So, Team USA’s roster has been released, here’s how it looks (they’ve released 27 names, the 28th will be named later):
Jeremy Affeldt – San Francisco Giants – LHP
J.P. Arencibia – Toronto Blue Jays – C
Heath Bell – Arizona Diamondbacks – RHP
Willie Bloomquist – Arizona Diamondbacks – UTL
Mitchell Boggs – St. Louis Cardinals – RHP
Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers – OF
Steve Cishek – Miami Marlins – RHP
Tim Collins – Kansas City Royals – LHP
R.A. Dickey – Toronto Blue Jays – RHP
Luke Gregerson – San Diego Padres – RHP
Derek Holland – Texas Rangers – LHP
Adam Jones – Baltimore Orioles – OF
Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves – RHP
Jonathan Lucroy – Milwaukee Brewers – C
Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins – C
Kris Medlen – Atlanta Braves – RHP
Glen Perkins – Minnesota Twins – LHP
Chris Perez – Cleveland Indians – RHP
Vinnie Pestano – Cleveland Indians – RHP
Brandon Phillips – Cincinnati Reds – IF
Jimmy Rollins – Philadelphia Phillies – IF
Giancarlo Stanton – Miami Marlins – OF
Mark Teixeira – New York Yankees – IF
Shane Victorino – Boston Red Sox – OF
Ryan Vogelsong – San Francisco Giants – RHP
David Wright – New York Mets – IF
Ben Zobrist – Tampa Bay Rays – UTL
Now, go after the jump for my analysis:
Yes, Team USA is not the full-on dream team that it would be in a perfect world. While one could never call this a “B-team” in any sense whatsoever, and it still has many of the biggest American baseball stars on it, many will focus on those who isn’t playing: Trout, Harper, Verlander, McCutchen, Posey, Sabathia, Kershaw etc.
That said, this is still a great team, at least on paper. If they were an MLB team, they’d be the World Series favorite. They have unquestionable depth, three MVPs (Mauer, Braun, Rollins), a Cy Young award winner (Dickey) and 15 all-stars. They will be managed by a man who won four World Series while dealing with teams full of big personalities- Joe Torre.
So, anyway, here’s a run-down of the team’s strength, weaknesses, and who to watch.
Face of the team: Probably David Wright. Wright was one of the biggest contributors to the 2009 team, hitting a walk-off to send the USA into the semi-finals. He then was one of the first two players to be announced for Team USA (along with Mauer). With Jeter out this time around and unlikely to still be playing four years from now, David Wright is now perhaps the closest thing that Team USA has to a team captain (a “Captain America”, if you will).
Strengths: Team USA’s greatest strength is it’s depth and and well-roundedness. Some of the other teams may be better in certain areas, but Team USA is a Swiss Army Knife of a baseball team that is at the very least good in all areas and great in many of them. And the depth means that there are few weak spots on the roster (Arencibia, one or two guys in the bullpen, maybe Derek Holland if he pitches more like his first half of 2012 instead of his second half). Even the back-ups are Major League ballplayers, and the vast majority are starters or (in the case of the relief pitchers) regulars. Ben Zobrist and Willie Bloomquist, although their inclusion no doubt will bring some snickers from haters, are probably the two best utility men in the game. Utility players are extremely important in international play due to the fact that there isn’t a minor league system to call upon if, say, one player gets the flu or something.
Weaknesses: One of the main worries for Team USA has to be conditioning and familiarity. While many of the other teams- particularly those from Asia and the Caribbean- will have been training for months or been playing in winter leagues, the Americans will have only been together for a few weeks at most, and while some of the players have started working out earlier than usual, the fact is that the players aren’t going to be in mid-season form, and in a tournament with little room for error, that could doom Team USA, much like it did in 2006 and 2009.
Oh, and it’ll also be interesting to see how well the catchers are with R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball. Arencibia, for example, who is on the roster primarily because he is going to be one of the catchers tasked with catching Dickey this season in Toronto, has been a league leader in passed balls the past two seasons, and one can easily see how this could go horribly, horribly wrong.
Who to watch: Mark Teixeira. He went hitless the last time he played in the WBC, and traditionally has started the regular season slow. He’s also one of the more suspect selections based on last year’s performance, when he hit .251 with 24 HRs. If he plays like that this time, he could be one of the closest things Team USA has to an “easy out”, but if he hits well, Team USA will probably be in very, very good shape offensively.
Outlook: The USA should win this tournament, they are clearly the best team on paper. Games aren’t played on paper, however, and they aren’t played in a vacuum either. That said, this is perhaps the best Team USA put together so far for the WBC, and if the pitching holds up they should be able to win the tournament. But, hey, it’s baseball, so who the heck knows?