Saturday, July 20, 2024

Team USA World Baseball Classic roster: Mookie Betts, Pete Alonso committed; Ken Griffey Jr. on coaching staff

Following a pandemic-related hiatus, the World Baseball Classic will return in 2023. Dates, venues, and pools for the 2023 WBC were announced in July, and two qualifying events are set to take place later this year. The WBC itself will be held across the globe next March. It will be the fifth installment of the WBC.

The WBC is expanding to 20 teams for the first time, and the 16 teams that participated in the 2017 WBC have an automatic berth for 2023: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States, and Venezuela. The remaining four spots will be decided in qualifying events.

Japan won the 2006 and 2009 WBCs before the Dominican Republic won the 2013 WBC. Team USA won the 2017 WBC and will look to defend its title next spring. Over the last few weeks Team USA’s roster has begun to take shape and it will continue to come together over the next several weeks. The rosters won’t be finalized until well into the offseason.

On Aug. 19, GM Tony Reagins announced longtime big leaguer Mark DeRosa will serve as USA’s manager for the 2023 WBC. DeRosa played for USA in the 2009 WBC and has worked as an MLB Network analyst since retiring as a player in Nov. 2013.

“I’m completely honored and humbled to be named the manager of Team USA,” DeRosa said in a statement. “Competing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic for Team USA was one of the greatest experiences of my baseball journey. Getting the chance to lead this star-studded roster and represent our country is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to get started.”

DeRosa’s coaching staff will include bench coach Jerry Manuel, hitting coach Ken Griffey Jr., pitching coach Andy Pettitte, first base coach Lou Collier, third base coach Dino Ebel, and bullpen coach Dave Righetti. Manuel managed nine years in the big leagues and Griffey played for USA in the inaugural 2006 WBC. Righetti was the pitching coach for the 2010, 2012, and 2014 World Series champion Giants.

“The wealth of baseball knowledge on this coaching staff is second to none,” Reagins said in a statement. “Jerry will bring a lifetime of baseball experience to the dugout to assist Mark as his bench coach while former All-Stars Dave Righetti and Andy Pettitte will handle the pitching staff. Dino & Lou who have spent a lifetime in baseball coaching and developing players will handle the first and third base coaching duties while Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. will be an invaluable asset as our teams hitting coach. I’d like to welcome all of these guys to our team.”

Here are the players who have already committed to suiting up for USA in the 2023 WBC. The roster is subject to change right up until it is announced officially.

Mike Trout won’t just participate in the WBC next year, he was named captain of the team. USA GM Tony Reagins, who was the Angels GM when they drafted Trout, made the announcement at the 2022 All-Star Game. “I’m looking forward to playing for our country,” Trout said. This will be Trout’s first time playing in the WBC.

On July 25 it was announced Trevor Story was the second player to commit to playing for USA in the 2023 WBC, joining Trout. It will be Story’s first time participating in the WBC. It’s worth noting Story is a full-time second baseman now, though returning to shortstop for USA could be in the cards depending on who else commits to playing.

Part of the 2017 championship team, Nolan Arenado will return to USA in the 2023 WBC, it was announced July 30. Arenado went 5 for 31 (.161) with a double and a homer in the 2017 WBC but did have several big hits during USA’s run to the championship, plus he played his typically splendid defense at the hot corner.

Another member of the USA’s championship team in 2017, Paul Goldschmidt will return to help defend the title in 2023, it was announced on Aug. 6. Goldschmidt went 1 for 13 (.077) with three walks in five games in the 2017 event. He was primarily the backup first baseman to Eric Hosmer. This time around he is certain to be the starter and a middle-of-the-lineup run producer.

USA will have an entirely new set of catchers in 2023 — all three of their 2017 catchers are retired (AJ Ellis, Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey) — and JT Realmuto will lead the way behind the plate, it was announced on Aug. 9. This will be Realmuto’s first time playing in the WBC. A veteran catcher who can quickly adapt to catching unfamiliar pitchers is a must in this tournament and USA will have a great backstop in Realmuto.

It’s only fitting Trout and Bryce Harper will team up in the WBC seeing how they came up through the minors as highly regarded prospects at the same time. Harper will indeed play for USA, it was announced on Aug. 12. It will be his first WBC. It must be noted Harper is dealing with a ligament issue in his elbow, and if he needs surgery at some point, he would likely miss the tournament.

Pete Alonso is among the major-league leaders in both home runs and RBI since he made his debut to start the 2019 season. He set the Mets‘ club record with 53 homers as a rookie and has twice won the Home Run Derby in three tries. He’s as obvious a middle-order hitter in a competition like this as there is and, with Goldschmidt, gives USA a strong duo at first base. Alonso was announced as a member of USA’s roster on Aug. 17.

In 2021, Cedric Mullins became the first 30/30 player in Orioles history. In 2023, he will suit up for USA in the WBC. Mullins made the announcement while mic’d up during the Little League Classic on Aug. 21. Team USA will have two center fielders roaming the outfield in Trout and Mullins, and Mullins brings a stolen base element to a roster that is currently heavy on power.

The 2018 AL MVP who has also been runner-up for the award twice (once in the AL and once in the NL), Mookie Betts is well-established as one of the biggest stars and best players in the majors. He might end up being the perfect leadoff man with this collection of power, as he’s joined Team USA, MLB announced on Aug. 25.

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