People who love to bet on baseball that means something, unlike spring training, can rejoice as the 2023 World Baseball Classic kicks off tonight with Cuba taking on the Netherlands. We’ll break down the game and who to expect out on the field tonight before going over how I’ll be betting on the action.
Talent is at a surplus this year in the WBC, and the opening night game certainly features a lot of it. The Pool A game will take place in Taichung, Taiwan, with first pitch coming at 11:00 PM EST. Yariel Rodriquez will be on the mound for Cuba, while Tom de Blok will toe the rubber for the Netherlands. The true headlines in this game come from both sides' lineups, which feature many current MLB players and the all-time home run leader in WBC history.
Team Cuba’s lineup will feature the likes of Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alfredo Despaigne, so pure power will undoubtedly be a strength of this team. They’ll need to come out swinging in order to make it out of their pool, as the team’s overall pitching staff does not stack up well in the tournament. The bright side for Cuba is that most of their guys have played in this event before and have found success, as guys like Yurisbel Gracial hit .435 in 2017.
The Netherlands also features a roster of guys with MLB experience and WBC experience. Even with the event featuring talent galore, the Netherlands infield is arguably one of the best in the tournament, with Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, and Jonathan Schoop. The outfield certainly isn’t too shabby either, with Jurickson Profar and Wladimir Balentien providing a nice mix of power and speed.
Pitching-wise, team Netherlands may not boast a staff that will jump off the page, but the current and former MLB and MILB players bolster the bullpen nicely. Starting pitching wise, guys like tonight’s starter Tom de Blok play in one of the most competitive European professional leagues, while former MLB player Jair Jurrjens posted a 2.38 ERA in 11.1 innings in the 2017 WBC.
The current run total for this game is set at eight on DraftKings Sportsbook, and I’ll be taking the over as my best play to start off the WBC. Hitting certainly has the advantage on both sides in this game, as two guys who finished first and second in homerun's hit in the 2017 event will be in this game in Wladimir Balentien and Alfredo Despaigne.
Back in 2017, team Cuba scored four or more runs in all three of their first-round games, while the Netherlands scored a total of 13 runs in their three first-round games as well. Both starting pitchers put up good numbers in their respective professional leagues, but one of their first starts of the year coming against stacked lineups does not bode well for them.
With the experience on both sides, I think both sides will come out swinging and looking to hang a crooked number early. The Netherlands had three players in 2017 finish with six or more RBIs, and all three will be in the lineup tonight. On the other side, Cuba has power in their lineup from top to bottom, and if they can knock de Blok out of the game early, they can do some damage against the Netherlands bullpen.