12 dream matchups for World Baseball Classic

March 5th, 2023

The World Baseball Classic is just days away. These are the matchups we're dreaming about.

We could see teammate vs. teammate. Rising star vs. rising star. International phenom vs. international phenom. MLB superstar vs. NPB and KBO elite. And so much more.

It all depends on how the games shake out. But if we get to see these play out on the field, it will be must-see baseball.

Here are 12 matchups to hope for in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.


Mike Trout (USA) vs. Shohei Ohtani (Japan)

This would be the matchup of the tournament. Trout, the best player of his generation, vs. Ohtani, the one-of-a-kind two-way superstar. The World Baseball Classic is the only place where the Angels teammates can face each other. The U.S. and Japan are on opposite sides of the bracket, so a Trout-Ohtani showdown would have to happen in the semifinals … or the championship. Imagine that.

Jung-hoo Lee (South Korea) vs. Roki Sasaki (Japan)

Lee vs. Sasaki would be a matchup of two international phenoms -- and potential future MLB prospects. The 24-year-old Lee is the reigning KBO MVP after the lefty slugger batted .349 with 23 homers and 113 RBIs for the Kiwoom Heroes. And he's set to be posted to MLB after next season. Sasaki is only 21 years old, but the right-hander is already the most electric pitcher in Japan. He throws 102 mph and pitched a 19-strikeout perfect game last April. Japan and Korea are both in Pool B and will go head to head on Friday.

Munetaka Murakami (Japan) vs. Edwin Díaz (Puerto Rico)

Murakami is the Japanese Aaron Judge. Just 23 years old, he crushed 56 home runs for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows last season -- breaking Sadaharu Oh's longstanding single-season NPB record of 55 for a Japanese-born player -- while also batting .318 with 134 RBIs to win the Triple Crown. Put him up against the most dominant closer in the Major Leagues, Díaz, with his 100 mph fastball and wipeout slider, who's coming off a season in which he struck out over half of the batters he faced. It could happen in the championship rounds of the WBC if Japan and Puerto Rico make it that far.

Freddie Freeman (Canada) vs. Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Japan)

Freeman might be the most accomplished pure hitter in the tournament. The 2020 National League MVP would be a great test for Yamamoto, the most accomplished pitcher in Japan. The 24-year-old right-hander is the winner of back-to-back Sawamura Awards in NPB, Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young. Yamamoto won pitching Triple Crowns in each of the past two seasons, going 18-5 with a 1.39 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 2021 and 15-5 with a 1.68 ERA and 205 strikeouts in '22. Canada and Japan wouldn't face each other until the semifinals or finals.

Paul Goldschmidt (USA) vs. Sandy Alcantara (Dominican Republic)

The USA and Dominican Republic are both stacked, and if they both advance from their pools and face each other in the second round of the WBC, you could see the reigning MVP Goldschmidt face the reigning Cy Young winner Alcantara. Goldschmidt and Alcantara see each other in big league action, but playing for their countries, it will be entirely different.

Mookie Betts (USA) vs. Julio Urías (Mexico)

Urías might be the best big league starter in the World Baseball Classic outside of Alcantara. Betts is one of the biggest all-around stars. But unlike Goldschmidt and Alcantara, Betts and Urías don't face each other on the MLB schedule, because, of course, they're teammates on the Dodgers. But they did face off in the 2018 World Series, when Betts' Red Sox beat Urías and the Dodgers. Now the U.S. and Mexico are in the same WBC pool. They play on Sunday.


Bobby Witt Jr. (USA) vs. Julio Rodríguez (Dominican Republic)

The game's brightest young stars are being drawn to the World Baseball Classic, and no matchup could better represent the future of Major League Baseball than Witt and Rodríguez going head to head. The two super prospects came up at the same time, debuting on Opening Day 2022, and they both had electric rookie seasons. Rodríguez had 28 home runs and 25 stolen bases; Witt had 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases. They're both 22 years old. Let the kids play on the world stage.

Ronald Acuña Jr. (Venezuela) vs. Juan Soto (Dominican Republic)

Acuña and Soto are to each other now what Witt and Rodríguez might be in a few years. Two phenoms tied to each other from the beginning of their careers, who fulfilled their potential and became two of the best players in the world. The 25-year-old Acuña and 24-year-old Soto are both in Pool D of the WBC and play each other on Saturday.

Manny Machado (Dominican Republic) vs. Nolan Arenado (USA)

Machado and Arenado are always fighting for the title of best third baseman in the world. The World Baseball Classic can be their proving ground. They're two of the leaders of the Dominican and U.S. teams, and they just finished right next to each other in the 2022 NL MVP voting -- Machado was second, Arenado was third.

Xander Bogaerts (Netherlands) vs. Rafael Devers (Dominican Republic)

Bogaerts and Devers gave the Red Sox one of the best duos in baseball on the left side of the infield over the past several years. Now they're apart for the first time, with Bogaerts signing with the Padres this winter and Devers committing to Boston long-term. If the Netherlands and Dominican Republic meet in the later rounds of the WBC, it could be Bogaerts and Devers' first time playing against each other.

Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela) vs. Alfredo Despaigne (Cuba)

These are two legends of the World Baseball Classic. Cabrera will have played in all five Classics when he takes the field for Venezuela, going back to the first tournament in 2006. Despaigne made his WBC debut for Cuba in 2009 and has played in every one since. Despaigne is the all-time WBC leader with seven home runs; Miggy is one behind him with six.

Adam Wainwright (USA) vs. manager Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico)

Wainwright and Molina were teammates for the past 18 years with the Cardinals. They could finally be in opposing dugouts. Wainwright is pitching in his first World Baseball Classic for the U.S. at age 41, and though 40-year-old Molina's playing days for Puerto Rico are now behind him, he's managing the team this time around. If Wainwright pitches against Puerto Rico, will Yadi know all his secrets?