World Baseball Classic Team Preview: USA

Tournament history: 10-10. That .500 record speaks volumes about the disappointing string of Team USA finishes in a tournament many originally thought they would dominate. At least they’ve been consistently mediocre, going 3-3 in 2006 and 2013 — both times, being eliminated in the second round — and 4-4 in 2009, when they reached the semifinals and were beaten by Japan, 9-4. 

Manager: Jim Leyland is the fourth Team USA skipper in four events, following Joe Torre, Davey Johnson and Buck Martinez.

ROSTER

Pitchers: Chris Archer, Tyler Clippard, Danny Duffy, Sam Dyson, Mychal Givens, Luke Gregerson, Nate Jones, Jake McGee, Andrew Miller, Pat Neshek, Tanner Roark, David Robertson, Marcus Stroman

Catchers: Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy

Infielders: Nolan Arenado, Alex Bregman, Josh Harrison, Brandon Crawford, Paul Goldschmidt, Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy

Outfielders: Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich

Projected lineup

  • RF Andrew McCutchen
  • 2B Ian Kinsler
  • C Buster Posey
  • 3B Nolan Arenado
  • 1B Paul Goldschmidt
  • DH Giancarlo Stanton
  • CF Adam Jones
  • LF Christian Yelich
  • SS Brandon Crawford

The rundown: With Colombia and lefty Jose Quintana as Team USA’s first opponent, the above projected lineup is right-handed-dominant. But Leyland also will have the luxury of using left-handed bats Hosmer and Murphy against an almost all-right-handed Dominican Republic pitching staff, as well as Lucroy in a very strong catching platoon.

Archer will start the opener, Stroman will start another game, and Roark and Duffy also will log key innings in the first round. The later-round starting-pitcher options include J.A. Happ, Drew Smyly and Michael Fulmer, but no longer Sonny Gray. Miller is the key reliever, and Leyland’s quality bullpen options are plentiful. Still, one can’t help but think about what if? when it comes to Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale and a handful of other superstar no-shows.

Prediction: This is arguably the deepest Team USA roster, while some of the other title contenders are missing key MLB presence they have had in past tournaments. And as usual, Team USA won’t have to leave the country — but will have to go from Miami to San Diego. So the stage is set for a second trip to the semifinals, where anything can happen. That said, getting past a second-round field in San Diego that likely will include the favored Dominican Republic, as well as Venezuela and Puerto Rico, won’t be easy.

By Tony DeMarco