Today, the groups and venues of the 2023 World Basball Classic have been announced. For the change, Korea won’t be one of the hosts. This time Taiwan (Taichung) will be one of the hosts, next to Japan (Tokyo), and the USA (Phoenix and Miami).
Tokyo, Taichung, and Phoenix will only host the first round games. Miami will be the location for the first round of group D (group of death), the quarter finals, the semi-finals, and the championship game. Tokyo will also host a quarter final group.
Group A (Taichung) will contain host Taiwan, Cuba, Italy, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and one of the four qualifiers. Group B (Tokyo) will contain Australia, China, host Japan, Korea, and one of the four qualifiers. Group C (Phoenix) will contain Canada, Columbia, Mexico, host USA, and one of the four qualifiers. And finally Group D. Not that the other groups are a walk in the park, but Group D contains extremely strong countries in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Next to these three powerhouses, Israel and one of the four qualifiers will be in this group.
From a Dutch point of view, I think that Group A may be the easiest one. Cuban baseball is still deteriorating. As long as the Cuban Baseball Federation refuses to field Cuban MLB players, Cuba’s chances to advance to the semis will be a lot smaller. Still the country is a force to be reckoned with. How about the Kingdom of the Netherlands? That’s hard to tell. The KNBSB (Dutch Baseball and Softball Federation) has started to rejuvenate the Dutch national team. Likely, MLB players like Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, and Jonathan Schoop will be on the squad, so the team is not much different when it comes to that. But with cutting players like Diegomar Markwell from the Dutch roster, this team may lack some experienced pitching for a high ranked tournament like this. Rick van den Hurk would be a nice option, but since he retired earlier this year, don’t count on him to join the team. When it comes to pitching, it will be a mix of mostly pitchers from the Dutch Caribbean islands, who are playing in the minors (including Mexican League), and pitchers from the Dutch hoofdklasse.
Italy’s team will contain several MLB players of Italian descent, but the majority of the team may be from the Serie A. Taiwan will mostly contain players from its own CPBL but very likely Yu Chang (currently in the minors) and a handful other Taiwanese minor league players will join the team if their clubs allow them to.
Unlike the previous editions, the first round of the 2023 WBC will be played in a round robin format. The winners and runners up from each group will advance to the quarter finals.