The World Baseball Classic is back for the first time in six years, with plenty of baseball’s biggest stars donning the colors of their home nations for the right to the title of world champions.
The tournament has expanded, from 16 teams to 20 this time around. That means there are four pools of five teams each, with the top two teams from each pool advancing to the quarterfinals.
In Pool B, the Czech Republic has qualified for the first time in the tournament's history. Here’s a look at them and the four other teams battling for the top two spots and a place in the quarterfinals.
2023 World Baseball Classic: Pool B Preview
Odds to win: +300
Team Japan is no stranger to this contest. They’re the only nation to have won the WBC twice, back in 06 and 09. They’re one of the favorites to win it again this year, with the third-best odds of any squad.
Odds to win: +1200
Padres shortstop Ha-Seong Kim and Cardinals Gold Glover Tommy Edman lead this team into the tournament. They were the runner-up back in 2009, but haven’t made it to the championship game since. Could this be the year they finally make it back?
Odds to win: +20000
China has participated in every WBC but has never made it out of the first round. With a stacked Pool having to face Korea and Japan, it’ll be tough for them to make it any further this time.
Odds to win: +13000
Liam Hendriks will, unfortunately, have to miss suiting up for the Aussies as he deals with treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He’s easily the biggest name affiliated with this team, but some solid MiLB prospects like Angels outfielder Aaron Whitefield and Royals middle-infield prospect Robbie Glendinning will look to make a name for themselves this March.
Odds to win: +50000
Well, they’re the long shots for a reason. Eric Sogard, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2021, is the lone member of the roster with experience in the big leagues. Michal Kovala, who graduates from high school this year, is the other top prospect. He’s a Georgia Tech signee and is the top-rated European prospect by Perfect Game. The majority of the team just plays baseball as a hobby, with the star pitcher, Martin Schneider, working as a firefighter. Martin Cervenka, who nearly made the majors back in the mid-2010s, is on the squad and works in sales full-time.