The United States has been the biggest underachiever in the first three editions of the World Baseball Classic, and it will try to live up to its potential this year when play gets underway on March 6 across the globe.
The United States is listed as a +250 betting co-favorite (wager $100 to win $250) to win the international tournament for the first time along with the Dominican Republic, the defending champion who took home the title in 2013. That's down slightly for the Americans, who were +200 solo favorites on the tournament odds a week ago.
Article continues below ...
The Americans have a 10–10 record all-time in WBC competition and hope to beat out the Dominicans (14–4) in Pool C, with Canada (3–5) and Colombia also looking to pull off the upset by advancing past the first round.
Featuring MLB outfielders Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins) and Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates), plus three-time World Series-winning catcher Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants), Team USA has finished among the top four teams in the 16-team field only once, placing fourth in 2009.
The top two teams from each pool advance to the second round, and the United States could be matched up with either Puerto Rico (13–8) or Venezuela (10–7) from Pool D there.
The Venezuelans (+1000) are led by Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who has to be considered one of the favorites to win MVP based on his ability to dominate opponents. The Puerto Ricans (+1200) were runners-up in 2013, falling to the Dominican Republic 3–0 in the championship game. Japan finished third and has placed each time.
The Japanese won the first two WBC titles in 2006 and 2009 behind MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka both times. Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano won MVP honors for the Dominicans four years ago, and he could help knock out the Americans early again along with Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles) and Seattle teammate Nelson Cruz.
In 2013, the United States and Italy advanced from Pool D, so this year will be more difficult from the start. The Americans will take on the Colombians in their first game on March 10 in Miami before meeting the defending champs the following day.
The second round will begin on March 12, although the United States would not play until March 14 at the earliest in San Diego if it wins Pool C and not until March 15 if it finishes as the runner-up.