World Baseball Classic returns March 8 with 20 teams carrying their nations’ hopes

The World Baseball Classic has finally returned to the international stage after a six-year hiatus rather than the usual four— and the current tournament is the biggest and most inclusive yet.

There are now 20 teams from all over the world vying for national bragging rights, up from 16 in 2017 when USA beat Puerto Rico for the title, with many of them boasting several established Major League players.

Nearly 70 All-Stars are suiting up to represent their native countries, among them eight former MVPs including Miguel Cabrera (Dominican Republic) and Jose Altuve (Venezuela).

The tournament, which starts on Wednesday March 8, is split among four pools of five teams each. Nicaragua joins Great Britain and the Czech Republic as new participants, but all eyes will be on the powerhouse dream team from the Dominican Republic, which is heavily favored to win despite Blue Jays star Vlad Guerrero Jr. dropping out of the games due to injury.

In all, eight teams from Latin American and the Caribbean are participating this year — with Cuba allowed to use MLB players who left the island to play in the U.S. — proving how the region has become the world’s hotbed for baseball.

Pool A: Games start March 8 in Taichung, Taiwan

Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Cuba, Italy, Panama


A new rule — and some rare detente — mean Cuban-born White Sox stars Luis Robert and Yoán Moncada can play for their homeland.

Player to watch: Oft-injured former Met outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, 37, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2020, is looking to impress some GMs as he eyes a return to MLB.


Don’t underestimate Panama, which in 2019 defeated Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba for its first Caribbean Series championship since 1950.

Player to watch: Angels reliever Jaime Barria, 25, who excelled in 2022 with a 2.61 ERA in 79.1 innings.

Pool B: Games start March 9 in Tokyo, Japan

Japan, Korea, Australia, China, Czech Republic

Pool C: Games start March 11 in Phoenix

USA, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Great Britain


Dodgers stud starter Julio Urias, who was 20-3 in 2021 and last year led the NL with a 2.16 ERA, heads a solid staff.

Player to watch: Cuban-born Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena recently became a Mexican citizen and chose to represent Mexico in the tournament.


Veteran reliever and new Met Jose Quintana leads a strong starting staff.

Player to watch: Slick fielding Twins third baseman Gio Urshela is anxious to show the world his talents after finally becoming a regular late in his career.

Pool D: Games start March 11 in Miami

Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Israel

Puerto Rico

This is deep-talented of all the pools, starting with Puerto Rico, with big names including Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez.

Player to watch: Make that an ex-player — Cardinals catching great Yadier Molina, who retired at the end of the ’22 season, is P.R.’s manager.

There’s no shortage of stars on the team, starting with young upstart Ronald Acuña Jr. all the way to Hall of Fame-bound Tigger icon Miguel Cabrera.

Player to watch: The star shine doesn’t fade after with Acuña and Cabrera. Jose Altuve and Royals star catcher Salvador Perez are also in the formidable Venezuelan lineup.


Nicaragua has finally made it to the big dance after failing to qualify in 2017 and 2013, and its players will be out to prove they belong.

Player to watch: Fireballing righty reliever Jonathan Loaisiga of the Yankees is looking for a chance to shine in the late innings.

Dominican Republic
A dream team of crazy young talent, led by veteran Nelson Cruz at DH, makes them the clear favorite to win back a title they last one in 2013.

Player to watch: Take your pick — Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Rafael Devers and AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez of Seattle headline a frightening lineup even without the services of the injured Vlad Guerrero Jr. The D.R. squad also boats Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara, who’s coming off a Cy Young-winning season.