Yes, I know that the semifinalists from Pool B haven’t even been determined yet. I know that Japan has won this tournament both times it has been played. And yes, I know that the Netherlands knocked Cuba out of the tournament and is legit.
However, I still think the two teams that advance from Pool 2—comprised of the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Italy—will advance to the championship game.
Part of my reasoning is that I simply believe the Dominican Republic and United States are the two best teams on paper. When push comes to shove, talent will finally win out for both countries.
Another reason is that the Pool 2 teams are more battle-tested. Italy and the United States survived Canada and Mexico in Pool D. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic each beat Venezuela. The two teams that survive this pool will have done so in a far tougher scenario than trying to advance out of Pool 1.
If the United States and Dominican Republic do advance to the semifinals, it will essentially be a home game for each team, considering these two squads have more MLB players than any other team remaining in the tournament.
You can also make the argument that the United States has the best pitching in the competition—though Puerto Rico's pitching has been very strong as well—while the Dominican Republic has the best lineup.
Unless Italy advances, I don't see the Netherlands beating any of the Pool 2 teams. And as dangerous as Japan has been at this tournament, this team doesn't have Daisuke Matsuzaka or Ichiro Suzuki.
We all know that anything can happen in a tournament like this, and with the semifinals being a single-elimination round, it only takes one bad afternoon for a team like the United States, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico to go home disappointed.
With that being said, I don't think it will happen this year. Finally, one of the favorites will go home a champion. Finally, a team with some MLB-pedigree will win the World Baseball Classic.