The 2017 World Baseball Classic starts on Monday with the opener between Korea and Israel at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea. For Israel, which won the WBC Qualifier in Brooklyn last September, it’s their debut in the main tournament of the World Championship crowning international tournament. Other participants in Seoul will be the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei.
The other Qualifier winners are Australia (first round pool vs Cuba, China and Japan in Tokyo), Mexico (first round pool vs Italy, Venezuela and Puerto Rico in Jalisco) and Colombia (first round vs USA, Canada and Dominican Republic in Miami).
Defending champion is the Dominican team, which beat Puerto Rico in the finals in 2013. The Netherlands reached the semi-finals, their best finish so far. Two-time winner Samurai Japan also got eliminated during the semi-finals. Overall, it’s the fourth edition of the WBC, which features players from all the professional leagues, although the willingness of owners and players can be limited from case to case.
Format for the 2017 edition of the WBC got altered slightly with a round robin being played during the first round. The top two teams then advance to the second rounds in Tokyo and San Diego. The semi-finals and the final, which will be played as single-elimination games, take place at Dodgers Stadium in Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles.
The pool of favorites is spread widely. Defending title holder Dominican Republic recently got hit with a couple of big-name dropouts due to injuries. As usual the pressure is on Team USA to perform well even though this didn’t play out in the first three editions. The Netherlands, the Asian powerhouses Korea and Japan, as well as Venezuela could have path towards the finals also.
One other major rule change for the WBC 2017 is the addition of designated pitcher pools, which can be used by the teams additional to their 28 player-roster in the second and final rounds. For example Kenley Jansen isn’t going to Seoul for the first round, but could potentially help the Dutch team afterwards.
First round in Seoul starts on Monday, Tokyo follows on Tuesday, Jalisco and Miami on Thursday. The winner will be known on March 22.