A few notes on the WBC that starts next month

We are now a little over three weeks away from the start of the fifth World Baseball Classic. The now expanded to 20-nation tourney begins with four pools of five teams each playing games in Taiwan, Tokyo, Phoenix and Miami.

Team USA will play in Pool C at Chase Field in Phoenix along with Canada, Colombia, Mexico and Great Britain. The two top teams in each of the four pools advance to the quarterfinals and play is then single-elimination, one and done, from that point on. The semi-finals are March 19-20 in Miami with the championship game set for March 21.

Here are past winners:

2006 – Japan

2009 – Japan

2013 – Dominican Republic

2017 – United States

While the competition doesn’t truly determine which country has the best talent, in my humble opinion, it is a fun event and spices up spring training a bit.

The Orioles will be sending six players from their organization to teams in the tournament. Cedric Mullins competes for Team USA with Anthony Santander joined by non-roster spring training pitcher Darwinzon Hernandez on Team Venezuela. Right-hander Dean Kremer will be joined by O’s minor league pitcher Daniel Federman on Team Israel while minor leaguer Ryan Long is on the Great Britain squad. Dillon Tate and Ramón Urías, once listed to play, were not on the final rosters revealed earlier this week.

During Birdland Caravan, Mullins said his participation in the tournament requires an adjustment in ramping up for higher-level games before opening day.

"It's exciting. I'm going to be around a bunch of well-renown talent. These guys have been doing it for a long time and it's just an honor to be a part of it," he said of playing in the event. 

Each roster includes up to 30 active players, including at least 14 pitchers and two catchers. In addition, federations may identify a designated pool of up to eight additional pitchers who are eligible to participate in one or more consecutive rounds.

The WBC has certainly been attracting better talent as the event has grown. This year there are eight former major league Most Valuable Players scheduled to participate.

* Three-time American League MVP Mike Trout, Team USA

* Two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, Team Venezuela

* Jose Altuve, Team Venezuela

* Mookie Betts, Team USA

* Freddie Freeman, Team Canada

* Paul Goldschmidt, Team USA

* Clayton Kershaw, Team USA

* Shohei Ohtani, Team Japan

In addition, 16 of the top 18 finishers for 2022 National League MVP and six of the top 10 finishers for 2022 AL MVP are scheduled to participate in the 2023 event.

Two Cy Young Award winners are scheduled to play in Sandy Alcantara for the Dominican Republic and Kershaw for Team USA.

Seven Rookies of the Year are scheduled to play.

* Ronald Acuña Jr., Team Venezuela

* Pete Alonso, Team USA

* Randy Arozarena, Team Mexico

* Shohei Ohtani, Team Japan

* Julio Rodríguez, Team Dominican Republic

* Mike Trout, Team USA

* Devin Williams, Team USA

In addition, there are 67 All-Stars, including 35 players who were 2022 All-Stars, on 2023 WBC rosters.

According to the online sportsbook BetOnline.ag, Team Dominican Republic is the betting favorite at +200, followed by Team USA at +275, Japan at +325 and Puerto Rico at +950. Cuba and Venezuela come next at +1600.

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