the knockout round.
Mexico has the best hitting, pitching and defense of the three teams — on paper. Canada should have a better offense than Colombia; however, I prefer Colombia’s pitching.
Great Britain falls into the bottom tier of tournament participants. Perhaps it can play spoiler and effectively eliminate one of the middle three teams from this Pool.
Ultimately, I’m not betting on any team from Pool C pre-tournament.
However, based on my power rankings, I expect to place a moneyline rollover bet on Team USA against Japan and the Dominican Republic in the semifinals and finals, respectively.
That is yet to be determined based on pricing.
While its roster remains loaded with talent, losing Vlad Guerrero Jr. this week takes a giant bat out of the Dominican Republic’s lineup.
I rate both its offense and pitching as the second-best units in the tournament; and a touch behind Team USA in both categories. However, the team is seriously flawed on defense behind the plate (with Gary Sanchez and Francisco Mejia) and in the corner outfield (with some combination of Eloy Jimenez, Juan Soto and Teoscar Hernandez).
Moreover, aside from Julio Rodriguez, Team DR has average to below-average speed and baserunning skills. It is sacrificing athleticism for power — and have elite plate discipline guys in Soto and Wander Franco to frustrate opposing pitchers, too.
I make the Dominican Republic about a 55% favorite (on average) against Venezuela, closer to 60% against Puerto Rico, and more than 75% against Israel or Nicaragua.
However, I wouldn’t be shocked if this loaded squad — and tournament favorite at some books — fails to qualify for the knockout round.
Venezuela and Puerto Rico are incredibly strong “second and third” contenders in their respective pools, thus making Pool D the “Pool of Death.”
Both are under-seeded. If you re-seeded the pool by my power rankings, Venezuela would be the fourth No. 1 seed; and Puerto Rico would be the third No. 2 seed.
Puerto Rico lost in the final in 2013 and 2017 and is perpetually underrated. Its bullpen is excellent, and having the Diaz brothers (Alexis and Edwin) together should be electric. If Puerto Rico can survive to the knockout stage, it can make another run with its middle and back-end reliever quality.
I don’t love the starting pitching or offensive depth for a round-robin. Aside from Francisco Lindor, the offense will need your microwave Javy Baez hot streak or a breakout performance from MJ Melendez. And while Marcus Stroman typically thrives on a big stage, betting markets consistently move against Jose Berrios.
I believe that Venezuela has what it takes to upend Pool D. Multiple stars (Ronald Acuna Jr., Jose Altuve, Salvador Perez) with championship experience, tons of offensive depth with a balance of speed, contact and power, and plenty of starting pitching (Pablo Lopez, Jesus Luzardo, Martin Perez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Luis Garcia) to keep arms fresh.
The primary concern for Venezuela is back-end reliever quality. If Omar Lopez (Venezuela’s manager and the first base coach for the Houston Astros) can effectively manage his staff — and use starters out of the bullpen efficiently against other top teams — the team can compete with anyone in the world.
Bet Venezuela to win Group D (+400 at Caesars) and play it small to win the tournament (+1200 at bet365).
I would make Venezuela around +143 (41%) in an average matchup with the United States. For comparison, I would have the average line around +135 for Japan vs. the USA and +105 for the Dominican Republic vs. the USA. Venezuela is in the elite tier of teams in this tournament.
Don’t count out Israel from playing spoiler again after its Cinderella run in 2017. Israel’s roster for the 2023 WBC is potentially better, too, with two top 100 MLB prospects (Matt Mervis, Zac Gelof) joining All-Star outfielder Joc Pederson and a handful of major league pitchers.
Nicaragua doesn’t stack up remarkably well, however. It falls into my lowest tier of teams, and I would be surprised if it made any noise.
World Baseball Classic Future Bets
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