2023 World Baseball Classic Pool C Preview: Arizona

The Arizona state flag flies by Carol M Highsmith is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

We continue our WBC Pool previews with Pool C: Arizona

About the Venue: Chase Field, formerly known as Bank One Ballpark, is the home of the Arizona Ballpark. It has a retractable roof, seats for over 48,400 people, and a pool. While long considered a hitters park, the introduction of a humidor has led it to be a bit more pitcher-friendly.

About The Pool: This is the North America pool, more or less, with three of the five teams coming from the continent. The Great Britain team will also have plenty of North Americans. The fifth team is Colombia. The USA, even after losing two of its top pitchers, must be considered the favorite to win the pool, but at least three of the other teams could beat them on any given day. Canada, Mexico, and possibly Colombia will fight for the other spot out of the tournament.

Go below the jump for the full preview.

United States of America

About The Country: …Seriously? Do I have to do an “about the country” for the USA? Look at your history books or something. Okay, fine: Declaring independence from Great Britain in 1776, the United States of America has grown from a 13-state experiment to a 50-state union that is one of the world’s leading superpowers in economics, politics, science, technology, military might, sports and entertainment, amongst other areas.

Baseball History: The history of American baseball is, more or less, the history of baseball. While it is no longer the most popular sport as far as TV ratings or public-opinion polls go, its cultural impact in American history and its yearly attendance (more people attend MLB games than the other three major sports leagues combined, although admittedly MLB seasons are longer) remain unchallenged.

International Baseball History: The United States has, not surprisingly, been one of the main powers of international baseball for basically its entire history, although for decades the strictly-amateur

Road to the WBC: Automatically qualified.

America’s Baseball League: Major League Baseball, obviously. Also the minor leagues and independent leagues.

American MLB Players: There have been more MLB players from America than I’m going to bother to look up. Every member of Team USA is an MLB player, something only the Dominican Republic can claim (although some of the Dominican’s players are semi-retired or are still free agents).

Notable names: The biggest most notable name, of course, is Mike Trout. The perennial MVP is finally able to play in a WBC and was the first man signed for the tournament as the team captain. He’ll be joined by a veritable host of All-Stars, including Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Adam Wainwright, Paul Goldschmidt, Cedric Mullins, J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Tucker, Pete Alonso, Tim Anderson, Trea Turner, and so on. While much attention will be put on those who are missing (Clayton Kershaw had to pull out due to insurance issues, Aaron Judge is focused on his new contract), this is still a jam-packed team.

Highest Achievers: Since obviously most of the players already are noted for being highest achievers, I’ll just note that Arenado and Goldschmidt are the carry-overs from the 2017 WBC team, while Padres swingman Nick Martinez was a member of the Tokyo Olympics silver medal team.

Ones to Watch: Even with the jam-packed roster, there are still some young guns to watch for Team USA. The most notable is likely Bobby Witt Jr., the 22-year-old infielder for the Royals who is the youngest player on the team. How much action he’ll actually see is a bit up in the air, given the veterans ahead of him, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a young player was brought in primarily as a backup: Alex Bregman was mostly a backup in 2017, for example.

Among pitchers, the player to watch is Brady Singer. The right-handed ace of the Royals was probably initially chosen with the thought that he’d be the fourth or fifth person in the rotation, but with Kershaw and Nestor Cortes pulling out late he’ll find himself going earlier than planned.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Team USA is managed by Mark DeRosa, the longtime utilityman who played for Team USA in the 2009 WBC. While he has no professional managerial experience, he’s long been considered a strong candidate and his role as an analyst with MLB Network means he’s familiar with most MLB players. His coaching staff is full of notable names: Jerry Manuel and Brian McCann are the bench coaches, Andy Pettitte will serve as pitching coach, Ken Griffey Jr. will serve as hitting coach, and Dave Righetti will be the bullpen coach.

Outlook: Team USA needs to be considered either the favorite or co-favorite for the tournament simply due to the sheer amount of depth and hitting talent. However, a possible weakspot exists in the pitching, particularly in the starting staff now that Kershaw and Cortes are out of the tournament. If the eclectic pitching staff (which also features Miles Mikolas, Merill Kelly and Kyle Freeland) and the bullpen (headlined by Daniel Bard and Ryan Pressly) can withstand the big bats of the world, though, Team USA should be in good shape. That’s a big if, though.


About The Country: Gaining recognized independence in 1821 (11 years after it was declared), Mexico is built where the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs once lived. Mexico is home to a rapidly-modernizing economy, the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere (Mexico City, beating out New York), and a diverse ecology. However, it has also had to deal with inequality and crime, particularly related to the drug trade.

Baseball History: Although it is not nearly as popular in Mexico as futbol, baseball still holds a long and storied history there. Nobody is quite sure how it was first introduced, although it is likely the Americans were involved in some way. Notable events in Mexico’s baseball history include the formation of the Mexican League in 1925, the back-to-back victories of a Monterrey team in the 1957 and 1958 Little League World Series, and Fernando Valenzuela‘s debut with the Dodgers in the early 1980s.

International Baseball History: Mexico is a longtime participant in international baseball competition and is currently rated fifth in the world. The Mexican National Team has taken part in every WBC, with their best finish being sixth in 2006. They also have finished second in the old World Cup on a few occasions, had a third-place finish in the 2019 Premier12, and have won Pan-Am Games bronze on four occasions.

Road to the WBC: Automatically qualified.

Mexico’s Baseball League: Mexico has two major professional leagues. The first, the Mexican League, is the primary summer league (there are some smaller minor or independent leagues). That league has 18 teams and is generally regarded as the best professional summer league in North America outside of the MLB structure- for years it was labeled as an independent AAA league. The other major league in Mexico is the Mexican Pacific League, which is primarily teams on the west coast of Mexico. Playing in winter, it is this league that sends its champion to the Caribbean Series. One organization, the Sultanes de Monterrey, actually has a team in both.

Mexican MLB Players: About 145 Mexican-born players have competed in the Major Leagues, and there are several others (most notably Adrian Gonzalez) who were born in America but grew up in Mexico. While 2022 Silver Slugging catcher Alejandro Kirk has pulled out due to the upcoming birth of a child, many of the current MLB players from Mexico will be there, as will some players of Mexican descent. The biggest Mexican-born player on the team is doubtless Julio Urias, the Dodgers pitcher and 2022 NL ERA champ. Others include Jose Urquidy of Houston, Joey Meneses of the Nationals, Luis Urias of the Brewers and Giovanny Gallegos of the Cardinals.

Notable names: Players of Mexican descent playing on the team who you may recognize include Patrick Sandoval, Taijuan Walker, Austin Barnes, Patrick Sandoval, and Rowdy Tellez. There is also Randy Arozarena, who has fully committed to Mexico since he defected from Cuba and where he has attained citizenship.

Highest Achievers: Oliver Perez, the 41-year-old veteran of four previous WBCs and parts of 20 seasons in MLB, is now in the Mexican League and is on the list of pitchers who could join the team in later rounds.

Another Mexican League player of note is Manny Barreda. After a brief stint with the Orioles in 2021, he led the Mexican League in WHIP last season. Outfielder Jose Cardona, who spent awhile in the Texas organization, hit .319/.368/.445 last season in the Mexican League.

Ones to Watch: Infielder Jonathan Aranda was the International League MVP last season and is considered a top-100 prospect by Baseball America. Isaac Paredes can’t be considered a prospect anymore after a few years of MLB action, but is still just 24.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Benji Gil, who played parts of eight years in the big leagues, will manage the Mexican team this year. He has coached the national team in the past (including at the Olympics) and usually is a coach in the Mexican Pacific League and the LA Angels. Vinny Castilla is the team’s bench coach.

Outlook: The Mexican team has been hurt by Kirk pulling out, but they still are probably the best team in the pool outside of the USA, and the team most likely to upset the Americans. While I don’t think they can win the tournament, they definitely are a team that can take out teams that can.


About The Country: Named after Christopher Columbus, Colombia is an incredibly diverse country biologically, ideologically, and geographically. It has had to (and continues to) deal with drug lords, insurgent guerillas, ideological divides, and general crime over the years, but has also in recent decades built South America’s third-largest economy.

Baseball History: Baseball has been played in what is now Colombia since perhaps as early 1870s or 1880s, although it may have been being played even earlier in Panama (which was for years a part of Colombia). It definitely was being played there by the early 20th century, Baseball has largely remained popular over the years only in the coastal areas of the country, such as Baranquilla and Cartagena- it has struggled to catch on in more inland areas such as the capitol city of Bogota, where soccer and boxing reign supreme.

International Baseball History: Colombia has a surprisingly long history of play in international baseball, including winning two amateur World Cups that it hosted (although notably these happened in years where Cuba didn’t take part due to political tension between Cuba and Colombia). They qualified for their first WBC in 2017, finishing 12th.

Road to the WBC: Automatically qualified for this WBC due to their participation in the 2017 tournament.

Colombia’s Baseball League: Colombia has had professional baseball on-and-off since the late 1940s, but the current league dates back to 2004. Playing in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, it currently has four teams and has in recent years sent its champion to the Caribbean Series, winning in 2022.

Colombian MLB Players: A total of 30 Colombian-born players have made it the big leagues, the most famous no doubt being Edgar Renteria. Several players with big league clubs are on Team Colombia this year, most notably Jose Quintana, Gio Urshela, Oscar Mercado, Nabil Crismatt, Harold Ramirez, Jorge Alfaro, and Donovan Solano.

Notable names: Remember Julio Teheran? He was out of the big leagues last season but is looking to make a comeback this spring with the Padres, and he’ll be using the WBC as a showcase as well.

Highest Achievers: Outside of those with MLB experience? Tito Polo led the Mexican League in stolen bases last season and signed with the Nationals organization over the winter, and so he could be a threat on the basepaths.

Ones to Watch: Infielder Jordan Diaz has hit well in the minors and made his MLB debut for Oakland last season- MLB lists him as the A’s ninth-best prospect and he may make the jump for good this year. Lefty Luis De Avila is only 21 but reportedly has shown good stuff in the lower rungs of the Atlanta system- he won’t be with Colombia in the first round but is in the pool of players available to be called on should they advance.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Jolbert Cabrera, who played parts of eight years in MLB, will skipper the Colombians this WBC. His brother Orlando Cabrera, as well as Edgar Renteria, will be on his staff.

Outlook: A sleeper pick to advance, Colombia will still struggle to beat Mexico and Canada and will require a great showing from the pitchers to have any shot at Team USA. However, they remain a dangerous team that can probably beat any team in the tournament on a good day.


About The Country: The world’s second-largest country in land area, its border with the United States is the world’s longest. Among the things Canada has given the world over the years include the modern concept of peacekeeping forces, lacrosse, ice hockey, and, of course, William Shatner.

Baseball History: Canada’s history with baseball is almost as old as the game itself, with some evidence that they were playing a game called baseball (but not necessarily the baseball we know) as early as 1838, one of the earliest references to the sport. Throughout baseball’s history, there have been some Canadians playing in America, although they did not begin arriving in large numbers until the past few decades. Professional Canadian teams have played against American ones since at least the 1870s, when a London, Ontario club played in the International Association (an early minor league). Clubs from Toronto and Montreal were mainstays of the International League before they gained Major League teams.

International Baseball History: Currently 14th in the WBSC ratings, Canada probably has the dubious distinction of being the best baseball country to never reach the second round of the WBC. Their most notable WBC moment is likely upsetting Team USA in the first round in 2006. Canada has played in two Olympics (finishing fourth in 2004), won two Pan-Am Games, and grabbed two bronzes in the old World Cup.

Road to the WBC: Automatically qualified.

Canada’s Baseball League: Canada doesn’t have a baseball league, instead being joined at the hip to America’s baseball system (MLB, the Minors, the Indy Leagues, etc.). However, there are some high-quality amateur and semi-pro leagues that are entirely based in Canada, such as the Intercounty League in Ontario.

Canadian MLB Players: There have been 262 known players in the big leagues (including the Negro Leagues) born in Canada, including two Hall of Famers: Fergie Jenkins and Larry Walker. International treasure Joey Votto will probably join them one day, but due to his injuries last season he won’t be on the team this WBC. Red Sox pitcher Nick Pivetta also had to drop out, due to an illness that screwed up his preparations. There will still be MLB talent on the team though, including Cleveland pitcher Cal Quantrill, Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill, Brewers infielder Abraham Toro, and…

Notable names: …Freddie Freeman! Yes, Freddie Freeman will again represent the Maple Leaf in honor of his late mother, a Canadian native who died of melanoma when he was ten. He is far and away the most dangerous bat in the Canadian lineup and it’s likely any chance of advancing will require him to do some amazing stuff.

Oh, and there are a few notable former big leaguers on the team as well. Remember John Axford? He’s here! What about Adam Loewen, who was a pitcher then a hitter and then a pitcher again? He’s back as a pitcher… again!

Highest Achievers: Scott Mathieson is now retired from professional baseball, but for years he was one of the best relievers in Japan after a brief stint on-and-off stint with the Phillies. He’ll be back for what may be his final go-around with Team Canada.

Ones to Watch: Blue Jays minor leaguer Otto Lopez and Twins minor leaguer Edouard Julien will be the double-play duo for Canada. Lopez made his MLB debut briefly last season, while Julien was playing in the Arizona Fall League last autumn.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Ernie Whitt! A member of the original 1977 Toronto Blue Jays, he remained with the team until 1989. A baseball-lifer coach and instructor, he’s been managing Team Canada since 2004 and probably will be managing them until he says otherwise. Other names on the coaching staff include Hall of Famer Larry Walker and 2001 All-Star (and father of Cal) Paul Quantrill.

Outlook: Canada has a shot at getting out of the pool, but the absence of Votto, Pivetta, and Josh Naylor (although his brother Bo is playing) will hurt them. Their games with Mexico and Colombia will be key.

Great Britain

About The Country: Once the owners of the world’s largest empire, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland no longer rules the waves, but remains one of the world’s most powerful and influential cultural, economical and political powers. Technically the United Kingdom is actually a country made up of the countries of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland as well as other territories such as the islands in the English Channel, each of which have varying degrees of independence in domestic affairs. However, that’s a lesson for another day and probably another blog.

Baseball History: Baseball, as has been noted before, is in many ways descended from various games back in the mother country, some of which even were called “baseball” or “base ball”. In fact, Jane Austen even mentioned “base ball” in her 18th century novel, Northanger Abbey.

Many of baseball’s founding fathers, most notably Henry Chadwick, came from there. The United States and United Kingdom are forever linked by history, blood and language, and to this day many sports similar to baseball, such as rounders and cricket, are played in the British Isles.

All of these facts, however, have proven to be both a gift and curse to baseball’s place in Britain, where, despite a long history and a few spurts of popularity, it remains a curiosity sport at best and a weird American obsession at best. Baseball as we know it was introduced to the Brits in the late 19th century after tours my MLB teams led by Albert Spalding.

It has had two brief spurts in popularity, at least relative to the rest of baseball’s history over there. The first came in the 1890s after it initially arrived, and a second increase occurred in the years just before WWII, where some teams were getting enough fans where they were playing in soccer stadiums and a semi-pro team actually beat a team of Americans in what is now considered the first Baseball World Cup. Since then, however, baseball has been an afterthought at best in the UK, although MLB has begun to play occasional series there.

International Baseball History: The win in the first Baseball World Cup (mentioned above) is probably the overall highlight of British baseball history, although they also have a pair of silver medal finishes in the European Championships. They are currently ranked 22nd in WBSC rankings.

Road to the WBC: Qualified out of the Regensburg qualifying pool, defeating Spain in the winner’s bracket game to clinch a spot.

Britain’s Baseball League: Baseball in Britain is strictly amateur, made up of a few tiers of leagues that are all under the British Baseball Federation Umbrella.

British MLB Players: There have been 49 Brits to play in the big leagues, but the vast majority of them moved to America when very young. For example, the player from the UK with the most career MLB HRs is Bobby Thomson… who moved to America from Scotland when he was two years old. That’s also the case for Chris Reed, who was born in the UK before moving to the USA as a young child- he’s the only UK-born player with MLB experience on the team (he had a cup of coffee with the Marlins in 2015).

Notable names: Thankfully for the British, the rules of the WBC mean they are getting help from players of British descent, most notably Vance Worley, Trayce Thompson, and Ian Gibaut. Lucius Fox, one of the fastest men in organized baseball, is also there.

Highest Achievers: Pitcher Tyler Viza made his way to Taiwan last season after losing his spot in the Twins system, playing for the CTBC team that ended up winning the Taiwan Series.

Ones to Watch: Harry Ford! The top prospect of the Seattle Mariners and the 49th-best prospect overall was a star at catcher for Team GB in the qualifiers. Bahamas-Born Tahnaj Thomas, meanwhile, is one of the best-regarded relief pitchers in the Pirates organizer.

Manager/Coaching Staff: Manager Drew Spencer has a weird story- he was played in the Ivy League for Dartmouth, eventually moved to the UK for work, and became involved with youth baseball there. He eventually took over the London Mets of the BBF National League, found success, and one thing led to another and now he’s going to be managing against Team USA this March. Former big league OF and current Giants first-base coach Antoan Richardson is also on the staff.

Outlook: Any entry into the win column for Team GB will be an overachievement, but they aren’t as bad as some people will think. They could put some scares into the bigger teams in the pool.

Pool Outlook: Team USA, despite some pitching worries, should win the pool. As for second, I’m going to go with Mexico- although they are also missing some people, on paper they are the second best team in the pool. As for the rest, I see Colombia surprising Canada for third. Sorry, Canada.

Full prediction:

  1. USA
  2. Mexico
  3. Colombia
  4. Canada
  5. Great Britain

Up next: Pool D.


1 thought on “2023 World Baseball Classic Pool C Preview: Arizona

  1. Pingback: My WBC Pool Previews | The Baseball Continuum

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