As spring training arrives next week, there will be a few star (and honestly a bunch of non-star) players reporting a bit earlier than usual (including the Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki, who is already in Arizona) because they’re participating in the World Baseball Classic. Marcus Stroman will also play again, this time representing Team Puerto Rico after having pitched the USA to victory last time. There will be 20 teams participating this year in four pools of five teams each, as the pools compete in a round-robin to set up the elimination rounds for the bragging rights at the end.
While most of the stars participating are doing so with the blessing of their parent club and of course MLB (who basically runs the event), there is some drama with certain would-be participants who now have to stay in spring training proper, such as Ji-Man Choi because the Pirates suck and Carlos Correa because congrats on the sex (and probably that ankle thing but we don’t talk about ankle, no no no). But I anticipate that the rosters, when officially announced and pending replacements due to injuries or last-second dropouts, will be loaded:
Which stars have said they are playing?From MLB.com
Though rosters won’t be official until they’re announced, a long list of stars have committed to play in this year’s WBC, including Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Sandy Alcantara, Francisco Lindor, Freddie Freeman and Jose Altuve.
I’ll update the post when they finish their seven-hour show on MLB Network. I guess with the Cactus League slate starting on February 25 but the WBC starting on March 8, that gives Seiya and his other Cubs buddies a little less than two weeks of spring training practice game action before they get into full “this actually counts for something” game action. Checking the WBC game schedule, it looks like the four round robin games are supposed to be played in a span of five days, so each team will have to set a pretty short rotation and the position players will obviously have to get in game shape a lot faster, which explains Seiya (among others) already training so early.
Depending on the roster announcements I may change my (very likely wrong) predictions, but based on the assigned pools, I think something like this happens in round robin play:
- Pool A – Netherlands & Cuba
- Pool B – Japan & South Korea (sort of a cop out on my part but those leagues are pretty good)
- Pool C – USA & Canada
- Pool D – Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico
It’s likely wrong given the chaos inherent in a round robin style tournament coupled with baseball being baseball, and from that point forward it’s anyone’s guess who wins. It would be fun for Puerto Rico to win once since they’ve been runners-up a couple times, but the other teams are pretty loaded, and also the teams that I didn’t pick to come out of the round robin are also pretty loaded. Per the official format, the Pools A & B winners are on one side of the bracket while Pools C & D make up the other side. Based on the limited knowledge I have of these countries, I think the C & D side will have a rougher go at it. However, the participating players are obviously willing to risk injury to represent their countries for a chance at glory, so I don’t think there are any true underdogs here even against the heavily favored teams.
The schedule suggests all the broadcasts will be on FOX, the FS1/FS2 channels, and something I’ve barely used called Tubi, so have at it. The rosters are compiled here.