2023 World Baseball Classic Pool A Preview

Image credit: Xander Bogaerts (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


Manager: Armando Johnson

Previous WBC Results: 7th in 2017, 5th in 2013, 6th in 2009, 2nd in 2006

Top Players: OF Luis Robert, 3B Yoan Moncada, OF Yoenis Cespedes

Top Prospects: LHP Livan Moinelo, RHP Raidel Martinez, RHP Yariel Rodriguez.

Hitting: With Cuban players who left the country now allowed to play for the national team, an otherwise older lineup gets a needed boost from Robert and Moncada. Outfielder Alfredo Despaigne, 36, is on the tail end of his career but is still a power threat. Outfielder Roel Santos, 35, brings a mix of bat control and speed from the left side.

Pitching: The addition of players who left to play in the big leagues will add some spark to Cuba’s lineup, but it won’t do much to reinforce its pitching. Cubs lefthander Roenis Elias, Athletics righthander Luis Romero and Royals righthander Ronald Bolaños could all play key roles. Among the pitchers who haven’t defected, 27-year-old lefthander Livan Moinelo sits 93-95 mph and can reach 98 mph, showing the ability to miss bats with his changeup, slider and curveball while pitching as a reliever in Japan.

Bottom Line: Could advance to the quarterfinals, but more will be difficult.


Manager: Mike Piazza

Previous WBC Results: 12th in 2017, 7th in 2013, 10th in 2009, 10th in 2006

Top Players: 1B Vinnie Pasquantino, SS David Fletcher, SS Nicky Lopez

Top Prospects: OF Sal Frelick, OF Dominic Fletcher

Hitting: Italy is solid throughout the infield with a big league trio of Pasquantino, Fletcher and Lopez. Pasquantino is entering his second season in the big leagues and is already one of the more dangerous offensive threats in the tournament, with an excellent combination of contact skills, plate discipline and power. The X-factor could be Frelick, one of the game’s top prospects and a 2023 Rookie of the Year candidate with outstanding bat-to-ball skills and speed playing center field.

Pitching: Aside from Italy’s manager, the most recognizable name on the team is former Mets star Matt Harvey. It’s otherwise a staff heavy on minor league arms, so Italy’s offense will likely have to carry it if it is to advance through the tournament.

Bottom Line: Has an outside chance to advance to the quarterfinals.





Manager: Hensley Meulens

Previous WBC Results: 4th in 2017, 4th in 2013, 7th in 2009, 11th in 2006

Top Players: SS Xander Bogaerts, SS Andrelton Simmons, SS Didi Gregorius

Top Prospects: OF Josh Palacios, RHP Jiorgeny Casimiri

Hitting: A loaded infield with Bogaerts, Simmons, Gregorius and Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop stacks up well among the best in the WBC. At 38, outfielder Wladimir Balentien was a star slugger in Japan, though he’s now on the tail end of his career.

Pitching: The pitching isn’t as strong as the positional group, but the Netherlands has a couple of former major leaguers with righthanders Jair Jurrjens, Shairon Martis and Pedro Strop. Several pitchers from the Dutch major leagues round out the staff.

Bottom Line: Legitimate contender to reach the semifinals.


Manager: Luis Ortiz

Previous WBC Results: DNP in 2017 or 2013, 15th in 2009, 14th in 2006

Top Players: RHP Jaime Barria, RHP Paolo Espino, C Christian Bethancourt

Top Prospects: C Ivan Herrera, OF Jose Ramos

Hitting: Panama has more major league pitchers than hitters, but they have a big leaguer behind the plate in Bethancourt and a promising prospect at catcher as well in Herrera. Ruben Tejada, the former Mets infielder who last played in the big leagues briefly in 2019, is also on the team. Ramos, a Dodgers farmhand, showed a power stroke last year, hitting 25 home runs with a .249/.339/.479 line in 123 games between Low-A and High-A, albeit with 169 strikeouts.

Pitching: Panama’s pitching could keep the team competitive, though it’s a staff that relies heavily on major league relievers with Barria and fellow righthanders Javy Guerra and Justin Lawrence. Barris’ performance will be key, as he was one of the most effective relievers in the big leagues last year, while Espino, a 36-year-old righthander, posted a 4.84 ERA as a starter last year for the Nationals.

Bottom Line: Just happy to be back in the tournament. 



Manager: Yueh-Ping Ling

Previous WBC Results: 14th in 2017, 8th in 2013, 14th in 2009, 12th in 2006

Top Players: SS Tzu-Wei Lin, 2B Yu Chang, RHP Chih-Wei Hu

Top Prospects: SS Tsung-Che Cheng, RHP Kai-Wei Teng

Hitting: Most of Taiwan’s roster is composed of players currently playing in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, including outfielder Li Lin coming off a big year for the Rakuten Monkeys. Cheng is only 5-foot-7, but he’s a Top 30 prospect in the Pirates system who hit .270/.376/.418 in Low-A last year, taking advantage of a small strike zone to work walks and rely on his contact skills while impressing with his defense.

Pitching: A Giants farmhand, Teng struck out 169 in 136.1 innings last year for Double-A Richmond, though he also walked 85 and posted a 5.22 ERA. The pitching staff overall doesn’t match up in terms of raw stuff to the other teams in the tournament.

Bottom Line: Hoping to get past the first round.

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