This Friday, the World Baseball Classic begins. While not quite as official as other international tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup, it provides enjoyment to baseball fans all over the world. In addition to rooting for players on their favorite teams, fans can also rally behind players who happen to play for their country. No surprise here, I will be rooting for Team USA (in addition to hoping no Yankee sustains a serious injury). While I like a lot of parts of Team USA, I acknowledge that it is not the best group that could potentially be put together. Here is the roster I would handpick given the opportunity. Assume all of these players would say yes regardless of injury concerns or any other extraneous factors:
J.P. Arencibia , Jonathan Lucroy, Joe Mauer
The USA is actually pretty sound behind the plate, save one glaring omission. Reigning NL MVP Buster Posey simply has to be there. As for the other two spots, Mauer is a just choice. I would also put Matt Weiters back there. No hard feelings to Jonathan Lucroy or J.P. Arencibia, but this choice was fairly simple
Current: Mark Teixeira
I love Tex. However, I must put my Yankee bias aside for this pick. Prince Fielder is currently a better offensive player. Tex is a far better defender, but I want as much firepower as possible on this roster. Prince takes the cake.
Current: Brandon Phillips
I would like to keep Phillips on the team. However, as much as it pains me to say this, he should not be a starter. Dustin Pedroia is the best American Second Basemen in baseball right now. I like the idea of Phillips coming off the bench or pinch hitting, so lets keep him for that.
Current: Jimmy Rollins
I would absolutely love to put Derek Jeter here. If he hadn’t fractured his ankle last ALCS, I would have. Having said that, he did fracture his ankle last October. He is currently rehabbing in preparation for his 28th World Championship (see what I did there?). The World Baseball Classic is no place to get healthy. If I want the most skilled American Shortstop out there, I’m going with the Colorado Rockies Troy Tulowitzki. He spent most of last year on the disabled list, but I’m all in on Tulo for this team.
Current: David Wright
This was one of the toughest calls I had. I’m not going to boot David Wright off of this team. I’m going to put him at DH. Evan Longoria is my 3rd basemen. David Wright is great, but the upside of Longoria (who is 27, and is just entering his prime) is too great to ignore. Honorable mention to Ryan Zimmerman, who will make this team someday.
Current: Ryan Braun, Adam Jones , Giancarlo Stanton , Shane Victorino
THIS is where things get interesting. The United States is loaded with outfielders. So much so that I only have one of these four on my final roster. Steroid controversy aside, Ryan Braun makes my team. His numbers are too hard to argue against. The other three are not so lucky. Mike Trout should have won the AL MVP last year. Unfortunately, he didn’t As a consolation prize, he is a no-brainer pick for one of my starting outfielders (specifically, center field). To complete the starting outfield, I’m going to put Matt Kemp out there. Coming off of the bench we will have Pirates superstar Andrew McCutchen. My god this is a loaded group. In order to get here, we not only ignored the three names above, but we also failed to include the likes of Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton and rising star Bryce Harper. It’s an embarrassment of riches. It sure is good to be an American!
Current: Jeremy Affeldt, Heath Bell, Mitchell Boggs, Steve Cishek, Tim Collins, R.A. Dickey, Luke Gregerson, Derek Holland , Craig Kimbrel , Kris Medlen , Chris Perez , Vinnie Pestano , Ryan Vogelsong
Pitchers are the hardest players to agree to partake in a tournament such as this. They are the most susceptible to major injuries and thus have the most to lose by participating. Even so, we can do significantly better than this group. As big a fan as I am, I actually had to look some of these guys up. No bueno. This list is made up of 3 starters and ten relievers. I am going to do things a little differently. I will be taking 4 starters and 9 relievers on for this tournament. Justin Verlander will be my staff’s ace. He is the most consistently dominant pitcher in baseball, period. TO round out my starters, I will take on Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasberg and David Price. Similar to the outfield, the US is filled with starting pitching depth. The likes of CC Sabathia, Matt Cain, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are not left off of many teams, but unfortunately for them, this is one of them.
I will keep a few of the given relievers.Craig Kimbrel, Jeremy Affeldt and Kris Medlen have earned their spots on this team. Joe Nathan would get another one of the spots. Additionally, to round out my final five, I would add David Robertson of the Yankees, Sergio Romo of the defending champion Giants, Fernando Rodney of the Rays, Jim Johnson of the Orioles and Huston Street of the Padres.
So there you have it, my very own Team USA. I’m fairly confident this team would run the table in this year’s World Baseball Classic. Hopefully, the current team will be good enough.