Howdy baseball fans! It’s been a minute since I’ve written for DD, but I’m back, and while I’m here, I’ll mention that last year’s loss to the Padres still stings. Hope springs eternal this time of year, so it’s time to get into the real lead instead of my Dodger ramblings; the World Baseball Classic is back! After a six-year hiatus and a worldwide pandemic, the international tournament has returned, this time featuring 20 teams.
For years, the future of Major League Baseball had been growing into an international affair, with superstar-caliber players from Japan, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and more. This tournament is the perfect showcase of that international talent, and that got me thinking about what the best possible lineups and teams would be for an all-American team and an international team. So behold, a WBC-inspired lineup and team for the USA and its international lineup.
A few rules that I made for this exercise are worth noting:
- For the US lineup and team, no two players could be from the same state or team. For example, I couldn’t use Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw because they are both on the Dodgers, and I can’t use Lucas Giolito and Max Fried because they both went to high school in California (and were in the same rotation in high school, bet you didn’t know that one).
- For the international lineup and team, no US players were allowed, and the country qualifications are more stringent. Kenley Jansen and Xander Bogaerts don’t get to represent the Netherlands. Major league teams also had to be unique, the same for the US. However, countries could have two players instead of one, unlike the US, there just couldn’t be two players from the same country in the starting lineup.
The All-American Lineup:
SP: Justin Verlander (New York Mets/Virginia)
C: Will Smith (Los Angeles Dodgers/Kentucky)
1B: Paul Goldschmidt (St. Louis Cardinals/Texas)
2B: Jake Cronenworth (San Diego Padres/Michigan)
3B: Austin Riley (Atlanta Braves/Mississippi)
SS: Trea Turner (Philadelphia Phillies/Florida)
LF: Ian Happ (Chicago Cubs/Pennsylvania)
CF: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels/New Jersey)
RF: Aaron Judge (New York Yankees/California)
DH: George Springer (Toronto Blue Jays/Connecticut)
RP: Devin Williams (Milwaukee Brewers/Missouri)
Reaction: Holy cow, this turned out better than I expected. There were some dilemmas over players (some notable omissions include Mookie Betts, Corbin Burnes, Bryce Harper, and J.T. Realmuto), but when you get this generation’s Mickey Mantle, last year’s AL and NL MVPs, and the reigning AL Cy Young winner, it’s hard not to call it a success. For the DH spot, I opted to go with Springer over Harper because of the backlog it would cause at shortstop, and because if the Blue Jays want to give him less defensive responsibility, then I will too.
Let’s see how the international lineup turns out.
The All-International Lineup:
SP: Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels/Japan)
C: William Contreras (Milwaukee Brewers/Venezuela)
1B: Ji-Man Choi (Pittsburgh Pirates/South Korea)
2B: Ozzie Albies (Atlanta Braves/Curacao)
3B: Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Guardians/Dominican Republic)
SS: Xander Bogaerts (San Diego Padres/Aruba)
LF: Tyler O’Neill (St. Louis Cardinals/Canada)
CF: Jazz Chisholm (Miami Marlins/The Bahamas)
RF: Joc Pederson (San Francisco Giants/Israel)*
DH: Yordan Alvarez (Houston Astros/Cuba)
RP: Liam Hendriks (Chicago White Sox/Australia)
Reaction: This lineup would not beat the American one. I started off strong with Bogaerts as my shortstop and Chisholm as my centerfielder and started to tail off afterward. Shohei Ohtani was in contention for both pitcher and DH, and he gets the nod at pitcher so Alvarez could DH.
Full Teams and Reserves
The All-American Team:
Starters: Justin Verlander, Will Smith, Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Cronenworth, Austin Riley, Trea Turner, Ian Happ, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, George Springer, Devin Williams
Reserves: Adley Rutschman (Baltimore Orioles/Oregon), Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox/Alabama), Alex Bregman (Houston Astros/New Mexico), Corbin Carroll (Arizona Diamondbacks/Washington), Jeffrey Springs (Tampa Bay Rays/North Carolina), Tarik Skubal (Detroit Tigers/Arizona), George Kirby (Seattle Mariners/New York), Sonny Gray (Minnesota Twins/Tennessee), Jon Gray (Texas Rangers/Oklahoma), Rich Hill (Pittsburgh Pirates/Massachusetts), Garrett Whitlock (Boston Red Sox/Georgia), Sam Hentges (Cleveland Guardians/Minnesota), Tyler Rogers (San Francisco Giants/Colorado), Tanner Scott (Miami Marlins/Ohio), Tanner Rainey (Washington Nationals/Louisiana)
Reaction: The middle of the bullpen isn’t perfect, but this is an excellent team. Getting Adley Rutschman as a backup catcher was a coup, as was Alex Bregman as a backup third baseman and George Kirby as a mid-rotation guy. I’d take this team to win the World Series, even if there are some bullpen issues.
The All-International Team:
Starters: Shohei Ohtani, William Contreras, Ji-Man Choi, Ozzie Albies, Jose Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, Tyler O’Neill, Jazz Chisholm, Joc Pederson, Yordan Alvarez, Liam Hendriks
Reserves: Alejandro Kirk (Toronto Blue Jays/Mexico), Carlos Correa (Minnesota Twins/Puerto Rico), Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers/Venezuela), Julio Rodriguez (Seattle Mariners/Dominican Republic), Julio Urias (Los Angeles Dodgers/Mexico), Jose Quintana (New York Mets/Colombia), Dean Kremer (Baltimore Orioles/Israel)*, Luis Patino (Tampa Bay Rays/Colombia), Alexis Diaz (Cincinnati Reds/Puerto Rico), Jonathan Loaisiga (New York Yankees/Nicaragua), Aroldis Chapman (Kansas City Royals/Cuba), Justin Lawrence (Colorado Rockies/Panama), Erasmo Ramirez (Washington Nationals/Nicaragua), Rowan Wick (Chicago Cubs/Canada), Kenley Jansen (Boston Red Sox/Curacao)
Reaction: Julio Rodriguez is relegated to the bench due to the fact that a Dominican player was already starting, and we needed Jazz to represent the Bahamas, even if that means in CF, and makes it over fellow countryman and teammate Luis Castillo. The pitching is soft after Quintana, with unproven young players Dean Kremer and Luis Patino rounding out the rotation. The bullpen is really solid, especially with guys like Diaz, Loaisiga, and Jansen all able to handle high-leverage innings behind Hendriks.
Final Verdict: I would take the American team to win a 7-game series, with the back end of the international rotation not matching up well. The lineup is also weaker, starting Choi at first (Korean), which takes away a possible appearance from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who amazingly did not make the cut. Another weakness for the international team is the outfield since Joc Pederson and Tyler O’Neill are not ideal guys to play constantly given their high strikeout numbers. Of course, I pigeon-holed myself with the Julio Rodriguez pick on the bench, but he can only raise a ceiling so much.
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Image courtesy of Major League Baseball