I won't try to sell you on the validity of the World Baseball Classic. The tournament itself comes at a time which most major leaguers are more concerned with losing weight and getting warmed up and less about serious competition. This is likely the cause of the last U.S. team being inhabited by the likes of Jeremy Guthrie and Mark DeRosa. Still, there is some upside. Much of the top amateur international talent (Matsuzaka, Darvish, Chapman) has been brought center stage as a result of the Classic, and generally anything that allows American professionals to compete against the Japanese, Koreans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Venezuelans is must see television. But what if money or the upcoming season played no factor in the selection of players competing? What sort of dream squad could the United States build in an effort to dethrone the Japanese as the two-time defending champions?
Catcher - This one is really just a two-way race between Joe Mauer and Buster Posey due to Brian McCann's injury issues in 2012. Given that Posey is the reigning MVP and is among the best defensive backstops in the Major Leagues, he gets the edge here.
First Base - Though there are a lot of quality first basemen in baseball, most pale in comparison to Prince Fielder. Though to round out the field, we should mention the likes of Allen Craig, Corey Hart and Mark Teixiera.
Second Base - This would likely be the most contested of all the selections. For the United States, they would have the opportunity to choose from Aaron Hill, Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, and Ian Kinsler as the top tier, and solid options such as Howard Kendrick, Jason Kipnis, Neil Walker, Darwin Barney, and Dustin Ackley as backups. Hill had a career season with Arizona, Zobrist is the most athletic of the bunch, Pedoria has the best resume and Phillips is just plain awesome. Given his ability to hit for average, I believe Pedroia narrowly edges out his competition here.
Shortstop - The three names that pop out here are Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins, and Derek Jeter. They all offer offensive upside, and defensively, Desmond is slightly below average, Jeter at this stage in his career is simply adequate and Rollins is still defending at a high level. Though the other options are intriguing, I believe the most complete player of the bunch is Jimmy Rollins, with Jeter's broken ankle in October relegating him to the sidelines for the competition.
Third Base - Though there are many good Americans that can man the hot corner, the two that stand out at this stage in their careers are David Wright and Chase Headley. Headley is younger and coming off a monster season for the Padres, but Wright is the hero of the last Classic for the Americans and has performed at a high level for longer.
Outfielders - Along with second base, this will be the most widely contested selection. There isn't any reason to slot a RF, LF or CF, it seems it would be most beneficial for the Americans to field three CF if at all possible. This first selection is probably the best player on the planet, Mike Trout. For the next two spots, there should be a strong competition between the likes of Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday, Bryce Harper, Adam Jones, Jason Heyward, and Josh Hamilton. After the positive test on Ryan Braun, many fans may be hesitant to allow him to represent America, but I get the feeling that he probably performed up to the same numbers in 2012 without the aid of performance enhancers. For the final spot, you could choose Hamilton, McCutchen or Adam Jones and you wouldn't be wrong. For this case though, I'll pick McCutchen, given his defensive upside and the fact that he put up eye-popping numbers in a pitching friendly environment.
Designated Hitter - For the final spot, I feel it should be a contest of simple offensive upside, or for lack of a better term, who can flat-out mash. The three highest contenders are the aforementioned Josh Hamilton, Giancarlo Stanton and slugger Billy Butler. Butler is a career .300 hitter that gets on base and posted career numbers in 2012. Hamilton's numbers speak for themselves, he's among the elite hitters in baseball. Stanton has more power than any hitter in baseball. He's young and coming off a career season. In fact, Stanton is the very man I think of when I think of a great power hitter. So he takes the final spot.
Starting Pitching - There are so many great American pitchers right now. You could really choose any three and they'd be great. Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Matt Cain, Chris Sale, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, Cole Hamels, and Madison Bumgarner seem to inhabit the top tier. To pick three seems like a crime, and there would be tons of disappointed fans no matter who we choose. But Verlander, Kershaw and Price are the top three pitchers in baseball in my mind. Unquestionably, I believe they cold shut down any offense the rest of the World provides.
Relievers - Again, to pick merely five relievers seems like a crime, but we'll venture on just for the sake of building a team that can finally bring pride to the Americans for winning their own game.
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What abour R.A. Dickey? What are the chances these teams have seen an 80-mile-per-hour knuckle ball before? He is really tough against batter that haven't faced him before, too.
@wayneoh33 Kemp is great but who would he start over? Certainly not Trout. You could argue Braun but Braun's stayed healthy and done it longer. You could argue McCutchen but Cutch is a more complete player given his defensive prowess and the fact that Kemps is still coming off an injury plagued year.
@rwsubers Price is younger and coming off a better season than any of the Phillies pitchers. With the exception of Hamels, I'd still rank the rest of the Phillies staff behind Matt Cain and Jered Weaver. But a lot of fans have no idea about those guys because they play out West, most of the country is in bed by the time they start.
Ah....a choice between Buster Posey and Joe Mauer???? Whadya ignorant. Posey won MVP becuz of his remarkable recovery. There is no question the catcher shoulder be Yadier Molina.
@batgirl4evr I'm sure Yadier Molina, Puerto Rican catcher who was on the 2009 PR WBC team, would be a great candidate for a country's team he's not eligible for.
I love the World Baseball Classic and have tickets to see all of team USA's first round games already. The fact is, if they used any of the players listed at each position they would dominate the entire tournament. Just like the argument that a college team couldn't beat an NFL team because there are only one or two pros on the NCAA team, while the NFL team is all pro. The American team should be filled with All-Stars at every position while the other teams may have one or two current or future MLB players.
Hopefully this will be the year that the Americans will get a sense of pride and decide to play against the rest of the world.