Ranking Every Team In The 2023 World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic keeps continuing to grow, literally and figuratively.
The WBC expanded to 20 teams this year after previously being a 16-team event. The addition of four new entrants means teams now must play four games to advance out of pool play instead of three, making it a longer road to advance. It also means deeper pools in many cases, creating more possibilities for upsets.
The Dominican Republic faces this acutely. On paper, the Dominicans are the most talented team in the tournament. But they are also in the tournament’s Group of Death, Pool D, and could very conceivably lose to Venezuela and Puerto Rico in pool play and find themselves eliminated after the first round. While Japan and the United States don’t face quite the same level of threat in their respective pools, the tournament’s heavyweights nonetheless know they are in for their greatest challenge yet.
The Dominican Republic, Japan and United States are the class of this year’s WBC field. All have the talent to beat anyone—including each other—on any given day, and all three are strong contenders for the gold medal.
That doesn’t mean they are light years ahead of the competition. Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands all boast talented rosters and are serious contenders to finish on the medal stand, as well.
There remains yet more talent beyond that group. Canada’s recent wave of promising young players gives its national team a major boost. The addition of big leaguers to Cuba’s roster should help the longtime power reverse its recent decline. Israel continues to rise on the international baseball scene. Taiwan boasts a competitive roster of professionals from the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
From top to bottom, this year’s WBC is loaded with talent. While there is a clear top three teams and a clear second tier of five others, teams throughout the field have enough talent to pull off an upset on any given day. That sets the stage for what could very well be the most thrilling and entertaining WBC yet.
Here is a ranking of all 20 teams in the WBC. The rankings are based on roster strength and are not a predicted order of finish.
1. Dominican Republic
The Dominicans feature a loaded lineup and a hard-throwing bullpen as usual, and they now have a stout rotation to give them the best and most well-rounded team in the tournament.
Led by Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish, Japan has far and away the best starting rotation in the WBC and is every bit a championship contender.
3. United States
The defending champions boast a star-studded lineup capable of scoring with anybody, but a lack of starting pitching depth is a concern.
Venezuela has a history of disappointing at the WBC, but a stacked lineup and improved pitching staff give it the talent to be a medal contender.
5. Puerto Rico
The defending runners-up are talented at every position and get a rotation boost with the addition of Marcus Stroman.
Mexico features its best team ever with a vastly-improved lineup and solid starting rotation, giving it a chance to advance out of pool play for the first time since 2009.
7. South Korea
South Korea disappointed greatly in the last WBC, but a talented mix of current and former MLB players and top KBO stars give it a strong chance to advance this time around.
The Dutch feature a talented infield and are typically competitive in the WBC, but many of their stars are past their prime and the team has a worrying lack of pitching.
A wave of rising young talent gives Canada its most balanced team yet and an outside chance to advance out of pool play for the first time.
The addition of MLB players like Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada bolsters Cuba’s outlook and gives the longtime power a chance to reverse its recent decline.
Colombia’s pitching staff is strong enough to keep the team in games, but scoring runs could be tough with a shallow and inexperienced lineup.
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Italy has a roster dotted with big leaguers and is playing in a weak pool, giving it a chance to make some early noise.
Israel continues to rise in international baseball and has a solid collection of major leaguers and prospects, but it will be difficult for the team to advance out of a loaded pool.
Taiwan’s roster features a handful of former big leaguers and top CPBL players that could keep it competitive in a weak pool, especially playing in front of the home crowd as a host nation.
Panama’s roster is dotted with interesting young players, and a weak pool gives the team an outside chance to advance despite a lack of overall depth.
16. Great Britain
Great Britain brings a handful of decent pitchers and some solid prospects in its first WBC appearance, but a difficult pool assignment will likely make wins tough to come by.
Nicaragua’s pitching staff has some serviceable arms, but a poor lineup and a difficult pool assignment will make it difficult for the team to win more than one game.
With a roster of players whose professional careers are long over and low-level prospects, Australia will be challenged to advance but could pick up a few wins in a weak pool.
19. Czech Republic
The Czechs are a Cinderella story making their WBC debut, and winning even just one game will count as an enormous success.
China is still in its infancy as a baseball nation and has the least talent of any team in the tournament, but it might be able to steal a win against the Czechs in pool play.