|Group B will take place in Tokyo Dome|
For our thoughts on Samurai Japan's roster, click here.
Where: Tokyo Dome
When: March 7-10
Who: Japan, China, Australia, Cuba
Best finish: Won gold in 2006 and 2009
Notable players: See full roster here.
Analysis: Samurai Japan is considered a favorite for this tournament, but not the No. 1 favorite, according to the betting odds. Some oddsmakers might have given them the edge had Shohei Otani been playing, but this team is still stacked with talent. There are plenty of question marks if Japan faces elite talent elsewhere, but they are good enough to compete with any other team.
Best finish: 1st round (11th place in 2009)
Notable players: P Kwon Ju, OF Gui Yuan Xu, P Bruce Chen
Analysis: China will be led by John McLaren, who is remembered for managing the Seattle Mariners from 2007-2008. Like South Korea's team, China's team is about who isn't there when they were eligible. Vance Worley, Austin Brice and Kolten Wong could have potentially been part of this squad. Xu is a prospect in the Orioles system while Ju is currently in KBO. Chen is mostly remembered for his time with the Kansas City Royals. Overall, there isn't much to like about this squad as they are one of the largest underdogs in the group.
Best finish: 1st round (12th place in 2009)
Best finish: Lost in Finals (2006)
Notable players: OF Alfredo Despaigne, OF Frederich Cepeda, OF Yoelkis Cespedes, P
Freddy Álvarez, P Vladimir García\
Analysis: Cuba is one of the oldest teams in this competition with the mean age being 30 years old. The country decided it wouldn't allow any defectors who left for MLB or MiLB to play for them in the WBC, making this roster a mystery for the most part. Yoelkis Cespedes is the younger half-brother of Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Both Álvarez and García should be mainstays in the rotation to keep games competitive. Hitting is a concern as a whole outside of Despaigne, but the pitching should remain interesting. The biggest advantage this squad has is the continuity of playing with each other for more than a month. They participated in the Caribbean Series in February and will have more time together than any other team prior to the WBC.
The consensus vibe among both experts and fans has Japan finishing on top of the group with Cuba advancing in second place. China does not stand a chance, while Australia could squeak out a win at best. Cuba's squad isn't as well-known to the rest of the world, but the talent is there to still win the group if they can catch Japan in the opening game on March 7.
Group A Analysis
Group C Analysis
Group D Analysis
Samurai Japan roster Analysis
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