(EDITED IN ON DEC. 31: As of this writing, the most recent projection for the United States can be found here.)
Joe Torre will be managing the 2013 WBC team. As I mentioned during my musings on what a baseball dream team in 1992 would have been like, I guess now is as good a time as any to try to predict who will be on the 2013 WBC team. Unlike my pie-in-the-sky 1992 team though, these predictions will be based more in the cold reality about WBC teams that emerges due to the fact that the tournament takes place during Spring Training:
- Any player coming off a major injury or who has a history of injuries is unlikely to participate. This is especially true for the pitchers.
- Players that will be on new teams are less likely to participate, but shouldn’t be completely ignored, with the exception of pitchers.
- Teams are made up of 28 players, of which 13 of them must be pitchers and two of them catchers.
- The pitch count rules make relievers extremely important.
So, with this in mind, and after much looking over of statistics and histories, here are my projections (after the jump):
Both Posey and Wieters have played for Team USA in the past during their amateur days, and they seem to have become more-or-less healthy, so for now I’m putting them down. Brian McCann took part in the ’09 Classic and, unlike most of the catchers in the bigs, has never had that many major injuries.
Given his injury problems in the past, Joe Mauer is unlikely to take part, although he played with Team USA several times before he reached the Majors, so it’s possible.
Konerko has been the best 1B in baseball this season. Prince Fielder would be DH, if he wanted to take part. He definitely wouldn’t take the field though, unless something had gone horribly wrong. Michael Cuddyer would be more of the backup 1B. If Mauer were to take part, he’d also be a possible 1B.
Pedroia left the 2009 team with an injury, but still should be approached about 2013. He remains, after all, one of the best in the league. Jason Kipnis of the Indians would make another good addition as a more youthful guy.
Third Basemen: David Wright
David Wright was something of one of the leaders of the 2009 WBC team, getting the walk-off hit that got the USA to the semi-finals and helping see to it that a disabled veteran was allowed to enter the clubhouse to celebrate with the team after the win. Unless the Mets trade him or don’t pick up his 2013 team option, he’ll probably go again. The only question is of who would be the back-up, as, quite frankly, there isn’t enough room. Cuddyer would be likely. Or, another possibility, albeit one that would cause the Nationals to foam at the mouth, would be to have somebody like Evan Longoria or Chase Headley be the backup 3B, and find room by getting rid of one of the catchers and then proceeding to make Bryce Harper be the emergency third catcher, as he played there during college.
There have been few players more into the WBC than Jeter. He’s played in the first two, even as the Yankee organization kicked and screamed about how they were against it. And there’s no reason why he won’t be in for a third go-around, even if he is passed his prime (and, really, Torre is managing, you have to think Jeter would go) . J.J. Hardy should also be on the team.
Utility: Michael Cuddyer
As I said before: in international baseball, it helps to have a guy who can play basically anywhere. And while he’s been more of a outfielder the last few years, Michael Cuddyer fits the bill, while also bringing a good bat to Team USA.
Granderson is a given, one of baseball’s great ambassadors. He routinely heads overseas during the off-season to do clinics and training camps.
Bryce Harper is likely because he seems like the kind of guy who’d be chomping at the bit to take part in a event like the WBC, and he’s shown that he only has one speed: full. The Nationals might have a stroke, but if Harper wants to play, he will. Similarly, I think I’ll put down Mike Trout unless proven otherwise.
Really, the young guys always seem to be among the most enthusiastic over things like this. So maybe it would be a good idea to keep with the youth movement and get Giancarlo Stanton. Apologies to folks like Adam Jones. Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton aren’t included due to injury problems, not to mention the fact Hamilton might be with a new team next preseason.
Peavy pitched in both the first and second WBCs, and he’s back to his old form, so I’ll just put him in unless he says otherwise. There is a very real chance he would say otherwise, as he had problems in the regular season of the years he pitched in the WBC. Still, unless he says otherwise, Peavy is in.
Dickey played with Team USA before… during the 1990s. He was member of the 1996 Olympic team, in fact. He also strikes me as the type of guy who’d do the WBC.
Chris Sale and C.J. Wilson are in because they are among the best American lefties so far this season. I have no idea if they’d actually take part or not.
Stephen Strasburg would probably be on this list, but given his past injury problems and the Nationals’ infamous obsession over his pitch count, I’m not putting him down. Apologies to Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Lance Lynn, C.C. Sabathia etc.
The Braves’ Craig Kimbrel is one of the best young closers in the league and if he wants to participate, he will be on the team. Perez is on pace to lead the majors in saves this season and played for Team USA in 2005 and 2007. Jim Johnson has been a revelation for the Orioles this season and should be on the team if he wants to be. Joel Hanrahan was a member of ’09 team and has done well with the Pirates this year so I’m putting him in.
Leaving the closers and moving more to the set-up and long-relief guys, Tim Collins is a no-name but he’s pitched well for the Royals this season and was a member of the 2010 Pan-American Games qualifying team (and he’s left-handed!). Similarly, lefty Scott Downs of the Angels would make a good guy out of the bullpen. Brad Lincoln of the Pirates is included because he is something of a spot starter and long reliever, so he’d be a good guy to have to something goes absolutely horribly wrong. Ryan Cook has had a sub-1.00 ERA out of the bullpen for Oakland this season. Matt Thornton was a member of the 2009 WBC team and has been good out of the bullpen for the White Sox. And he’s left-handed.
So, imagine this as the starting lineup of the 2013 USA World Baseball Classic team:
1. Mike Trout, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Bryce Harper, LF
4. Prince Fielder, DH
5. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
6. Paul Konerko, 1B
7. David Wright, 3B
8. Buster Posey, C
9. Derek Jeter, SS
SP: Jake Peavy
If you’ll note, you could basically turn this lineup upside down, shake it around or put in just the backups and you’d still have a great lineup.
I’ll probably come back and update/change this as we get closer and more people either put their hat in the ring or take their name out. I’ll also probably do projections for the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other teams.