Although they are 0-for-3 at earning medals at the World Baseball Classic, Team USA has too much talent not to command top odds for the 2017 edition of the tournament.
The Americans are listed at +200 on the odds to win the World Baseball Classic at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, followed by the defending champion Dominican Republic at +250.
The best that the United States finished during the first three WBCs in 2006, 2009 and 2013 was fourth, but this time around they have a star-studded lineup with the likes of C Buster Posey, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 3B Nolan Arenado and CF Andrew McCutchen.
The top of the board is tight and the top two teams are both in Pool C, where they will play head-to-head on March 11. The winner of that pool will get a big edge heading into the second round.
Starting pitching has long been the Americans’ downfall in the WBC. In a tournament where starters are on a pitch count, though, having Andrew Miller, David Robertson and Luke Gregerson out in the bullpen could be a big advantage.
The Dominicans have strong pitching led by the likes of RHP Johnny Cueto and RHP Dellin Betances and have power bats aplenty in the lineup with 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz and RF Jose Bautista.
Two-time champion Japan is then listed at +300. The team from the land of the rising sun doesn’t stack up as formidably pitching-wise as some of its predecessors, since superstar Shohei Otani is out with a right ankle injury. But Houston Astros OF Nori Aoki is an on-base machine and six Japan players hit at least 23 home runs last season in Nippon Professional Baseball.
And Japan might have the easier time getting through the first two rounds, since both their group games and second-round Pool F play will be in Tokyo.
Farther down the board, Venezuela (+900) and Puerto Rico (+1000) are in Pool D. Venezuela has Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in the fold, but the pitching depth is a bit suspect. Puerto Rico has the better price of those two teams and could get a spark from their great young infield of Chicago Cubs 2B Javier Baez, Astros SS Carlos Correa and Cleveland Indians SS Francisco Lindor.
The World Baseball Classic takes place from March 6-22, with pool play spread between Guadalajara, Miami, Seoul and Tokyo. The second round is in San Diego and Tokyo, with the championship round slated for Los Angeles.