Early analysis of Top 5 World Baseball Classic favorites

As the World Baseball Classic preliminary rosters were announced last week, we take a quick look at the five teams tabbed as favorites to win the tournament (Odds courtesy of Bovada)

Team: United States
Odds: 5/2
Previous Finishes: 2nd Round (2006), 4th place (2009)
Star players you may have heard of: David Wright, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton
Fearless prediction: I have trouble tabbing this team as a winner, given their previous disappointing finishes.  Also, their pitching staff lacks an hard-throwing ace that I’d like to see (plus in this format, depth will be key).  I see a finish between 3rd and 2nd round (relatively easy draw in Pool D with Mexico, Italy, and Canada).

Team: Dominican Republic
Odds: 11/4
Previous Finishes: 4th place (2006), 1st round (2009)
Star players you may have heard of: Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Adrian Beltre
Fearless prediction:  Might be the best lineup of any team in the field, but, again, pitching lacks the depth I’d like to see.  This ballclub will play with a lot of passion and national pride, tough draw in the pool play (Pool C) with Venezuela and Puerto Rico, but they’ll survive that and be a late participant in the final four.  I see a finish in the Top 3.

Team: Japan
Odds: 10/3
Previous Finishes: Champions (2006 and 2009)
Star players you may have heard of: Kazuo Matsui, Shinnosuke Abe
Fearless prediction:  I feel like Japan might be suffering the same complancency that the U.S. is in the number of MLB players turning down invites.  In fact, the entire Japanese roster lacks a current MLB player.  That being said, with an all star team from the Nippon League, this will be a tough team to beat.  Their pool play (Pool A) matchup with Cuba will be a harbinger of both of these relatively unknown squads.  It’s hard to go against the 2-time champions of the event.  But I will, I predict a barely 4th finish.

Team: Venezuela
Odds: 9/1
Previous Finishes: 2nd Round (2006), 3rd place (2009)
Star players you may have heard of: Felix Hernandez, Pablo Sandoval, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez
Fearless prediction: I think this is the year that Venezuela puts it all together (trending up as their talent has invaded the majors this past decade).  With Miguel Cabrera coming off the triple crown, Pablo Sandoval as an emotional leader, and Felix Hernandez as an ace this team is tough to beat in a one game final.  Also in the “Group of Death” (Group C) with D.R. and Puerto Rico they’ll have to navigate that, but I predict a Top 2 finish (official prediction is the winner).

Team: South Korea
Odds: 15/1
Previous Finishes: 3rd place (2006), 2nd place (2009)
Star players you may have heard of: Seung-yeop Lee, Tae-kyun Kim
Fearless prediction: Like Japan, the major league talent (like Shin-soo Choo) are skipping this years WBC to focus on their day job, but Korea expects to compete in the final four.  In a relatively light Pool B, they will most certainly find themselves ready to rumble in the 2nd round.  And having finished in the Top 3 in previous years (and also the most recent gold medalists at the 2008 Olympics), this national team knows how to win this style of tournament.  I predict a Top 3 finish.

Final Predictions:
Winner: Venezuela
Runner-up: South Korea
Third Place: Dominican Republic
Fourth Place: Japan
Also in 2nd round: United States, Mexico, Cuba, Holland

- Dave (@lhd_on_sports)

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