The 2023 World Baseball Classic exceeded expectations after the tournament’s six-year hiatus. There were incredible upsets, heartwarming storylines, and a remarkable collection of some of the greatest baseball players in the world. Overall, there was much to be happy about during this year’s WBC, even with some players and nations playing below expectations. While there were a few high-profile injuries, most of the tournament was viewed as a positive throughout the baseball universe. That said, there were definitely winners and losers in this fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic.
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Winner: International Baseball
Fans came out in droves to every tournament round, with over 1,000,000 fans showing up for the first-round games, a WBC record. While attendance rose, so did viewership around the world. During Puerto Rico’s win against the Dominican Republic, the game averaged a 62% share of people watching T.V. Amazingly, the World Baseball Classic managed to put unknown players on the map, with the prime example being Nicaraguan pitcher Duque Hebbert earning a contract from the Detroit Tigers after just one impressive inning. Another player who earned themselves a contract was Jurickson Profar. Profar recently signed an MLB contract with the Colorado Rockies and had a .412 OBP with a home run during his four-game stint with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Loser: Edwin Diaz (RP – NYM)
Yikes. While celebrating Puerto Rico’s upset win over the Dominican Republic, pitcher Edwin Diaz ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee. Diaz, the superstar closer for the New York Mets, signed a massive contract extension during the offseason. This injury likely knocks him out of the entire 2023 season and removes a top fantasy baseball closer just weeks before Opening Day. Diaz finished 2022 with 32 saves and a minuscule 1.31 ERA.
Winner: The Los Angeles Angels
Watching two of the best players on the planet, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, in a high-stakes playoff environment was an incredible experience. The Angels’ dynamic duo did not disappoint, dominating regardless of what nation they were facing. While Ohtani and Trout are certainly the premier players for Los Angeles, they are not the only Angels who showed out in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval for Mexico pitched incredibly well throughout the tournament, giving Los Angeles fans a lot to be excited about in 2023.
Loser: The Dominican Republic
Shockingly, the favorites going into the 2023 World Baseball Classic could not advance out of their pool. Tasked with facing both Puerto Rico and Venezuela, the Dominican Republic struggled to score when they needed to most. Sending out one of the best lineups in the tournament, the D.R. struck out in 29.7% of their at-bats over their four games. The 2022 American League Rookie of the Year, Julio Rodriguez, struck out nine times in 18 at-bats, while All-Star third baseman Rafael Devers also struggled, hitting .125 during the tournament. This small sample size will likely not represent these stars’ 2023 regular-season performances, but not advancing out of their pool was a letdown for the baseball island powerhouse.
Winner: MLB Players Battling for Spots
Many unexpected stars emerged during the World Baseball Classic, and some may find themselves on MLB Opening Day rosters. Boston Red Sox infielder Yu Chang was the MVP of Pool A, leading the Chinese Taipei with two home runs, eight RBIs, and a .438 batting average. Joey Meneses, the projected designated hitter for the Washington Nationals, also performed well for Mexico, hitting two home runs while batting .346. Another impressive performance came from St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who hit .615 with a 1.491 OPS in four games for Canada.
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