The World Baseball Classic is back after a six-year absence — it was originally scheduled for 2021 but postponed due to COVID-19 — and the 2023 version will be bigger and better than ever, featuring more teams and star-studded rosters.
The field expands from 16 to 20 teams, including first-time participants Britain, Great Nicaragua and the Czech Republic. While the British roster is mostly American-born and Bahamian natives, the Czech team is almost entirely Czech natives who have jobs outside of baseball — like the high school geography teacher who moonlights as the team’s center fielder.
Teams are split up into four pools of five teams, with round-robin games in Taichung, Taiwan; Tokyo; Phoenix; and Miami. The top two teams in each pool advance to a single-elimination bracket of eight. The Dominican Republic and United States are the two favorites, and while social media has marveled at the potential Dominican lineup, the US lineup looks just as powerful. The US is the defending champ, although Marcus Stroman, the 2017 WBC MVP, will be pitching for Puerto Rico this time around.
Let’s rank the top 50 players participating in this year’s WBC. Instead of an arbitrary ranking, I’ve created a WAR score — an average of each player’s 2022 WAR total from Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, plus his projected WAR from the ZiPS and Steamer projection systems. For the top international players, we’ll make a subjective assessment. The no. 1 player? That was an easy call.