World Baseball Classic 2023

This event is supposed to be a quadrennial affair, but the pandemic played hell with that as it did with so much else. So, two years late, it begins March 8.

After a six-year wait, the World Baseball Classic has returned, and it’s bigger than ever. That’s not hyperbole, either: The tournament field has been expanded to 20 teams, with three first-time participants in Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Nicaragua [What took Nicaragua so long to enter? It failed to qualify in its previous three attempts. Panama is a returnee after missing the last two Classics.] hoping for a Cinderella run. But they’ll need to get past Japan (looking for its third title), the USA (hoping for a repeat), the Dominican Republic (the pre-tournament favorite) and Puerto Rico (trying to win it all following back-to-back second-place finishes).

Baseball is more of a global game than ever before, and that’s proven on the rosters: There are 67 MLB All-Stars, 186 players on 40-man rosters and 332 players under contract with big league teams. There are eight Major League MVPs in Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw, Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera. In fact, 16 of the top 18 finishers for the 2022 NL MVP and six of the top 10 finishers for the 2022 AL MVP are scheduled to participate in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, with the reigning Nippon Professional Baseball MVP Munetaka Murakami and Korea Baseball Organization MVP Jung-Hoo Lee joining in, too.

So how many Dodgers are playing and for whom? Funny you should ask.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Austin Barnes, C (MEX), Mookie Betts, OF (USA), Liam Doolan, RHP (AUS), Freddie Freeman, INF (CAN), Clayton Kershaw, LHP (USA), Adam Kolarek, LHP (ISR – DPP), Jose Ramos, OF (PAN), Miguel Rojas, INF (VEN), Will Smith, C (USA), Trayce Thompson, OF (GBR), Julio Urías, LHP (MEX).

One more connection: Mike Piazza is managing Italy’s team.

Why is the Dominican Republic the favorite? Well:

This lineup is a veritable Murderers’ Row, with Rafael Devers and Manny Machado battling for time at third base, Mariners sensation Julio Rodríguez joining an outfield with Eloy Jiménez and Juan Soto, and Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s freshly minted Gold Glove and powerful bat just added to the mix.

The rotation looks just as strong as the offense, with reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara fronting a staff featuring World Series champion Cristian Javier, young Pirates fireballer Roansy Contreras and veteran hurler Johnny Cueto.

One more thing:

Note: Players marked “DPP” are members of their team’s Designated Pitcher Pool. Each WBC team may choose up to 10 players as part of their pool — these players are eligible to participate in one or more consecutive rounds of the WBC, but if replaced on their team’s roster will be unavailable for the rest of the tournament. Affiliated players in Designated Pitcher Pools who are not actively on their team’s WBC roster during a given round will report to Spring Training with their Major League clubs.

Adam Kolarek is part of Israel’s Designated Pitcher Pool.

33 thoughts on “World Baseball Classic 2023

  1. Hitters need to adjust to the new pitch clock too.

    For pitchers, the clock means they can take no more than 15 seconds to deliver a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on. For hitters, it means they can step out of the box just once per plate appearance and must be ready to hit at the eight-second mark. There’s been plenty of focus on what this means for pitchers—a “pitch clock,” after all, is reasonably tied to the man delivering the pitch. But it asks equally as much from the hitters.

    “The batter’s box thing might be a bigger issue than the pitchers’ thing,” says Braves manager Brian Snitker. “Guys are so used to stepping out, fixing their gloves, everything like that.”

    Yet preparing hitters for this change is tricky. They’re used to being able to call time whenever they desired. A particularly stressful plate appearance might have previously entailed stepping out of the box several times. Adjusting their uniform. Taking a few deep breaths. Undoing and redoing the Velcro on their batting gloves. Maybe repeating all of the above. Which, of course, is exactly why this rule was put in place: MLB wanted to cut out as much of that dead time as it could. But it means there’s a lot for batters to change—as much psychological as physical.

  2. Jim Bowden (yeah, yeah, I don’t like him much either) at The Athletic:

    Now I’m going to rank and share my thoughts on the best catchers of the next generation — five players who haven’t debuted so they weren’t eligible for my top 45 list, starting with the Dodgers’ Diego Cartaya at No. 1.

    For each of these intriguing young catchers, I also reached out to an executive from their team’s front office to hear about their skills and development. Here’s my breakdown of the top five catching prospects in the sport.

    Note: The top 45 catcher rankings included some players who have retained their rookie eligibility, such as Francisco Álvarez and Gabriel Moreno. All statistics are from the 2022 season unless otherwise noted.

    1. Diego Cartaya, Dodgers
    Age: 21
    B: R T: R HT: 6-3 WT: 219
    Slash line (Low A, High A): .254/.389/.503
    2B: 22 HR: 22 RBI: 72 SB: 1 CS%: 22%

    In my view, Cartaya is the best catching prospect in the sport. Signed as an amateur out of Venezuela in 2018 for $2.5 million, Cartaya is certainly living up to that bonus. He’s an above-average hitter who knows how to work a count. He uses the whole field, with strong opposite-field power. (Overall, he has 20- to 25-home run power.) He’s an above-average defensive receiver with a plus-plus throwing arm. I’ve mentioned this conversation before, but it bears repeating: When I talked to former manager Mike Scioscia during the Futures Game last July at Dodger Stadium, he compared Cartaya to a cross between Buster Posey and Salvador Perez. Keep in mind Perez has five Gold Gloves, four Silver Slugger awards, seven All-Star appearances, and he won a world championship. Posey won a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP, five Silver Slugger honors, a Gold Glove and three World Series. Not bad company. For Scioscia, a former All-Star catcher who played 13 years in the majors and managed for another 19 years, to make that type of comparison was eye-opening. Based on what I’ve seen, I might not go that far, but I did rank Cartaya as the third-best prospect in baseball last August.

    Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes: “Diego’s combination of at-bat quality and ability to do damage is exciting. What’s equally impressive is the way he handles a pitching staff and navigates a game behind the plate. He possesses true leadership qualities and makes those around him better.”

  3. Mookie upped his weight after a visit to Driveline this offseason. Also,

    The free agent signings of right-handers Alex Reyes and Jimmy Nelson and outfielder David Peralta became official Wednesday. In order to add them to the 40-man roster, the Dodgers placed Walker Buehler, Blake Treinen and JP Feyereisen on the 60-day injured list.

  4. Did you know that Dodger Stadium has on its grounds an accredited botanic garden?

    From the LA Times March 3, 2022 edition:

    Today, the slopes and giant concrete martini-shaped planters around the stadium have been transformed into beds of fragrant salvias, agaves of multiple colors and size, and boulder-sized century plants sending their towering blooms into the sky. The boxes outside the Dodgers Team Store at the Top Deck are overflowing with succulents of every color. And true to a botanic garden, all the plants have their tags listing their common and botanical names.

    But before he could succeed, Perea had to bring in a panel of advisors, spend five years satisfying the accreditation requirements — which were finalized in December — and convince stadium management and his skeptical crew that this idea made sense.

    There are some great pictures. You know those concrete “martini” planters (when installed in the 1960s somebody thought they looked like martini glasses)? There are 149 of them and most of them needed repairs. As of March of last year 70 of them had been fixed (by hand).

    You can tour the gardens on Friday mornings for $25 ($20 for seniors 55+ and active military, $15 for ages 4-14, free for children 3 and younger).

  5. Jack Harris of the LA Times says there are five things to watch as spring training begins:
    1.Center field competition
    2.Designated closer or by committee
    3.How will Lux and Vargas do at 2nd and SS?
    4.Who replaces JT as clubhouse leader?
    5.How soon might Stone, Pepiot and Miller be ready to pitch in the bigs?

  6. Oh boy. The ghost runner wasn’t the only change. From The Athletic:

    So what do we mean by that? Under the new pitch-timer rules, pitchers have a newfound word to worry about: “disengagement,” which will no longer be something that applies just to various Kardashians every time they break up with their celebrity significant others. In this context, a “disengagement” is a potentially game-changing development that occurs every time a pitcher “disengages” from the rubber in a couple of different ways.

    One would be a pickoff throw. That’s easy enough to grasp. What’s harder to remember is that every time a pitcher steps off the rubber, even if it’s merely to gather his thoughts, that is also considered a “disengagement.” And for those who haven’t followed this closely, here’s why that matters:

    After two “disengagements,” a pitcher can no longer throw over to first base — or any base — unless he then picks off the runner. If the runner isn’t out, it’s a balk. And that is going to dramatically alter pitching, base-stealing and the art of controlling the running game.

    Managers, coaches and front offices report that they’ve tried to get their pitchers thinking about this for weeks now. But good luck to them. Think about veteran pitchers, who have spent all their lives stepping off every time they had an issue with a catcher or just needed to hit the reset button. Now there are real-life consequences for doing that. And that’s a huge deal.

    That’s not merely a habit. That’s behavior that has been branded into their brain cells for so long, how can it possibly be deprogrammed in one or two trips to the mound — or 12?

    So that’s a fun game you and your friends can play if you’re hanging out at any spring training games. Start a pool on how many times your favorite pitcher steps off and then shakes his head because he just frigging forgot … again. Sounds like an enjoyable beverage-consuming game to me.

    • Kenley is concerned about adapting to the new changes, both to the clock and the disengagement rules. Says he need to work on this and will not join the Netherlands WBC team until and unless they make the semi-finals in Miami.

      • I’m sure there are a lot of pitchers whose knee-jerk reaction to these changes was “What? I can’t step off as often as I want?” and “Okay, we saw the clock coming but it’s still gonna be hard to adjust.”

  7. Mike P. had a funny reaction to the rule changes, saying that it is was too bad that they included the shift ban with the pitching clock as we won’t get to see third basemen having to sprint over to short right field, when a lefthander comes to bat.

  8. Ghost runner on second for extra inning games now permanent during the regular season, apparently. Terrible ruling, MLB!

    • No, I’ve spent fairly little time in Brazil. I’m presently in the Welsh-Argentine town of Trevelin, whose tourist office features a dragon on the roof.

  9. From CBS Sports:

    The Dodgers have agreed to a one-year contract worth $6.5 million with veteran outfielder David Peralta, reports ESPN. Peralta is a left field-only guy and will slot in alongside Trayce Thompson and Mookie Betts in the outfield most days. Prospect James Outman was in line to start in left field and will now be relegated to the bench or to Triple-A.

    Peralta, 35, is a former pitcher who converted into an outfielder in an independent league in 2011. He reached the big leagues with the NL West rival Diamondbacks in 2014 and has been steady offensive producer and a sneaky good defender for the better part of the last decade. Peralta split last season between the D’Backs and Rays.

  10. Hi’Ya Link. Good post.

    I see the first game is on March 11th. What do the players do until then? Do they report to Spring Training as usual and workout with their own team? Or do they workout with the team they are playing for in the WBC?

    • I think they mostly play with their own teams, although pitchers need to work with their WBC catchers for a few days, and I suspect double-play combos should do the same.