Back during the Blogathon, I did a super-hypothetical projection of what the World Baseball Classic team for the USA would look like if everybody took part, regardless of whether I actually thought they would or not. I called it Version 0.1.
Now, though, it’s time to be more realistic. Not everyone will take part, especially among the pitchers. And, what’s more, the roster will not be a simple gathering of talent. No, there will be role-players: Mark DeRosa, Ben Zobrist, and Willie Bloomquist were on previous WBC teams partly (or, in the case of Bloomquist, almost entirely) because they could play multiple positions. The bullpens will not simply be closers, there will be set-up men and specialists who would only be known to the die-hards.
In addition, there are likely to be rule changes that will allow teams to add players as the tournament goes on, primarily aimed at making it easier for some pitchers to play but who are skittish about going during the early rounds where they might not have had as much time to prepare. For simplicity’s sake, this version of the projections is going to only use a 28-man roster, but sometime in the future I will make projections that reflect the new rules once we officially know what they are.
Now, before we begin (after the jump), a reminder of the WBC roster rules/general wisdom that I use to make these:
- 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. (This may change pending rule changes.)
- The pitch count rules make relievers extremely important.
(Go below the jump for the projections)
Manager: Jim Leyland
This is a confirmed piece of information. Joining him on the coaching staff will be Jeff Jones, Marcel Lachemann, Lloyd McClendon, Willie Randolph, and Alan Trammell.
Catchers (3): Buster Posey, Stephen Vogt, J.R. Realmuto
Many of the best American catchers will be Free Agents after this season, so I’m hesitant to put them on. However, the two bay-area catchers won’t be. Posey has said he’s “open” to playing in the WBC, and while I don’t know if Vogt has said anything in particular about it, he’d be a good guy to have on the team. Realmuto rounds out the trio. Posey and Vogt can and have played other positions, which further increases their worth.
First Basemen (1): Paul Goldschmidt
Joe Mauer played as a catcher and first baseman in 2013, but even with how his 2016 season has been a return to form, I’m hesitant to put him on the WBC roster given his history of injuries, the fact that Goldschmidt would be a better power threat, and the fact that there are other players already on the team who could play first.
Second Basemen (2): Ian Kinsler, Dee Gordon
Apologies to Dustin Pedroia, Logan Forsythe, Daniel Murphy, and Brian Dozier.
Third Basemen (2): Josh Donaldson, David Wright
This position carries a few disclaimers: Manny Machado isn’t on it because I’m not sure if he’d play for the USA or the Dominican. Same goes with Nolan Arenado, who I remember was on a shortlist for the 2013 Puerto Rican team (although he didn’t play). And, beyond that, I chose David Wright over probably-more-deserving choices like Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier because David Wright is probably the only American player who is even slightest bit associated with the WBC in the public mind, so I imagine that if he ends the season with an even average year, he’ll get asked. Marketing reasons, you know. Oh, and Josh Donaldson is a no-brainer.
Shortstops (2): Troy Tulowitzki, Zack Cozart
Tulo wanted to play in the 2013 WBC but wasn’t allowed by the Rockies because he was coming off an injury. Cozart has been a rare bright-spot for the Reds this year. Apologies to Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell, etc.
Outfielders (4): Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Kevin Kiermaier, Kevin Pillar
Giancarlo Stanton isn’t on the list simply because with all of his past injuries and the fact he had a sub-par start after the 2013 WBC makes me feel like he might not take part. Instead, we’ll go with Harper (who heavily implied in 2013 that he would have played in the WBC had it not been his first full spring training), Trout (who said something similar in 2013 and has said that he’s interested in 2017, although it’s too early to be sure as it will depend on how he feels), and the two AL East Kevins. Apologies to the other fine USA outfielders.
Utility (1): Brock Holt
Filling in the Zobrist/DeRosa/Bloomquist utility spot is Brock Holt of the Boston Red Sox. After all, he can play more-or-less anywhere but catcher and isn’t that bad of a hitter either. Now, admittedly, it COULD be Zobrist again, but he’s now mainly just a second baseman.
Starting Pitchers (4): Jake Arrieta, Noah Syndergaard, Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner
I have no idea on what the status of Arrieta, Syndergaard and Scherzer are as far as their feelings about the WBC, but Bumgarner has said that he is at least open to it and I’m including Scherzer because I’m figuring maybe Jim Leyland will convince him to. Apologies to all the other great American pitchers, including Sonny Gray, who’s said it’d be “awesome” to be on Team USA. More than any other position, this would be affected by new rules that allow for larger rosters as the tournament goes on. It’s unlikely that creatures-of-habit like Clayton Kershaw and David Price would take part in the 28-player entire tournament, but if they can jump on in later rounds it is more likely.
Relievers (9): Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, David Robertson, Ryan Madson, Darren O’Day, Craig Kimbrel, Trevor Rosenthal, Brad Ziegler, Zach Duke
Dellin Betances isn’t included because it’s unknown if he’d play for USA or Dominican. Wade Davis isn’t included because he might be on a new team. Craig Kimbrel’s inclusion depends upon him recovering from a rough April. Anyway, this is a mix of closers, set-up guys, and at least one LOOGY (Zach Duke).
So… what might the lineup look like with this roster? Maybe something like this:
1.Ian Kinsler, 2B
2.Josh Donaldson, 3B
3.Mike Trout, CF
4.Bryce Harper, RF
5.Buster Posey, C
6.Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
7.Troy Tulowitzki, SS
8.David Wright, DH
9.Kevin Pillar, LF (has more experience in left than Kiermaier)
Starting Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
Stay tuned for future projections, as well as projections for other teams, like the Dominican Republic.
Cmon. You can do better than that? Cozart?? David Wright? Kevin pillar??
This is just the first version!