We take a look at a potential USA Baseball “Dream Team”
Beginning in March, the fourth World Baseball Classic will begin, pitting teams from across the world against one another. Despite hosting the finals for the fourth time, the USA has yet to reach or win the finals of the WBC, with Japan taking home the 2006 and 2009 titles, and the Dominican Republic winning it all in 2013. With the tournament coming soon, here is the “Dream Team” twenty-five man USA Baseball roster as they look to claim the WBC Championship for the first time.
*All WAR (Wins Above Replacement) calculations and statistics courtesy of Baseballreference.com
Catcher: Buster Posey (R)- 14 HR, 80 RBI, .288/.362/.796, 4.7 WAR
Baseball’s unquestioned best catcher, with four all-star games and three World Series, rings in his first seven years in the league. Has developed into one of, if not the best pitch framers in baseball, recently snatching the Gold Glove award from Yadier Molina.
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt (R)- 24 HR, 95 RBI, .297/.411/.899, 4.8 WAR
In a “down year” by his standards, Goldschmidt made his fourth straight all-star appearance while narrowly missing out on his third 100 RBI season. Led the MLB with 110 walks, and had his first thirty steal season in 2016.
Second Base: Daniel Murphy (L)- 25 HR, 104 RBI, .347/.390/.985, 4.6 WAR
Continued his torrid 2015 postseason by finishing second in the NL MVP race after leading the NL with 47 doubles, a .595 slugging percentage, and a .985 OPS.
Shortstop: Corey Seager (L)- 26 HR, 72 RBI, .308/.365/.877, 6.1 WAR
Reigning NL Rookie of the Year finished his rookie season with 105 runs, 193 hits, and a third place finish in the NL MVP vote while anchoring the Dodgers to the NL West Title.
Third Base: Nolan Arenado (R)- 41 HR, 133 RBI, .294/.362/.932, 6.5 WAR
Baseball’s premier two-way infielder led the NL in both HR and RBI, winning his fourth straight Gold Glove to begin his career while also scoring 116 runs, and cutting down on his strikeouts while increasing his walk total from 34 to 68.
Left Field: Bryce Harper (L)- 24 HR, 86 RBI, .243/.373/.814, 1.6 WAR
Even in a “down” season, Harper still managed to set a career high with 21 stolen bases, while finishing second in the league with 108 walks.
Center Field: Mike Trout (R)- 29 HR, 100 RBI, .315/.441/.991, 10.6 WAR
The reigning AL MVP and best player in baseball, Trout led the league in runs, walks, and OBP, all while stealing 30 bases for the first time since 2013. Led all of the MLB in WAR.
Right Field: Mookie Betts (R)- 31 HR, 113 RBI, .318/.363/.897, 9.6 WAR
Red Sox superstar broke out in his second season, finishing with 122 runs, 214 hits, 42 doubles, 26 steals, and the league lead in total bases with 359.
Designated Hitter: Kris Bryant (R)- 39 HR, 102 RBI, .292/.385/.939, 7.7 WAR
World Series Champion followed up his Rookie of the Year Award with the NL MVP, leading the league with 121 runs, and cutting down on his strikeout total by 45, all while providing value at both third base and in the outfield.
Bench: Jonathan Lucroy, C (R)- 24 HR, 81 RBI, .292/.355/.855, 3.8 WAR
A move to the American League did not faze Lucroy, who finished second in the league in caught stealing amongst catchers while finishing second in HR and first in RBI for catchers.
Bench: Anthony Rizzo, 1B (L)- 32 HR, 109 RBI, .292/.385/.928, 5.7 WAR
World Series Champion set career highs across the board, finishing with personal bests in hits, (170) RBI, AVG, OBP, OPS, and doubles (43) while taking home his first Gold Glove Award.
Bench: Charlie Blackmon, OF (L)- 29 HR, 82 RBI, .324/.381/.933, 4.4 WAR
Despite missing almost twenty games, finished with over 111 runs scored, nine triples, and 17 SB, and finished in the top five of the NL in AVG, SLG, OPS, Runs, Hits, Triples, and Total Bases.
Bench: Josh Donaldson, 3B (R)- 37 HR, 99 RBI, .284/.404/.953, 7.4 WAR
Followed up his MVP season with another stellar year, scoring 122 runs while finishing in the top five of the AL in OPS, Runs, SLG, OBP, and walks. Gets bonus points for defensive versatility, having played every infield position in his career.
SP: Clayton Kershaw (L)- 12-4, 149 IP, 172 K, 1.69 ERA, 0.725 WHIP, 5.6 WAR
Before hitting the DL, Kershaw was on a historic pace, finishing the season with a 15.64 strikeout to walk ratio, and the league lead three shutouts despite making only 21 starts. Finished second in WAR amongst NL pitchers despite missing 60 games.
SP: Madison Bumgarner (L)- 15-9, 226.2 IP, 251 K, 2.74 ERA, 1.028 WHIP, 5.0 WAR
Aside from hitting three home runs with the bat, Mad Bum set or tied career highs ERA, Starts, CG, (4) IP, K, and K/9. Capped off the 2016 season with his 100th career win.
SP: Noah Syndergaard (R)- 14-9, 183.2 IP, 218 K, 2.60 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 5.3 WAR
“Thor” finished his first full season in the majors by finishing in the top five of the NL in K, K/9, K to BB ratio, led the NL by only giving up 0.539 HR/9. Led the NL with a 2.29 Fielding Independent Pitching, suggesting that Syndergarrd’s 2016 may have been even better with a little more luck.
SP: Max Scherzer (R)- 20-7, 228.1 IP, 284 K, 2.96 ERA, 0.968 WHIP, 6.2 WAR
In leading the Nationals back to the postseason, Scherzer won his second Cy Young Award, becoming one of six players to win the league in both the AL and NL. Although the highlight of Scherzer’s 2016 was becoming the fourth pitcher to strike out 20 batters in one game, he also led the NL in wins, IP, K, WHIP, and K to BB ratio.
SP: Corey Kluber (R)- 18-9, 215 IP, 227 K, 3.14 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, 6.4 WAR
Before turning in a dominant postseason run for the Indians, Kluber rebounded after leading the AL in losses in 2015, leading the AL in Fielding Independent Pitching and ERA+, which compares a players ERA to the league ERA, while adjusting for the pitcher’s ballpark.
SP: Chris Sale (L)- 17-10, 226.2 IP, 233 K, 3.34 ERA, 1.037 WHIP, 4.9 WAR
Despite slightly faltering after a 9-0 start to the season, Sale again finished in the top six of the AL Cy Young vote, which he has now done all six seasons he has been a starting pitcher. A newly minted Red Sox, Sale led the AL with six complete games in 2016, while striking out over 200 battles for the fourth straight season.
RP: Mark Melancon (R)- 2-2, 47 SV, 71.1 IP, 1.64 ERA, 0.897 WHIP, 65 K, 2.8 WAR
A mid-season trade to the Nationals did not slow Melancon down, as he led the NL with 67 games finished while posting the third sub 2.00 ERA of his career. Since becoming a full-time closer in 2014, Melancon leads baseball with 131 saves.
RP: Zach Britton (L)- 2-1, 47 SV, 67 IP, 0.54 ERA, 0.836 WHIP, 74 K, 4.3 WAR
From April 30 to August 24, the Orioles sinker baller went 43 straight appearances, spanning 41 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run, setting an MLB record. Britton led all relievers in ERA-while also setting an MLB record for lowest ERA by a reliever-and WAR, while also leading the AL in SV.
RP: Cody Allen (R)- 3-5, 32 SV, 68 IP, 2.51 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 87 K, 2.1 WAR
The man who finished games for the Indians monster bullpen, Allen used his dominant curveball to spin 13.2 IP of scoreless baseball in the postseason, earning six saves in the process while striking out twelve hitters and only allowing five base runners in the World Series.
RP: Andrew Miller (L)- 10-1, 12 SV, 74.1 IP 1.45 ERA, 0.686 WHIP, 123 K, 3.9 WAR
Before embarking on a postseason for the ages, Miller led all relief pitchers in WHIP, while operating as a jack-of-all-trades relief pitcher for the Indians. Before running out of gas in the back end of the World Series, Miller had a historic ALCS, winning MVP with a 14:0 walk to strikeout ratio, 0.00 ERA, and only three base runners allowed in 7.2 IP thanks to his wipeout slider.
RP: Craig Kimbrel (R)- 2-6, 31 SV, 53 IP, 3.40 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, 83 K, 0.9 WAR
Although a down year by his standards, Kimbrel still made the All-Star team with 31 SV in his first season in the American League. Despite an off 2016, Kimbrel has been one of baseball premier relief pitchers throughout his six-year career, with 255 SV, 606 K, a 1.95 ERA, and a 0.935 WHIP, averaging 42 SV and 101 K per season.
RP: Dellin Betances (R)- 3-6, 12 SV, 73 IP, 3.08 ERA, 1.123 WHIP, 126 K, 1.1 WAR
For the third straight season, Betances was an All Star for the Yankees despite being shuffled between the eighth and ninth innings throughout the season. Betances led all relievers with 126 K, pushing his streak of 100 K seasons to three, while also appearing in over seventy games for the third straight season
RP: Travis Wood (L)- 4-0, 0 SV, 61 IP, 2.95 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, 47 K, 0.5 WAR
While Wood’s numbers do not jump off of the page, he was a more than effective reliever for the Cubs in 2016. Wood’s spot on Team USA is for one main reason, which is to serve as a LOOGY, or a lefty specialist. In 2016, Wood was dominant against lefties, holding left-handed hitters to a .128 AVG and .447 OPS, while only allowing fourteen hits in 109 AB against.
Mookie Betts, RF (R)
Bryce Harper, LF (L)
Mike Trout, CF (R)
Kris Bryant, DH (R)
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (R)
Nolan Arenado, 3B (R)
Daniel Murphy, 2B (L)
Buster Posey, C (R)
Corey Seager, SS (L)
Clayton Kershaw, Pitcher
To put the dominance of this potential Team USA into perspective, Baseballreference.com lists a team full of replacement level baseball players as being worth 48 wins. Using the 2016 WAR of each player listed above, Team USA would produce a team with a combined WAR of 126.5, which would produce a staggering 174 wins, or for those of you keeping track at home, a full MLB season (162 games) plus worth of wins.