Japan is the odds-on baseball betting favorite to win the 2017 World Baseball Classic out of Pool B, and a not-so-close second would be the Cuban national team.
As fans who bet on baseball know, baseball is big in Japan. And things are easy when you’re big in Japan. The Japan national baseball team is the only two-time WBC champion having won the first two editions of the tournament in 2006 and 2009. In addition to that, the Japanese finished in 3rd place in 2013. Moreover, the team is currently ranked No. 1 in the world by the International Baseball Federation. Their roster is made up almost in its entirety of players from the local Nippon Professional Baseball. The sole exception is outfielder Nori Aoki, who plays for the Houston Astros. Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters star pitcher Shohei Otani was removed from the roster with an injured ankle.
The Cuba national baseball team is ranked 3rd in IBAF’s world rankings and won the most editions of the now defunct Baseball World Cup (25). However, the Cubans have yet to win the WBC. The islanders finished 2nd in 2006, 6th in 2009, and 5th in 2013. Cuba’s roster comprises almost exclusively players from the Cuban National Series except for Alfredo Despaigne, an outfielder for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. The Baseball Federation of Cuba decided to forgo players who, err, forgot to return to the island after visiting the U.S., such as Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, or Aroldis Chapman. Nonetheless, the country’s roster is filled with players who could be playing in MLB – and might be doing just that in the very near future (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) – and that’s what makes Cuba a baseball betting favorite.
The Australia national baseball team is ranked as the top team in Oceania, and is the Oceanian Champion. Unfortunately, and as fans who bet on baseball are very aware of, that status has not translated well in terms of WBC success. The Aussies finished in 13th place in 2006, 12th place in 2009, and dead last in 2013. Many Australian players play in the American MLB. The only one who has found a niche in the MLB is Oakland Athletics pitcher Liam Hendriks. Another plays in the Italian Baseball League, and the rest plays in the Australian Baseball League.
The China national baseball team participated in the first-ever World Baseball Classic in 2006 and finished 15th. China returned in 2009 WBC and had its first WBC win against Chinese Taipei, and though they were eliminated after losing to baseball betting faves Japan and South Korea, the Chinese had their best finish at 11th. In 2013, China finished in 13th place. Chinese baseball is still growing through some MLS-esque growing pains. The professional league was founded in 2002, suspended operations in 2012, and returned in 2014. Needless to say, only underdog-loving fans who bet on baseball should get excited about China’s chances.