Eight players who have won Major League Baseball’s MVP award during their careers will participate in this year’s World Baseball Classic as the rosters for the 20 participating teams are revealed.
Five of those players will compete for the defending champion United States squad, which will be captained by Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout. The three-time American League MVP will be part of a potentially formidable lineup that also includes 2022 National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt and Los Angeles Dodgers singles Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.
Another Dodger and former NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw, will help anchor a pitching staff as the US tries to duplicate its most recent WBC win in 2017.
Venezuela is the only other nation with multiple former MLB MVPs and will be captained by longtime Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, who is expected to retire at the end of the 2023 season. The Venezuelan roster also includes 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros as well as Atlanta Braves catcher Ronald Acuna Jr.
Japan, the only nation with more than one WBC title, will be led by Trout Angels teammate and two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. Along with the 2021 AL MVP is Nippon Baseball’s reigning MVP, Munetaki Murakami for the 2006 and 2009 champions.
Team USA and Japan would have to advance to at least the semifinals for an unprecedented matchup between Ohtani and Trout.
“I don’t even know what to tell them,” Trout told MLB Network during the roster reveal show when asked if he would offer a scouting report on Ohtani to Team USA. “I’ve been watching him from midfield pitching – he’s got the best stuff in the league, I think. I don’t think I’ve talked to anybody in the league who wants to face that guy.
“At the plate, he has very few weaknesses. Nothing even comes to the top of my head.”
Team USA will play their first-round games in Phoenix as part of a Group C bracket that includes Mexico, Colombia, Canada and first-time participant Great Britain. Japan will host Group B play, which will take place in Tokyo with South Korea, Australia, China and the Czech Republic also in the pool.
Venezuela will head to Miami to be part of a loaded Group D field that will feature betting favorites Dominican Republic as well as 2013 and 2017 runners-up Puerto Rico.
The Dominicans, who won the title in 2013, have 2022 NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara at the top of their pitching staff and AL Rookie of the Year lead Julio Rodriguez among a star-studded crop of position players that includes sluggers Juan Soto , also Vladimir. Guerrero Jr., Manny Machado, Rafael Devers and Wander Franco.
First-round play is scheduled for March 8-15 with the top two teams from each of the four groups advancing to the quarterfinals, which will be held in Tokyo from March 15-16 and in Miami from March 17-18.
The semi-finals will take place at Miami’s Loan Park from March 19-20 as well as the final on March 21.