The countdown to the World Baseball Classic is on!
The tournament begins two weeks from Wednesday (with FOX serving as the exclusive broadcast partner), pitting many of the game’s best players against each other at the international level for the first time in six years. Rosters for each of the 20 teams participating in the tournament were released earlier in February.
Now that we know who will be playing, let’s rank which nations have the best squads entering the tournament!
Julio Urias & Mexico headline Verlander’s 6-10 rankings of top WBC teams
Ben Verlander shares which teams he ranked 6-10 in the World Baseball Classic.
Cuba’s a country that we all expect to be good, but that might not be the case this time. There are a lot of Cuban players in Major League Baseball, but not a ton are playing. There are some notable names playing: Luis Robert, Yoan Moncáda and Yoenis Céspedes. I don’t know how that’s going to go, but he is playing. I’m a big fan of Robert’s game.
Canada has some notable guys playing for them — Freddie Freeman, Tyler O’Neill, Nick Pivetta, Matt Brash, Cal Quantrill, Bo Naylor. They’re going to be pretty good. They have a solid squad.
Korea’s big strength is up the middle with Gold Glovers Ha-Seong Kim and Tommy Edman. They also have some guys that can pitch. Kwang Hyun Kim is on the team, as well. Korea is a sneaky, sneaky good team.
The Netherlands have historically been good and they’re going to be good this year. They have Xander Bogaerts, Kenley Jansen, Jonathan Schoop, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Pedro Strop, Jair Jurrjens. Their pitching is weak, you’ve got to get to Kenley Jansen. But the offense will be pretty good. Don’t sleep on the Netherlands.
Mexico is going to be really good. Julio Urías, José Urquidy, Patrick Sandoval, Taijuan Walker, Alejandro Kirk, Alex Verdugo, Randy Arozarena — those are just the big names. There are plenty of others you will know and know well and are nasty. Watch out for Team Mexico.
Shohei Ohtani & Japan headline Verlander’s 3-5 rankings of top WBC teams
Ben Verlander expects Shohei Ohtani to show out at the World Baseball Classic, but that alone doesn’t make Japan a top-two team entering the tournament.
5. Puerto Rico
José Berríos, Edwin Díaz — the nastiest closer in baseball — Jorge López, Marcus Stroman, Francisco Lindor, Javy Báez. It’s going to be electric. Báez and Lindor up the middle, we’ve seen it before in a WBC and we saw it with the Mets at the end of 2021. They’re going to be fun to watch up the middle.
This team is loaded with major-leaguers — José Altuve, Salvador Perez, Miguel Cabrerea, David Peralta, Anthony Santander, Pablo López, Ranger Suárez, Gleyber Torres, Andrés Giménez.
We know a lot of guys on this team. The lineup includes Shohei Ohtani, Seiya Suzuki and Lars Nootbar.
But there are some names you might not be super familiar with that you will become very familiar with. Munetaka Murakami is unbelievable. He just broke the all-time single-season home run record in Japan. He’s just 23 years old and will be a stud when he comes to MLB. He’ll be able to be posted in two years, I believe. There’s also Masataka Yoshida, who just came over and signed with the Red Sox. This lineup, which I predict will be Nootbar, Ohtani, Suzuki, Murakami and Yoshida at the top, is pretty nasty.
On the pitching side, Japan has perhaps the best rotation in the WBC. Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Roki Sasaki, Youshinobu Yamamoto and Shota Imanaga are the projected starters. This is unbelievable. Sasaki hasn’t been posted yet, but he will be coming to the United States at some point. He throws 103 mph. He threw back-to-back perfect games in Japan last year.
Team Japan is the real deal.
Team USA or Team Dominican Republic?
Team USA and the Dominican Republic each have loaded lineups, but pitching might be the deciding factor between the two loaded squads.
Team USA is unbelievable.
It all revolves around their lineup. Here’s what I project Team USA’s lineup to be, and it might be the greatest lineup that’s ever existed:
- SS Trea Turner
- LF Mookie Betts
- CF Mike Trout
- 3B Nolan Arenado
- RF Kyle Tucker
- 1B Paul Goldschmidt
- DH Pete Alonso
- C J.T. Realmuto
- 2B Jeff McNeil
McNeil just won a batting title and I have him batting ninth.
The biggest knock on Team USA has been with their pitching. I disagree. The group below should be enough:
This pitching is better than what Team USA had when they won the 2017 tournament. The starting pitching is adequate, but in the bullpen you have two of the best late-inning relievers in the game of baseball in Williams and Pressly. Sign me up for that.
Team USA’s pitching is good enough to win.
This is the best roster on paper in the WBC. If Team USA’s lineup is the best that’s ever existed, Team Dominican Republic is right behind it. Here’s how I project it to look:
- OF Julio Rodríguez
- OF Juan Soto
- 3B Manny Machado
- DH Rafael Devers
- 2B Wander Franco
- 1B Vlad Guerrero Jr.
- OF Teoscar Hernández
- SS Jeremy Peña
- C Gary Sanchez
The lineups are close, but I still think Team USA’s is better. With that said, the Dominican Republic has better pitching than the United States. There’s no way around it.
Here are their pitchers:
- Sandy Alcántara
- Cristian Javier
- Johnny Cueto
- Bryan Abreu
- Roansy Contreras
- Gregory Soto
- Camilo Doval
- Rafael Montero
Alcántara and Javier as your No. 1 and No. 2 is incredible. There’s a good back end of the bullpen, too.
With that pitching, I gave the Dominican Republic the nod for the overall best roster in the tourney. Let the games begin.
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