Defending champions Team USA headline Pool C of the 2023 WBC.
Tomorrow will see the opening of this year’s edition of the World Baseball Classic. As part of it, we’ve spent yesterday and today previewing the 20 teams set to take part, and now it’s time to take a look at Pool C. Among the teams in Pool C will be the defending champions, a first time participant, and a couple interesting matchups.
All of Pool C’s games will be held at Chase Field in Phoenix — home of the Diamondbacks. Now, let’s get to the teams.
Baseball America Ranking: 3
2017 Result: Won WBC (6-2 overall)
The United States come into this year’s WBC as the defending champions, having won the event in 2017. They come into this year’s event among the favorites, boasting a potentially very strong lineup.
The US offense will be one of, if not the best, in the tournament. Among the names they’ll feature are Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, Trea Turner, Pete Alonso, Nolan Arenado, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Tucker … you get the picture. There will be guys who aren’t starters who would easily be for most of the rest of the field.
One potential drawback is that the rotation doesn’t look to be the strongest. That once looked pretty good too, but the withdrawals of Nestor Cortes and Clayton Kershaw have left things looking iffy. The US will run out some combination of Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Freeland, Miles Mikolas, and Brady Singer. There are some solid pitchers there, but that also reads like the rotation of an MLB team that finishes third in their division with an 82-80 record. The good news is that the bullpen looks potentially pretty good, and few others teams in the tournament will boast a dominant rotation.
Despite that, the US should have more than enough talent to power their way through the group stage. It becomes a single-elimination tournament after that, and plenty of crazy things can happen in a single game of baseball. That being said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the US lift the trophy again.
Team USA will feature some Yankees connections, as Kyle Higashioka will be one of the catchers on the roster. Beyond him, the coaching staff also features some Yankee names, with Andy Pettitte as the pitching coach, Dave Righetti as the bullpen coach, and Brian McCann also on the staff.
Baseball America Ranking: 6
2017 Result: Eliminated in first round (1-2 overall)
While not as star-studded as the US team, the Mexico lineup will feature some pretty good names: Randy Arozarena, Alex Verdugo, Luis Urías, Rowdy Tellez, and Joey Meneses. The top of their rotation is also pretty strong, featuring Julio Urías and Taijuan Walker.
On paper, they’re still probably behind the US, and competing for second place in the group. While they have some talent, their depth certainly isn’t up quite there. However, if one of their pitchers goes out and shoves in the game between the two teams, they could certainly steal that game and put themselves in pole position for one of the two spots in the knockout stage.
Also of note is that Mexico’s bullpen will feature two former Yankees in Giovanny Gallegos and Luis Cessa.
Baseball America Ranking: 9
2017 Result: Eliminated in first round (0-3 overall)
Canada will likely be Mexico’s closest competition for the second spot. The headliner on their roster is Freddie Freeman, eligible through his parents, who were both born north of the border. Besides him, there is some major league talent on the roster in Tyler O’Neill, Abraham Toro, and Bo Naylor.
Their pitching leaves a bit to be desired. Cal Quantrill is a pretty solid first option, but other than him it’s a bit iffy. They will feature some prime “Remember Some Guys” candidates with John Axford among those in the bullpen.
Current Yankees prospect Indigo Diaz — acquired in the Lucas Luetge trade — and former Yankees prospect Evan Rutckyj — now playing in Japan — are also on the roster.
Baseball America Ranking: 11
2017 Result: Eliminated in first round (1-2 overall)
There’s some MLB talent on Colombia’s roster, but if you look up and down it, you’ll see a lot of guys still in the minors or playing in the Mexican League. Gio Urshela is the most notable name on the Colombian team from a Yankee perspective, but he’s got some other notable teammates in Harold Ramírez and Julio Teherán.
That being said, it’s hard to see Colombia doing much of anything. While they have Urshela and company, they also have players listed as professionally playing for the — and I quote — Gary SouthShore RailCats and Gastonia Honey Hunters. Furthermore, longtime Colombian standout José Quintana was supposed to lead the starting rotation, but he withdrew on Sunday due to injury. Their best hope of advancing is likely pulling off an upset over one of Mexico or Canada and muddying things up in the tiebreakers.
Baseball America Ranking: 16
2017 Result: N/A (WBC debut)
Wow, look how much good that Yankees-Red Sox series in London did. Just a few short years after it, they’ve clearly caught baseball fever and already have put together a team good enough to make the WBC!
To be real, most of this team is made up of American born players with familial connections to the UK. The most notable of which is probably Trayce Thompson, who had a bit of a breakout year for the Dodgers in 2022.
Most of the rest of the team is playing in the minors or indie ball, but there is at least one notable talented player in that group. Mariners’ catching prospect Harry Ford — seen as a consensus top 100 prospect — is on GB’s roster, having gone 6-for-11 for them in the qualifying tournament that got them into the WBC.
On Great Britain’s coaching staff is Antoan Richardson, notable for scoring the run on Derek Jeter’s walk-off hit in his final game at Yankee Stadium.
The US should qualify out of the group, and most likely in first place. The race for the second spot could get interesting, though.
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