Pool B features Japan, South Korea, Australia, China and Czech Republic
The Pool B teams are headlined by two-time champion Japan, who won in 2006 and 2009. South Korea was the runner-up back in 2009, while the Czech Republic is a first-time qualifier for the tournament, which has been expanded from 16 teams to 20. Australia and China have played in all four WBC tournaments, but have not made it past the pool stage.
Odds are posted for Group Play and also the overall tournament winner at DraftKings Sportsbook, so let’s look at those and also some info on the teams.
Odds to Win Pool B
South Korea +400
Czech Republic +10000
Team Japan Roster
Shohei Ohtani will participate as a two-way player for the Japanese, who are a huge favorite to win Pool B. It would be downright shocking if they didn’t. Running into Ohtani and Yu Darvish in pool play seems downright unfair. But, those aren’t the only accomplished players on the Japanese team. Many of these players are stars in Nippon Professional Baseball. Some of them, like Seiya Suzuki, were recently posted to MLB or will be in the near future.
The player to watch here is pitcher Roki Sasaki, who is the best Japanese pitching prospect in some time. The 21-year-old had 173 strikeouts against 23 walks in 129.1 innings for Chiba Lotte last season, including a perfect game followed by eight more perfect innings before he was pulled after 102 pitches in the second start. Sasaki struck out 19 in his perfect game. He’s incredible and will be a prize for some MLB team soon.
Team Korea Roster
The championship game for Pool B will be Mar. 10 between Korea and Japan at the Tokyo Dome. That will be must-see TV as far as this tournament goes. While this isn’t quite on the same level as Japan’s roster, the South Koreans have KBO MVP Jung-hoo Lee, who will be in the Major Leagues next season. Ha-Seong Kim and Tommy Edman are well-known MLBers, but the KBO star power on this team is impressive.
Like Sasaki, Chang-Mo Koo is a pitcher to watch from this roster. While he isn’t as dominant as Sasaki, the 26-year-old owned a 1.74 ERA in 93.1 innings in 2020 with 102 strikeouts against 18 walks. He followed that up with 19 starts in 2022 with a 2.10 ERA and a 108/29 K/BB ratio over 111.2 innings. Hyun Soo Kim and Byung-Ho Park are others known to baseball fans, but Baek-Ho Kang is another name to remember. While not Japan, this is an excellent roster that is basically a KBO All-Star team with some MLB talent infused.
Team Australia Roster
Ironically, Warwick Saupold, who was one of the top import players in the KBO in 2019-20, is the ace of the Australia staff. Saupold now pitches in the Australian Baseball League, which is where most of the Aussies play. Australia hasn’t finished higher than ninth in the WBC and has gone 2-10 in competition, getting outscored by 25 runs over those 12 games. They actually had to qualify to get into the 2017 tournament after finishing dead last in 2013, but automatically qualified this time around.
Team China Roster
The Chinese are also 2-10 in WBC play, but they’ve been outscored 102-18 over those 12 games. This is a team that hasn’t finished higher than 11th and hasn’t scored more than seven runs in a tournament. The 2017 version of Team China was outscored 24-1 over three games. Alan Carter is the only player signed to an MLB organization, as most of these guys play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) or NPB.
Team Czech Republic Roster
The Czechs are first-timers in the WBC, joining Nicaragua and Great Britain with that honor. The Czechs had something of a Miracle on Ice moment in qualifying, as they were mercy ruled by Spain in a 21-7 rout in the first game of the tournament, but pulled the landmark upset in the championship game to make the 2023 WBC.
A few players have gotten close, but there still hasn’t been a Major Leaguer from the Czech Republic since 1952. This is a roster made up almost exclusively of part-time players with other jobs. Eric Sogard is the lone MLBer on the roster. His mom was born in Prague and Sogard got his Czech citizenship last year to be able to play.
World Baseball Classic Pool B Prediction
Japan at -650 is pretty cost-prohibitive, but South Korea at +400 isn’t terribly appetizing either. The Japanese are one of the favorites to win the tournament, due in large part to the fact that they are almost guaranteed to advance. South Korea would have to win the head-to-head meeting, which is plausible. We’ll have to wait and see if they get Ohtani or Darvish in what will be the second game of the tournament for both teams.
Both teams will win their other three games, so that’s your Pool B championship game. If you think South Korea beats Japan more than 20% of the time, then +400 is your bet. I think Japan wins, but -650 yields limited equity.
How to Watch the World Baseball Classic
All games streamed on Fox Sports App. All games will be televised on either Fox, FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes or Tubi.