By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst
Welcome back, Class! I have a new assignment for you. We are less than 50 days away from the World Baseball Classic, and odds are now available for you to bet on who will win this tournament’s fifth installment.
Not every national team roster has been finalized, but we have a good idea of who will play among those in serious contention. We also have a schedule of which teams will play in which pools. Knowing what we know right now, here are three futures bets you should make now (odds courtesy of FOX Bet):
Team USA: +260 (bet $10 to win $36 total)
If this is your first time getting into the WBC, it’s time for a history lesson!
You may be surprised to learn the sport called America’s Pastime has only been won by the Americans one time out of four World Baseball Classics. Pitching seemed to be an issue in the early appearances, like a 1.25 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) in 2006 — tied for sixth that year. But the pitching improved over time, ultimately coalescing to a championship in 2017. The hero for the Americans’ title run was Marcus Stroman, who pitched a whopping 15 1/3 innings, struck out nine hitters and allowed just four earned runs.
The point is, given the winning country would only play seven games in the span of two weeks, one or two pitchers can take over the WBC. Looking ahead, here are three hurlers who could be the next Stroman for the Americans:
Logan Webb – The Giants pitcher finished in the top 15 in expected fielding independent pitching (3.31) last season.
Devin Williams – Though he is a closer, the Brewers reliever allowed an average exit velocity of 84.3 mph, squarely in the top 99th percentile in MLB.
Clayton Kershaw – What’s wrong with sentimentality? Kershaw will turn 35 years old during the WBC, but he is still willing to put extra innings on his arm for the good of Team USA.
Team Puerto Rico: +800 (bet $10 to win $90 total)
Speaking of elite pitchers, Puerto Rico may boast the best closer in the game in Edwin Díaz, who struck out more than half of all hitters he faced last season (118 K’s out of 235 batters faced). With that level of dominance, it’s as much of a guarantee as you can get in baseball: if Puerto Rico has a late lead, they’re not relinquishing it.
One starter who could help the cause is…plot twist…Marcus Stroman! Because his mother is from Puerto Rico, the Cubs righty chose to leave Team USA. Stroman does have one of the more devastating sinkers in baseball; in fact, his sinker’s run value was -14, the third-best mark among all sinkers last season. This pitch may be tough for hitters to prepare for this early in the year.
Team Cuba: +1500 (bet $10 to win $160 total)
This dark horse presents great value. No matter if you’re betting on March Madness, the World Cup or anything involving brackets and pools, path matters. A team that has an easier path in a tournament can outweigh the challenge of a perceived lack of talent. Cuba has the shortest odds to win the WBC among all teams in Pool A and has roughly the same likelihood to advance to the Quarterfinals as favorites from other pools. This bet is more about believing a team can earn an upset win or two once the tournament reaches single-elimination games.
This roster is still being ironed out, but it’s possible it could include Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, who boasts some of the top power numbers in baseball, and José Abreu, whose .378 on-base percentage ranked in the top ten last season.
Also worth noting: Team USA and Team Puerto Rico have sluggers of their own who can change the course of a game with one swing, like Mike Trout for the former and Carlos Correa for the latter. Predicting how players will perform when the schedules are unlike most seasons will be challenging, but the depth of these three teams makes them great bets to win this year’s WBC.
Edward Egros is a sports analytics broadcaster/writer, a sports betting analyst, a data scientist and an adjunct professor of statistics at Pepperdine University. These passions have led him to become a cold brew aficionado. Edward previously worked in local television, notably at the Fox affiliate in Dallas covering the Rangers, Cowboys and high school football. Follow him on Twitter @EdWithSports.
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