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Looking back on the exploits of the 2023 All-WBC Team

In case you missed the best baseball on TV over the last three weeks, let’s remember the highlights together.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic - Championship Alex Trautwig/Getty Images/Pool-via USA TODAY Sports

The World Baseball Classic has concluded, and after Tuesday night’s incredible championship showdown between Japan and the USA, the haters can Hold This L, because that was a great tournament, headlined by great players making great plays. Earlier this afternoon, the superlatives for the ‘23 WBC were announced, headlined by no surprises with Shohei Ohtani taking home the tournament MVP. Let’s run down who else caught honors for their international showing over these past few weeks:

Catcher: Salvador Perez (Venezuela)
WBC Stats: .429 BA, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R, 1.396 OPS
2023 Team: Kansas City Royals

Ever-present in Kansas City, Salvy takes the reigns from two-time All-WBC Catcher (and Puerto Rico manager) Yadier Molina as the leading backstop on the global stage, leading all catchers with six runs driven in and five extra-base hits in the tournament. Five of those ribeyes came in a single game, March 12th’s Group Stage win over Puerto Rico that gave Venezuela pole position in their group en route to to the quarterfinals.

Perez’s last RBI and extra-base hit was equally important, tying the quarterfinal at five with a double down the line against Jason Adam.

First Base: Yu Chang (Chinese Taipei)
WBC Stats: .500 BA, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5 R, 1.438 OPS
2023 Team: Boston Red Sox

The Pool A MVP, Chang is fighting for a backup infield spot on the Red Sox roster, and his WBC performance can’t have hurt him. He and his signature celebration were at the heart of a spirited effort from host Chinese Taipei that fell just short of the quarterfinals, driving in their first run of the tournament then hitting a pair of huge home runs — including a two-run game-tying blast against Italy and a go-ahead grand slam against the Netherlands — to lift his country to its two victories.

Second Base: Javier Báez (Puerto Rico)
WBC Stats: .368 BA, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R, 1.052 OPS
2023 Team: Detroit Tigers

The only holdover from the All-WBC team of six years ago, Báez was once again the lifeblood of a Puerto Rico team that fell short of a chance to avenge their 2017 Finals loss. Báez tied for the lead among all WBC second basemen with seven hits, four extra-base hits, and six runs driven in, and for a moment, it looked like he’d be leading the charge for PR into a semifinal meeting with Japan. Team Mexico had other plans, but it was a resurgent run for the former Cub nonetheless.

Third Base: Yoán Moncada (Cuba)
WBC Stats: .435 BA, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 1.258 OPS
2023 Team: Chicago White Sox

Moncada and White Sox teammate Luis Robert Jr.’s mere presence on the Cuban team was headline news in and of itself, and while the latter struggled at times, Moncada made it worth their while, reaching base 14 times with five extra-base hits (both most among third basemen) on the way to his nation’s first WBC semifinal appearance since dropping the very first WBC Final to Japan in 2006. Moncada responded to Cuba’s 0-2 start in this year’s tournament by going 6-for-9 over their subsequent two games, including critical doubles and home runs in wins over Panama and Chinese Taipei.

Shortstop: Trea Turner (United States)
WBC Stats: .391, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 6 R, 1.483 OPS
2023 Team: Philadelphia Phillies

What else is there to say about Turner? Even in losing the final and with Shohei Ohtani having seized the moment so confidently, Turner might have made a convincing case for tournament MVP. Nobody since Korea’s Lee Seung-yuop in 2006 had reached five homers in a single Class until the new shortstop in Philadelphia did it over six games, driving in 11. Let the highlights do the talking:

Outfield: Randy Arozarena (Mexico)
WBC Stats: .607, 6 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 1.507 OPS
2023 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

The dude named Randy strikes again, always ready for the limelight. The Pool C MVP after the first four games, Arozarena, a native Cuban with an unorthodox journey to Mexican citizenship, was the star of the tournament’s Cinderella squad, pacing the WBC with seven extra-base hits and pairing it with six walks to just five strikeouts. He led the charge with two doubles and three runs scored in a stunning upset to put the USA on the ropes in their group, and while his bat cooled down a touch in the knockout stage, he more than compensated for it with a flood of spectacular glovework that helped nearly give Mexico what would have been the upset of the tournament against Japan in the semis.

Outfield: Masataka Yoshida (Japan)
WBC Stats: .409 BA, 1 2B, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 5 R, 1.258 OPS
2023 Team: Boston Red Sox

What an introduction to an American audience it was for Yoshida, who we’ll be seeing plenty of over the next five years. He smashed the WBC tournament record with 13 runs driven in on Japan’s undefeated run to the championship, and was critical in picking up the slack from a slumping Munetaka Murakami behind him in their batting order. Remarkably, he struck out just once in 32 plate appearances, joining Mookie Betts as the only players to do so while coming to the plate at least 20 times. He also pretty much single-handedly revived Japan’s championship hopes against Mexico with his game-tying three-run bomb:

Outfield: Mike Trout (United States)
WBC Stats: .296 BA, 2 B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R, .962 OPS
2023 Team: Los Angeles Angels

If there’s ever going to be controversy over such a thing as the 2023 All-WBC team, this is it: Trout’s seven RBI and .962 OPS were quite critical to the success of a USA lineup that nearly repeated, but he also nearly led the tournament with 12 strikeouts, and you probably could have made a case for Kensuke Kondoh or Anthony Santander in this spot instead. Nonetheless, Trout’s mere appearance in this tournament is a win for just about everyone involved, and it’s not like he didn’t deserve it. So here you go, Mike!

DH: Shohei Ohtani (Japan)
WBC Stats: .435 BA, 4 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R, 1 SB, 1.345 OPS
2023 Team: Los Angeles Angels

Tied for the tournament lead with 10 hits? Led by himself with 10 walks on top of that? Check. Reached base four times against archrival Korea? Check. Huge double to spark comeback win and avoid huge semifinal upset against Mexico? Check. All that without seeing the field beyond the basepaths and the dirt and grass between the mound and dugout? Check.

Pitcher: Shohei Ohtani (Japan)
WBC Stats: 2-0, 1.86 ERA, 3 G, 9.2 IP, 2 BB, 11 SO
2023 Team: Los Angeles Angels

It’s simple: Take all of the above and tack on 9.2 innings with just five hits and two runs allowed, next to just two bases on balls and 11 strikeouts, including three swinging strikes to Mike freaking Trout to win the whole dang thing. What else is there to say at this point?

Pitcher: Patrick Sandoval (Mexico)
WBC Stats: 1-0, 1.23 ERA, 2 GS, 7.1 IP, 3 BB, 8 SO
2023 Team: Los Angeles Angels

Wow, three players (and four entries) in a row! The Los Angeles Angels sure must be loaded!

Ha. At any rate, the Angels should be in great shape with Sandoval backing up Ohtani in their rotation. He took the ball twice and pitched his heart out in two critical situations for for Mexico. If he doesn’t keep the USA at bay early in their Pool C game following their stunning loss to Colombia, he wouldn’t have gotten a second start. Then, of course, he held this loaded Japanese lineup off the scoreboard into the fifth inning of his semifinal start, dotting his changeup and finding some extra life on his fastball in the most high-stakes action he’s seen as a professional.

Pitcher: Miguel Romero (Cuba)
WBC Stats: 2-0, 2.08 ERA, 5 G, 8.2 IP, 1 BB, 13 SO
2023 Team: Oakland Athletics

Romero was the surprise workhorse in an absolutely loaded Cuban bullpen, leading the tournament with five appearances and turning in 8.2 innings pitched, allowing just two runs in that span and also leading the tournament with a whopping 13 punchouts. Currently in the upper levels of the Oakland organization, Romero has spent most of the past two seasons getting shelled (5.83 ERA) in the Pacific Coast League, but perhaps this will be a sign of better things to come. It’s not as if the MLB club in Oakland has a ton of locks on their roster.

World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Cuba v United States Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images