The World Baseball Classic kicks off for Team USA in 11 days when they play Team Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. Unfortunately for the United States, a lot of the country’s most talented players are not playing. Unless the world’s best players start committing to play, I believe the future of the WBC is in serious doubt. They could change the timing so it works out to occur during the All-Star break in July. I think that could work the best in order to get the best turn out. Either way, if the United States did have the luxury of choosing anyone they want, here’s how I would have instructed manager Joe Torre to choose:
Catcher: Buster Posey
The last 2 times Buster Posey has been healthy the entire season, the Giants have won the World Series. He’s one of the best leaders in sports, he’s easily the best catcher in baseball, and is the reigning NL MVP. Last season he hit .336 with 24 HR and 103 RBI leading the Giants to the title.
First Base: Prince Fielder
In terms of American first basemen, I believe Fielder is the best choice here. He’s capable of hitting the ball into the parking lot on any pitch. Last season he hit .313 with 30 HR and 108 RBI and wiffed a career low 12.2% of the time. He’s always been a power hitter, but now makes even more contact than ever, scary.
Second Base: Brandon Phillips
The United States isn’t that deep at second base. Behind Brandon Phillips, you could go with Dustin Pedroia, but I stuck with Phillips who is actually slated to start in the tournament.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
I don’t care how old he is, Derek Jeter if healthy, has to be on this team. He led the AL in hits last year, and was the only constant throughout the course of the season for the Yankees. You saw what happened to the team once he got hurt. Who else are you going to start? JJ Hardy or Jimmy Rollins, the obvious answer is Jeter.
Third Base: David Wright
At 30 years old, David Wright is in the prime of his baseball career. If he had better talent around him, people would get to see how good he can really be. Wright’s coming off a year in which he hit .306 with 21 HR and 93 RBIs while playing in one of the worst situations in sports.
Left Field: Matt Kemp
If Matt Kemp never got hurt last season, it could have been him becoming the first player since Carl Yastremski to win the triple crown. Last April, Kemp hit .425 with 11 HR and 24 RBIs. In a full season, that translates to 66 HR and 144 RBIs. Kemp is one of 3 five tool players I have selected for my outfield.
Center Field: Mike Trout
The future of baseball is Mike Trout. In his first season, Trout hit .326 with 30 HR and 83 RBI, while playing in the minors the first month of the season. He had the highest WAR out of anyone in baseball of 10.7, and is the 8th player since 1969 to have a WAR above 10. He also stole 49 bases and is arguably the best fielder in the game.
Right Field: Bryce Harper
Although he didn’t have nearly as good a rookie year as Mike Trout, Harper’s future is just as bright as anyone’s in the game. Here’s all you need to know about Bryce Harper from a Newsday article by Seth Livingstone: “Harper’s 57 extra-base hits and 254 total bases were the most ever by a player younger than 20. No teenager in the last 45 years scored as many runs (98) or posted a higher OPS (.817).” Incredible.
Designated Hitter: Josh Hamilton
When his mind is right, Josh Hamilton is the best player in baseball. With everything he was dealing with, Hamilton still managed to hit 43 HR and drive in 128 runs. That includes the month of July where he hit .177 with only 4 home runs.
1. Justin Verlander
It’s pretty rare that a pitcher wins league MVP and the CY Young in the same season, which is exactly what Justin Verlander did in 2011. His 24-5 record, to go along with a 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 250 strikeouts may go down as one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher ever. There are no other pitchers who can dial it up to 100 MPH like Verlander can.
2. David Price
The reigning AL CY Young award winner continues to improve year in and year out. Last season Price went 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts. Like Verlander, he’s capable on any given day of shutting you down for 9 innings.
3. Clayton Kershaw
Don’t be fooled by his 14-9 record last season. Clayton Kershaw has some of the best stuff in the game and easily has the most devastating curveball. He struck out 229 batters last year and had a WHIP of 1.02. These international players would have no answer for Kershaw’s Uncle Charlie.
4. Steven Strasburg
Much like Harper and Trout are baseball’s offensive future, Stephen Strasburg is the future of pitching. Strasburg showed flashes of brilliance throughout last season striking out 197 batters and winning 15 games. The training wheels are finally off and Strasburg looks ready to take off.
5. CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia is the definition of a work horse and is a great big game pitcher. His ALDS game 5 performance was brilliant sending the Yankees to the ALCS. Sabathia consistently throws over 200 innings and has dominant potential.
The only 2 players on my team that are actually playing for Team USA are David Wright and Brandon Phillips, everyone else isn’t on the roster.
The US is still looking for their first WBC title, and putting this team on the field would give them their best chance, kind of like baseball’s version of the “Dream Team”
Follow the writer of this story on Twitter @lucasfrankel