(EDITED IN ON DEC. 31: As of this writing, the most recent projection for the United States can be found here.)
With more stuff coming out about what players might or might not be taking part in the WBC, here’s another update of how Team USA looks. As we get closer to the tournament and some players start to drop out (Chris Sale, for example, has said he will probably won’t take part), it becomes clear that America’s best strength is it’s depth. Other countries have a line of superstars, but not much below that, but Team USA has a player pool that lets it take a licking but keep on ticking. Sale is out, you say? Well, there’s still plenty of good lefty starters like Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley, Matt Harrison, C.J. Wilson, Madison Bumgarner, Cliff Lee, Derek Holland….
You get the idea.
A refresher on my selection rules/assumptions:
- 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.
Now, go after the jump for the full look:
Manager: Joe Torre
Again, this has already been announced, but more details have emerged on who will be on the Team USA coaching roster, mainly that Willie Randolph will be part of the staff. Presumably this means that the coaching staff for Team USA will have heavy doses of Joe Torre’s old staff members. Presumably we will see Mel Stottlemyre and Larry Bowa be confirmed some time in the next few months.
Catchers: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters
Posey has said he’d “really consider” playing for Team USA, and Mauer has been reported to want in. These are very good bits of news, as it means that even if Matt Wieters were to skip the tournament, Team USA would still be in great shape behind the plate (and at it), with arguably the two best catchers in baseball there. Note that both Posey and Mauer can play first when needed.
First Basemen: Paul Goldschmidt
Paul Goldschmidt isn’t well-known, but the Arizona 1B is in his mid-20s and hit .286 with 20 HR last season and is probably only going to get better.. Mauer and Posey both can play first-base if needed, as well.
Second Basemen: Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips
Pedroia played for the USA in 2009 but had to leave after he got injured. Brandon Phillips of the Reds would be his back-up/alternate.
Third Basemen: David Wright, Chase Headley
David Wright is David Wright. He was one of the team leaders in 2009, and had a key hit against Puerto Rico that ensured that Team USA went to the semi-finals. Chase Headley of the Padres, one of the best players nobody knows about, would also be on the roster.
Shortstops: Jimmy Rollins, Ian Desmond
Jimmy Rollins did so well in the 2009 WBC that he was named to the All-WBC team, so to call him back would be a wise move. Ian Desmond of the Nationals would be the other SS on the roster.
Outfielders: Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Curtis Granderson
The three young guns are there for two reasons: the first, of course, is that they are good. The second is this: if the WBC is to ever become a big event, the players are going to have to get exposed to it and start taking part in it early. The USA Basketball team has the same philosophy, having newer players and sometimes collegiates play in some tournaments while having NBA players play in the Olympics. If MLB and Team USA could try to do the same thing with baseball, it could lead to more interest in the WBC amongst both spectators and players.
Curtis Granderson, meanwhile, would come along because he could provide some veteran leadership and occasional pop. He also is one of the most supportive of baseball’s international efforts, going overseas during the offseason to run clinics and other events.
Utility: Ben Zobrist
Zobrist could play up the middle or in the outfield, while also providing a good bat off the bench if needed.
Starting Pitchers: Justin Verlander, David Price, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Vogelsong
This is close to the best-case scenario for Team USA, although only Vogelsong has officially committed yet (he even showed up at the press conference for the WBC in San Francisco). The other reason that Vogelsong is on the team (besides the fact that, uh, basically already said he’s in) is that he previously spent three years in Japan, so knows a bit more than the average American on how the Asian countries go about their baseball. He might even be familiar with some of their hitters.
Relievers: Jim Johnson, Chris Perez, Craig Kimbrel, Joel Hanrahan, Ryan Cook, Darren O’Day, James Russell, Matt Thornton, Craig Stammen
Johnson, Perez, Kimbrel and Hanrahan are traditional closers, each of which could be potential closers for a Team USA. Perez and Hanrahan have pitched in previous WBCs for Team USA. Ryan Cook did some closing as well for the Athletics, but also did plenty of mid-relief and set-up work. The rest of the guys are entirely middle relief and set-up guys, the (usually) no-name pitchers who toil in anonymity but often make the difference between victory or defeat. Darren O’Day proved his worth this season with the Orioles, and shut down the Yankees during his appearances in the ALDS. James Russell of the Cubs is a left-hander who had a 3.25 ERA this season as he pitched in parts of 77 games. Thornton, left-handed reliever for the White Sox, also pitched for Team USA in 2009. Craig Stammen finishes up the roster as a long reliever.
So what might the lineup for this team look like? Maybe something like this:
1. Trout, CF
2. Harper, LF
3. Posey, C
4. Stanton, RF
5. Mauer, DH
6. Wright, 3B
7. Rollins, SS
8. Goldschmidt, 1B
9. Pedroia, 2B
Yes, that’s a lineup where David Wright is hitting 6th, Dustin Pedroia is hitting “second lead-off” and guys like Curtis Granderson, Chase Headley and Matt Wieters are sitting on the bench. Impressive.
CHANGES FROM VERSIONS 1.1: Brian McCann’s sub-par season (and the fact Mauer, who I thought would skip it, seems to be interested) has kicked him off the list. Konerko and Fielder have been removed- Konerko due to a falloff in performance late in the season and Fielder because, well, he isn’t much of a fielder. The fact Mauer and Posey can both play first meant I could go with just one dedicated 1B. I replaced Jason Kipnis with Phillips at second for some more veteran influence. I replaced Mike Trumbo with Giancarlo Stanton after Stanton said he was interested in playing for Team USA. Zobrist replaces Michael Cuddyer because Cuddyer had injury problems this season. Chase Headley was added in to provide a backup for Wright. The pitching staffs have been shuffled around to both reflect how some of the players that have indicated interest as well as to better take into account the events of the whole season.
CHANGES FROM VERSION 2.0: Jimmy Rollins in for the injured Jeter. Rollins also takes his spot as lead-off man in the lineup.
Changes from version 2.000001: Chris Sale has said that he’s leaning towards not taking part, so I’ve replaced him in my projections with Gio Gonzalez, the Florida born-and-raised lefty from the Washington Nationals. I realized Adam LaRoche was a free agent, and if he signs with a new team it’d be far less likely that he’d play in the WBC, so I replaced him with Paul Goldschmidt. Also made some changes in the line-up, just based on my gut.
Its a shame team USA has the best pitchers in the world but none has no pride to play.Come
The talent gap is closing in on the USA from all around the world. Honestly, I feel the WBC doesn’t prove a single thing, it just is a more competitive way for players to get ready for the MLB season.