USA vs Japan World Baseball Classic Player Props: Fade Both Starters As Hitting Takes Centerstage

It's the matchup we've all been waiting for, as two powerhouse countries face off in the Gold Medal game of the World Baseball Classic. Read more to see our favorite prop bets for tonight's big showdown at LoanDepot Park.

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2023 1:29 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Shohei Ohtani Japan WBC
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 World Baseball Classic Championship game is upon us and baseball fans and bettors will get a matchup they deserve as Japan and the USA go head-to-head for the tournament title.

The atmosphere at this year’s WBC has been electric and that should be no different in the championship game. Let’s take that to the next level with some free baseball prop bets.

Japan’s bats were stifled early in their semifinals against Mexico, but will that be the case against American right-hander Merrill Kelly? Plus, could happen early in this matchup? And who is the best bet to hit a bomb?

Here are my best prop bets for the World Baseball Classic championship game. Make sure to also check out Josh Inglis' full USA vs. Japan betting picks before first pitch!

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USA vs Japan prop picks

Japan is coming off the most dramatic of victories in the semifinals against Mexico, winning 6-5 on Munetaka Murakami’s walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth. It took a while for Japan’s juggernaut offense to get going, but they ended up with six runs.

Japan’s bats were held in check for the early part of that game, thanks to an outstanding pitching performance from Los Angeles Angels’ starter Patrick Sandoval. The left-hander was filthy in the semifinals, holding the Japanese to four hits while striking out six in 4 1/3 innings to start the game.

The lefty was very effective thanks to hit-and-miss stuff, going against a Japan team that is lefty-heavy at the top of its lineup. Team USA starting pitcher Merrill Kelly might not have the same success. 

The Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander averages just 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings and lasted just three innings in his first WBC start against Columbia, allowing two runs on four hits with just one strikeout.

And it’s not just Kelly, as the American’s pitching has been its Achilles heel in this tournament. The team has a mediocre 4.33 ERA and is allowing opponents to hit .265 at the dish.

Japan’s lineup is deep and filled with a combination of MLB and NPB stars, including Shohei Ohtani, Lars Nootbar, Masataka Yoshida, and Munetaka Murakami. The team leads the tournament in scoring at 8.8 runs per game and ranks first in OPS.

They have scored at least six runs in all six tournament games, so the Over on their team total of 4.5 looks like a solid play tonight.

PICK: Japan team total Over 4.5 runs (-120 at bet365)

As noted, this Japan lineup could be very difficult to navigate for Merril Kelly. The right-hander just doesn’t miss a lot of bats and is ranked in the Bottom 30% of the MLB when it comes to barrel percentage and whiff rate. Kelly now faces a Japan team that put the bat on the ball more than anyone else in this tournament.

Meanwhile, Japan is starting a lefty in Shota Imanaga who pitches to contact and will have to go through one of the best collections of right-handed bats in baseball history. His first inning will likely include matchups against Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado. It doesn't get any easier at the bottom of the lineup either, as No. 9 hitter Trea Turner is arguably their hottest at the plate right now. 

On top of that, Japan has seen a run scored in the first inning of half of their games, while the USA has had it happen in all but one.

These are two great lineups going against starters that will be vulnerable early on. 

PICK: Over 0.5 first inning runs (-140 at FanDuel)

Trea Turner is on the heater of heaters during this World Baseball Classic. He’s hitting .368 with a 1.429 OPS so far during the tournament and has four dingers over his last four games.

But that doesn’t mean he’s my favorite player to hit a home run in the championship game.

That honor belongs to J.T. Realmuto at +600. The Philadelphia Phillies catcher is locked in at the dish. He is 5-for-8 with a walk during his three games in the WBC and despite not hitting a home run so far in the tournament, Realmuto leads the USA with a 1.511 OPS and is third in slugging percentage at .875.

Realmuto has been one of the best-hitting catchers in the MLB over the last few seasons. He owns a .811 OPS as a member of the Phillies and has hit an average of 21.3 home runs per season during his three full seasons in Philly.

Tonight, he digs in against Imanaga, who isn’t a big strikeout guy and recorded just 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings in the NBP last season.

PICK: J.T. Realmuto to hit a home run (+600 at FanDuel)

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