World Baseball Classic 2023 Power Rankings for All 20 Teams Ahead of WBC Tournament

Joel ReuterMarch 7, 2023

World Baseball Classic 2023 Power Rankings for All 20 Teams Ahead of WBC Tournament

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    Shohei Ohtani
    Shohei OhtaniYUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images

    The World Baseball Classic is finally back!

    Since the 2021 tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's been six years since the last time we saw the baseball equivalent of the World Cup, and players have approached the 2023 tournament with a newfound sense of excitement.

    With Mike Trout serving as team captain, the United States enters the tournament with the best roster it has ever trotted out and as the returning champs after they knocked off Puerto Rico in the title game back in 2017.

    However, they are far from the only stacked roster in the tournament, with the Dominican Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico and Venezuela also looking like legitimate title contenders.

    Ahead, we've ranked all 20 teams before the tournament gets underway on Tuesday evening, with Cuba and the Netherlands kicking things off at 11 p.m. ET in Taichung, Taiwan.

    Let's start with a look at who will be matched in the opening pool play round.

Pool Breakdown and Game Locations

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22:  Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. and Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark speak during a press conference before Game 3 of the Championship Round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic between Team USA and Team Puerto Rico on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/WBCI/MLB via Getty Images)
    Alex Trautwig/WBCI/MLB via Getty Images

    Pool A—Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium (Taichung, Taiwan)

    Chinese Taipei

    Pool B—Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan)

    Czech Republic

    Pool CChase Field (Phoenix, Arizona)

    Great Britain
    United States

    Pool DloanDepot Park (Miami, Florida)

    Dominican Republic
    Puerto Rico

Nos. 20-16

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    Ray Chang
    Ray ChangAdam Pretty/Getty Images

    20. Czech Republic

    The Czech Republic squad is the biggest underdog in the tournament, as they clinched a spot in the field by upsetting Spain 3-1 in the qualifying tournament. A high school geography teacher and a firefighter are among the players on the roster, and manager Pavel Chadim is a neurologist. Longtime MLB utility player Eric Sogard is the only familiar face.

    19. China

    Team China has been outscored 102-18 in its four previous trips to the WBC, though they did manage wins over Chinese Taipei (2009) and Brazil (2013). Shortstop Ray Chang will be suiting up for his fourth WBC at age 39. He spent 12 seasons in affiliated ball and is a .324 hitter in his WBC career.

    18. Nicaragua

    Team Nicaragua will lean heavily on Jonathan Loáisiga (NYY) and Erasmo Ramírez (WAS) as multi-inning options out of the bullpen, while Cheslor Cuthbert and Alex Blandino are the only position players on the roster with MLB experience. Just reaching the tournament was a major victory after they fell short in their previous attempts to qualify.

    17. Australia

    There are a handful of former MLB players on the Team Australia roster, but they are without Liam Hendriks as he is sidelined with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The Aussies have been in every WBC but have never advanced beyond pool play. Robbie Glendinning posted an .813 OPS with 21 doubles, 19 home runs and 76 RBI in 118 games with the Kansas City Royals Double-A affiliate in 2022 and will be one of the team's top bats.

    16. Great Britain

    There are a few notable names on the Great Britain roster, led by outfielder Trayce Thompson (LAD) and top prospect Harry Ford (SEA), who ranked No. 78 on B/R's Top 100 prospect list. Former MLB pitcher Vance Worley will front the starting rotation, while reliever Ian Gibaut (CIN) is another notable name on the staff.

Nos. 15-11

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    Li Lin
    Li LinGene Wang/Getty Images

    15. Panama

    Team Panama is a dark horse to advance out of Pool A. Relievers Jaime Barría (LAA) and Justin Lawrence (COL) give the team a pair of swing-and-miss arms that could fill a variety of roles on the staff, while catcher Christian Bethancourt (TB) and former MLB infielder Rubén Tejada will shoulder the load offensively.

    14. Israel

    The underdog story of the 2017 WBC, Team Israel has more MLB talent this time around. The offense will be anchored by Joc Pederson (SF) and Alex Dickerson, while prospects Zack Gelof (OAK) and Matt Mervis (CHC) will also be asked to drive in runs. Right-hander Dean Kremer (BAL) is the clear ace of the staff, and he will be a major X-factor after posting a 3.23 ERA in 125.1 innings during a breakout 2022 campaign.

    13. Italy

    With Vinnie Pasquantino (KC), Nicky Lopez (KC), David Fletcher (LAA) and top prospect Sal Frelick (MIL), there is some talent on the offensive side of things for Team Italy. That lineup will likely need to lead the way with a thin pitching staff led by veteran starter Matt Harvey, swingman Andre Pallante (STL) and reliever Matt Festa (SEA).

    12. Chinese Taipei

    Li Lin (109 G, .335/.391/.517, 14 HR, 83 RBI) was MVP of the Chinese Professional Baseball League last season, and catcher Kungkuan Giljegiljaw tied him for the league lead in home runs. That duo will anchor the Chinese Taipei lineup alongside MLB infielder Yu Chang (BOS), and with home-field advantage in a relatively weak Pool A, don't be surprised if they advance out of pool play.

    11. Colombia

    Team Colombia was dealt a blow when presumptive ace José Quintana (NYM) withdrew because of a stress fracture in his rib, leaving Julio Teheran (SD) and Nabil Crismatt (SD) as the top arms on the staff. The offense has some quality bats led by Gio Urshela (LAA) and Harold Ramírez (TB), and the roster also features a handful of players from the 2022 Caribbean Series-winning Caimanes de Barranquilla, so this is a team to watch outside the top 10 in these rankings.

Nos. 10-6

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    Jung Hoo Lee
    Jung Hoo LeeKenta Harada/Getty Images

    10. Netherlands

    The infield of Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Schoop, Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorius will again be the strength of the roster for Team Netherlands, while slugger Wladimir Balentien has hit 502 home runs across 20 professional seasons. Starting pitching is the big question mark, though they do have Kenley Jansen and Pedro Strop at the back of the bullpen.

    9. Cuba

    With Luis Robert Jr. and Yoán Moncada suiting up for Team Cuba, along with retired slugger Yoenis Cespedes and WBC career home run leader Alfredo Despaigne (7 HR), there is plenty of thump in the lineup. The question, as is the case with several teams in this range of the rankings, is the pitching staff. Left-hander Roenis Elías (CHC) has a 3.96 ERA in 395.2 career MLB innings and is the most notable arm on the staff.

    8. Canada

    Team Canada has a bona fide superstar in first baseman Freddie Freeman (LAD) and several other quality pieces offensively, including Tyler O'Neill (STL), Edouard Julien (MIN) and Abraham Toro (MIL). The pitching staff will be anchored by Cal Quantrill (CLE), though they were dealt a blow when Nick Pivetta (BOS) decided to withdraw. The X-factor here could be young right-hander Matt Brash (SEA), who has the stuff to be overpowering.

    7. Korea

    With Tommy Edman (STL) and Ha-Seong Kim (SD) setting the table and KBO MVP Jung Hoo Lee (142 G, .349/.421/.575, 23 HR, 113 RBI) driving them in, the Team Korea lineup will be tough. Former St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim returned to the KBO in 2022 and finished 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 173.1 innings.

    6. Mexico

    A starting rotation of Julio Urías (LAD), Patrick Sandoval (LAA), Taijuan Walker (PHI) and José Urquidy (HOU) is enough to make Team Mexico the favorites to advance out of Pool C alongside the United States. The lineup is also loaded with MLB talent, including Randy Arozarena, Alex Verdugo, Rowdy Tellez, Luis Urías, Isaac Paredes, Joey Meneses and Alek Thomas.

5. Puerto Rico

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    Francisco Lindor
    Francisco LindorJayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    Puerto Rico was runner-up in the past two World Baseball Classics, and now future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina has gone from the team's starting catcher to its manager.

    The middle infield duo of Francisco Lindor and Javier Báez is the heart and soul of the team, and they'll be joined by Enrique Hernández, Eddie Rosario, MJ Melendez and the veteran catching tandem of Christian Vázquez and Martín Maldonado to form a rock solid lineup.

    On the pitching side, Marcus Stroman and José Berríos are the team's top two starters, while the bullpen is loaded with power arms, including 2022 All-Stars Edwin Díaz and Jorge López, as well as Alexis Díaz, Alex Claudio, Emilio Pagan and several others with significant MLB experience.

    Despite all of that talent, it will take an upset of either the Dominican Republic or Venezuela for them to advance out of pool play.

4. Venezuela

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    Jose Altuve
    Jose AltuveAP Photo/Luis Gutierrez

    There is a clear-cut top three in this year's World Baseball Classic tournament field, but Team Venezuela is more than capable of pulling out a tournament victory as well.

    The pitching staff has six quality starting options in Pablo López, Martín Pérez, Ranger Suárez, Jesús Luzardo, Eduardo Rodríguez and Luis Garcia, giving them a ton of flexibility when it comes to bridging the gap to flame-thrower José Alvarado at the back of the bullpen.

    The infield will likely feature Salvador Perez at catcher, Luis Arraez at first base, José Altuve at second base, Andrés Giménez at shortstop and Eugenio Suárez at third base, while Gleyber Torres, Eduardo Escobar and Luis Rengifo will provide further depth.

    The outfield of David Peralta, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Anthony Santander is also an area of strength, and Arraez could also see time in the grass. Living legend Miguel Cabrera rounds out the lineup as the likely starting designated hitter.

    Make no mistake, this is a championship-caliber squad.

3. Japan

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    Yu Darvish
    Yu DarvishKevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The trio of Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish and rising star Roki Sasaki gives Team Japan the horsepower necessary in the starting rotation to reclaim their crown as World Baseball Classic champions after they won it all in 2006 and 2009.

    Sasaki, 21, finished 9-4 with a 2.02 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 129.1 innings in his first full season in Nippon Professional Baseball, and he is a potential future superstar if and when he decides to make his way stateside.

    That's to make no mention of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who has won back-to-back Pacific League MVP Awards and Sawamura Awards, the latter of which is the NPB equivalent of the Cy Young.

    Offensively, Ohtani will lead the way alongside St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar, Boston Red Sox offseason signing Masataka Yoshida and a long list of NPB standouts.

    It's no accident that Japan won the first two WBC tournaments, and they are well-equipped to add a third title.

2. United States

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    Nolan Arenado
    Nolan ArenadoAP Photo/Alan Diaz

    Can the United States repeat as World Baseball Classic champions?

    The answer to that question will likely be determined by the pitching staff, which will, unfortunately, be without Clayton Kershaw and Nestor Cortes, who both withdrew from the tournament after initially being named to the team.

    That leaves veterans Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas to anchor the staff, followed by some combination of Lance Lynn, Brady Singer and Merrill Kelly. Those may not be the sexiest names, but that five-man staff would still be among the best in the majors.

    The fact that they have Devin Williams, Ryan Pressly, David Bednar, Jason Adam, Daniel Bard, Kendall Graveman, Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley waiting in the bullpen does help take some pressure off the starters.

    That said, if they win it all, it will be on the strength of a lineup that includes Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Pete Alonso, Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, Tim Anderson, Kyle Schwarber, Jeff McNeil, Kyle Tucker, Cedric Mullins, Bobby Witt Jr., Will Smith and Kyle Higashioka.

    This is the best team the United States has ever brought to the WBC, without question.

1. Dominican Republic

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    Manny Machado
    Manny MachadoBrian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Dominican Republic might legitimately have the best starting lineup ever assembled outside of an All-Star Game.

    How's this for a projected batting order:

    • 1. CF Julio Rodríguez
    • 2. LF Juan Soto
    • 3. 3B Manny Machado
    • 4. 1B Rafael Devers
    • 5. RF Teoscar Hernández
    • 6. DH Eloy Jiménez
    • 7. 2B Wander Franco
    • 8. SS Jeremy Peña
    • 9. C Gary Sánchez

    That lineup doesn't include Willy Adames, Ketel Marte, Jean Segura and Nelson Cruz, who are also available, while Francisco Mejía could split time behind the plate with Sanchez. The only glaring question is who plays first base after Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had to withdraw with an injury.

    If that wasn't enough, they also have reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, rising star Cristian Javier, savvy veteran Johnny Cueto and up-and-comer Roansy Contreras in the starting rotation, and a loaded bullpen led by Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, Diego Castillo, Camilo Doval, Carlos Estévez, Yimi Garcia and Gregory Soto.

    This is the team to beat.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.