Skip to content

World Baseball Classic: Plenty of Star Power

AL MVP Front-Runner Ohtani Among Players to Watch

The World Baseball Classic is about to get underway. While not all the best players in the tournament are currently playing in the majors, some of the top players in the American and National Leagues will be taking part even after some high-profile departures due to injury concerns that dominated the Major League Baseball news cycle.

The tournament begins on Tuesday when Cuba and the Netherlands square off.

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels
Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels - Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/afp

Pool A features Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Cuba, Italy and Panama, and Pool B is comprised of Australia, China, Czech Republic, Japan and Korea. Both begin this week. Pool A games will be held in Taichung, Taiwan, with Pool B play taking place in Tokyo.

Phoenix will play host to Pool C contents beginning on Saturday, with the U.S. being joined by Colombia, Canada, Great Britain and Mexico.

Miami is the site for Pool D competition that begins on Saturday as well with Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela in a star-studded bracket. Israel and Nicaragua will also play in Pool D.

The quarterfinals will take place from March 15-18 with the semifinals on March 19 and 20 in Miami and the championship game on March 21.

China and the Czech Republic are the only teams without an active major league player on the roster.

Below is a look at the players who are listed by the MLB predictions in the top 10 in the Cy Young and MVP races. Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels and Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins are among the award front-runners scheduled to take part in the event.

Players to Watch

1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels

  • Team: Japan
  • Position: Pitcher, outfielder, designated hitter
  • AL MVP odds: +185 (1st)

Ohtani has taken Major League Baseball by storm with his prowess both as a hitter and pitcher and plenty of eyes will be on him during the World Baseball Classic.

It will set the stage for what could be another special season as Ohtani should be one of the frontrunners in the MVP race according to the MLB odds. He came up short last season due to Aaron Judge’s historic season with the New York Yankees.

2. Sandy Alcantara, Marlins

  • Team: Dominican Republic
  • Position: Pitcher
  • NL Cy Young odds: +450 (1st)

The 27-year-old Alcantara won a career-high 14 games during the 2022 season and one has to wonder what that number would have been with a better team behind him.

There are plenty of pitchers with MLB experience on the Dominican Republic roster. However, he figures to be the ace of the staff of the team listed by sportsbook as the favorite heading into the tournament.

Alcantara was set to return to the mound for the Marlins on Monday.

3. Juan Soto, Padres

  • Team: Dominican Republic
  • Position: Outfielder
  • NL MVP odds: +450 (1st)

Soto is coming off a tough season that saw him get traded from the Washington Nationals to the San Diego Padres. He should be a force in his first full season with the Padres. First, he will be a vital cog in the star-studded Dominican Republic lineup.

Soto is just one of the reasons why the World Baseball Classic odds favor his team to win it all.

4. Mike Trout, Angels

  • Team: United States
  • Position: Outfielder
  • AL MVP odds: +450 (tied for second)

Considering his injury history, Angels fans will be rather anxious when watching Trout play for Team USA.

The good news is that the three-time American League Most Valuable Player will get a chance to compete for a championship and that is something that has eluded him during his time with the Angels. Trout has appeared in three postseason games during his 12 MLB seasons.

5. Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves

  • Team: Venezuela
  • Position: Outfielder
  • NL MVP odds: +650 (2nd)

Acuna has missed 80 and 43 games over the last two seasons. When healthy, he is an electrifying player who could easily be a 40-home run, 40-stolen base player at the major league level.

The Venezuelan lineup isn’t as deep as others in the tournament, but he will make life difficult for opposing pitchers.


5. Julio Rodriguez, Mariners

  • Team: Dominican Republic
  • Position: Outfielder
  • AL MVP odds: +650 (4th)

The reigning American League Rookie of the Year can do it all as he had 25 stolen bases and 28 home runs in 132 games for the Mariners in 2022 to finish seventh in the MVP voting.

With the players hitting around him in the World Baseball Classic, he figures to see more good pitches to hit than when the season starts with the Mariners, when some making MLB picks will be going with Rodriguez in the MVP race.

6. Mookie Betts, Dodgers

  • Team: United States
  • Position: Outfielder
  • NL MVP odds: +850 (3rd)

Another former MVP in the lineup for the U.S. squad, Betts knows how to perform when the bright lights are shining as he won World Series titles with both the Red Sox and Dodgers.

His power and speed combination will prove beneficial when it comes to filling out the lineup card for the U.S. team.

7. Freddie Freeman, Dodgers

  • Team: Canada
  • Position: Infielder
  • NL MVP odds: +1200 (seventh)

The longtime Atlanta Braves first baseman had an interesting first season with the Dodgers with some of his teammates calling him out when he was overly emotional heading into a reunion with his former teammates. Still, Freeman was fourth in the NL MVP voting as he led the league with 117 runs, 47 doubles and an on-base percentage of .407.

Freeman had a couple of stints with the U.S. junior national team. However, he will be suiting up for Canada in this tournament.


8. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals

  • Team: United States
  • Position: Infielder
  • NL MVP odds: +1000 (tied for fifth)

The 35-year-old Goldschmidt shows little signs of slowing down after leading the National League in slugging percentage. His .317 batting average was his best since the 2015 season. He is also a four-time Gold Glove-winning first baseman.

9. Trea Turner, Phillies

  • Team: United States
  • Position: Infielder
  • NL MVP odds: +1000 (tied for fifth)

The former World Series winner and batting champion heads to a new team after playing in 212 games for the Dodgers over the last season and a half.

A career .302 hitter at the major league level, Turner figures to be a factor at the top of the U.S. lineup.

10. Pete Alonso, New York Mets

  • Team: United States
  • Position: Infielder
  • NL MVP odds: +1400 (tied for eighth)

Alonso blasted 53 home runs as a rookie in 2019 and he led the National League with 131 RBIs last season. Still only 28, Alonso is one of baseball’s top power hitters and he will be called upon to be a run producer for a powerful United States lineup.

11. Manny Machado, Padres

Padres vs Guardians Predictions, Game Preview, Live Stream, Odds & Picks, May 3
Manny Machado #13 of the San Diego Padre – Justin K. Aller/Getty Images/afp
  • Team: Dominican Republic
  • Position: Infielder
  • NL MVP odds: +1400 (tied for eighth)

Machado just signed a huge extension with the Padres and the focus will be on leading a talented San Diego team to a World Series title. First, he will be front and center as part of the tournament favorites in the World Baseball Classic.

12. Rafael Devers, Red Sox

  • Team: Dominican Republic
  • Position: Infielder
  • AL MVP odds: +1800 (8th)

Devers continues to lose his supporting cast with the Red Sox. However, he will be part of a loaded lineup for the Dominican Republic.

Devers has driven in more than 100 runs twice with the Red Sox and he has 65 home runs over the last two seasons.

The MLB projections aren’t looking rosy for the Red Sox so this could be a chance for Devers to pursue another title.

13. Wander Franco, Rays

  • Team: Dominican Republic
  • Position: Infielder
  • AL MVP odds: +2200 (10th)

Injuries impacted a promising 2022 season for Franco as he was limited to 83 games. He is a centerpiece of the Tampa Bay lineup and will be asked to be a table-setter in this tournament as well.

Franco displayed his potential in the 2021 American League Division Series against Boston when he hit 368 with two doubles and two home runs in four games.

Featured Picks

Related News