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Even if you’re looking forward to MLB, the World Baseball Classic will hold your appetite over a bit as this should be competitive baseball as opposed to the exhibition play of Spring Training. While the World Baseball Classic may not have the name recognition or following that the World Cup does, it features a similar structure – it is every four years, features teams based on heritage, and has the top talents. It also features pool play before the quarterfinals, semifinals, and ultimately championship. So, as sports bettors, we look for action and we will get some that is worth playing. The first aspect to look at is who will qualify from pool play? Let’s break it down here and see who we should target.
Pool A – Teams: Cuba, Netherlands, Italy, Chinese Taipei, Panama
The teams listed above are listed in order of odds on DraftKings for them to qualify. I’m not sure I like any of Cuba’s pitchers but they are the favorite due to some of their more well-known MLB players like Yoan Moncada, Yoenis Cespedes, and Luis Robert Jr. I personally don’t see their roster getting out of the pool, even as the favorites. The Netherlands does have a bit of value at -165. I think they should be more likely to get into the quarterfinals. With Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gergorius, Jonathan Schoop, and Andrelton Simmons, I like their chances to qualify. I won’t be betting on a team with Matt Harvey on it, so Italy is automatically out for me, even though I always am pro-Italy. I think this might be the most open group, so there is some value on teams like Chinese Taipei and Panama. If I had to guess, I’d say Chinese Taipei could qualify, but I’d only play Netherlands if I was going to play anyone.
Pool B – Japan, South Korea, Australia, China, Czech Republic
According to the odds, Japan has already qualified. They are -5000 to qualify. They have Yu Darvish and Shohei Othani on the squad so there are two aces right there which will certainly help. I don’t recognize most of their other players though. I don’t think I’d bet them or South Korea, the odds are just pointless. So does anyone have a chance? Eh, not really. I’d be pretty surprised if either of those teams lost. I’d think China has an outside chance and if you want to sprinkle on them at +2500 I’ve seen worse bets.
Pool C – USA, Mexico, Canada, Columbia, Great Britain
Finally, a world competition outside of basketball that we are expected to dominate in! We are -3500 to qualify. It would be a bit of an embarrassment if we don’t make it pretty deep in this with the squad we have together. I think there is a bit of value on Canada at +350 to qualify. Mexico looks okay, but I do think their pitching might not be great. Colombia is missing some key players so I’ll pass on them, and this isn’t Cricket so I’m skipping on Great Britain.
Pool D – Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Israel, Nicaragua
It is fairly easy to see why the Dominican Republic is the favorite in this pool – they have Sandy Alcantara, Johnny Cueto, and Cristian Javier (among others) on their pitching staff. They also might have the best infield and outfield of the entire tournament. Puerto Rico was the talk of the World Baseball Classic last time when Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor were having a great time and Baez was making his sick tags on baserunners. They don’t have the pitching to keep up with the Dominican, but I could see them taking down Venezuela. I’ll grab a ticket on them at +100. Isreal and Nicaragua are both in the pool too as practice teams for the rest of the pool.
I’m taking only a couple of plays here:
- Netherlands -165 (1u)
- China +2500 (.25u)
- Canada +350 (.5u)
- Puerto Rico +100 (1u)