Spring training is less than two months away, and with the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC) looming, this year in baseball is even more exciting. For team USA especially, a chance for redemption (they have never finished higher than 4th in a WBC) may be on the horizon. With many, such as Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Trout, and Bryce Harper, still yet to commit, here is how the roster is shaping up:
P- Chris Archer (Rays)
C- Buster Posey (Giants)
1B- Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)
2B- Daniel Murphy (Nationals)
3B- Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
OF-Andrew McCutchen (Pirates)
OF-Adam Jones (Orioles)
Regardless of their down years in 2016, Jones, Archer and McCutchen possess superstar talent. McCutchen, the former MVP, packs speed and power to complement a career .292 batting average. Jones, also a speed threat and a proven top of the lineup hitter, is one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders. Meanwhile, Archer is a perennial Cy Young candidate with a live fastball and a devastating slider.
Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, two of the game’s best corner infielders, have suffered from small markets in Arizona and Colorado, respectively, their entire careers. Both are world-class run producers and power hitters, combining to drive in 468 runs and hit 140 homers over the past two seasons. With Goldschmidt’s .299 and Arenado’s .285 career averages to boot, they make for a power-packed middle-of-the-lineup for Team USA.
Coming off his best season to date, Daniel Murphy will anchor the middle infield for the Americans in this year’s WBC. A leading candidate for the 2016 NL MVP, Murphy hit an impressive .347 to go along with 25 homers and 104 RBI. While these numbers are fantastic, however, they come as little surprise for a hitter who has been a staple of consistency over his career. During eight seasons, he has hit .296 while earning a cumulative on base percentage of .339.
Widely considered the best all-around catcher in baseball today, Buster Posey promises to be behind the plate for Team USA. The 2016 Gold Glove recipient has been the poster-boy for success during his eight year career. He has hit a cumulative .307 en route to four All-Star games, a Rookie of the Year Award (2010), an MVP (2012), three Silver Sluggers, and, most importantly, three World Series rings.
With this star-studded lineup, the offensive output should certainly be there for team USA in this year’s WBC. Pitching, however, remains more of a question, especially with the recent finger injury to former-commit Max Scherzer. While Archer certainly has the ability to dominate games, the U.S. currently suffers from a lack of starting depth and a dearth of bullpen arms. In order to stymie the potent lineups of Puerto Rico (Correa, Lindor, Beltran, Baez), the Dominican Republic (Cano, Cruz, Beltre), and Venezuela (Altuve, C. Gonzalez, S. Perez), team USA needs to add more talent to their rotation. Throw in wild cards like Japan, the Netherlands, and Mexico, and this year’s WBC gauntlet will be no easier than in the past.
That said, with hurlers such as Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw hinting at potentially playing, if everything falls into place for the Americans, they could become a scary team. Expect them to make a serious run at the 2017 World Baseball Classic title.