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World Baseball Classic Futures Odds and Winner Prediction

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  • Where: Dodger Stadium + Various. Los Angeles, CA (Championship Round)
  • When: March 6, 2017 4:30 am EST
  • Moneyline: United States (+250) Dominican Republic (+250) Japan (+300) Venezuela (+1000)

Most international tournaments fall into one of two categories – events where the best club professionals do not play (whether they’re allowed to or not) such as the American Football (IFAF) World Championship, and tournaments touting a plurality of the greatest pros in the world, like the FIFA World Cup.

Then there are those “World” tournaments where the participation of top North American stars is likely, but tenuous. These include Olympic and World Championship basketball, the World Championships of ice hockey…and the World Baseball Classic, in which the United States has managed to convince very-good-but-not-legendary rosters to face the likes of Japan, Mexico and Canada.

But nothing motivates a program like losing a tournament it should probably win. Major League Baseball, with its enormous number of American-born players, calls its championship the “World Series.” Yet Team USA has never medaled, losing to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to finish fourth in 2013. Manager Jim Leyland has convinced a crack MLB squad to compete for the U.S. in 2017, hoping to claim a first WBC title.

An outright-winner futures bet on the Americans is currently set at co-favorites’ odds with the Dominicans. The Yanks will have to contend with Quisqueya in Pool C, a four-team round-robin in Miami, Florida. Will stronger and deeper talent make the difference this time?

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Team USA – Fireworks at the plate

World Baseball Classic predictionsLeyland will have an amazing array of power-hitters to work with. If your bookie offers any O/U prop bets on slugging percentage or total home runs, bet on the Stars & Stripes to knock it out of the park.

Nolan Arenado is playing third base. He whomped 41 homers in 2016. Paul Goldschmidt, the first baseman, has averaged 20+ homers a year and has a lifetime batting average of .299 in the big leagues. Washington second-baseman Daniel Murphy is a tremendous on-base hitter with power. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will be playing on his home turf in Miami, and blasted 27 balls over the fence at Marlins Park last year.

With so much power, Team USA must only get runners on-base to improve on their inconsistent scoring from 2013, when they managed only four runs combined in two losses to end their campaign.

On the mound, Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer has opted out with a minor hand injury. But David Price has given his verbal commitment as a late roster addition, and should give the U.S. a much-needed lefty workhorse.

Dominican Republic – Not an easy out

Reflecting organizational focus, the defending-WBC champion Dominicans announced their starting pitching rotation all at once on January 31st. Johnny Cueto stands out as a leader of the group and finished sixth in Cy Young voting after going 18-5 for the Giants in 2016. Alex Reyes is only 22, but is considered one of the top MLB prospects alive with a blazing fastball and stamina beyond his years.

This is a top-notch international program that looked unbeatable in ’13, never losing and shutting out Puerto Rico in the gold medal game. But they also scraped by Italy 5-4 and The Netherlands 4-1. Will the team offer an offense capable of keeping up with the Americans?

Jose Bautista, Manny Machado and a handful of other Major League stars will line up at bat, so the short answer is yes. From the stat sheet alone, they might offer even more power than the United States. But plate discipline was an issue in 2009, when Quisqueya struggled against strong pitching and did not make it out of the medal round. Elsewhere, the team’s bullpen is still a gigantic question mark that the Dominicans’ speedy and skillful defensive play might not be able to compensate for in late innings.

Japan – and everyone else

The Japanese seem to offer value as a (+300) futures bet with two WBC gold medals already in their trophy cases. Tokyo is hosting Japan’s pool, which includes relative light-weights Australia, China and Cuba.

But Nippon’s roster tends to be based around pitching and defense, with the heroics of Saduhara Oh and other MLB-strength sluggers far in the past. Their 2017 batting lineup has put up excellent home-run numbers in small Japanese parks, but they won’t overwhelm the North Americans.

The Samurai are also without the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball, Shohei Otani – currently suffering from an ankle injury. Hurler Shintaro Fujinami had a mediocre season in 2016, and opponents have been dinging the Japan staff all over the park in friendlies, leading to the squad’s third-best odds-to-win.

Venezuela is not a serious contender for a gold medal. But what about Puerto Rico (+1200), silver medalists in 2013? Led by catcher Javier Molina, the program is full of excellent relief pitching and consistent contact-hitters. But the starting rotation will be led by names such as Seth Lugo of the New York Mets – talented, but still an unproven rookie. The best value-bet among upstart nations could be The Netherlands, who carry enormous-payout odds at (+2800) and as-mentioned-above held Team DR to four runs in a final-round game in 2013.

Bet on the USA to break through

Betting is a dispassionate hobby – the wagerer might live in Los Angeles, but bet on the Dodgers to lose anyway. Sentimentality can’t be allowed, or the wallet can suffer.

But this time, the feel-good pick is the smart pick. As powerful as the Dominicans remain at the plate, the United States appears to be the most complete team headed into the 2017 WBC. Excellent hitting, power, experience, defense, starting and relief pitching.

The tourney will expose weaknesses – cash players can expect Japan to continue missing its best asset on the mound, and the Dominicans will not avoid wearing out a thin relief staff by the 7th or 8th inning of elimination games. Any other country the Americans face will get pounded out of the park with doubles, triples and home runs, and the group will be hungry and focused on finally claiming the mantle.

Bet on Team USA to win at the Bovada Sportsbook. The WBC final is held at Dodger Stadium this year and I expect the home team to end up winning it all.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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