When the World Baseball Classic begins in March, Team USA will be more formidable than it has ever been in this event.
The provisional roster for the United States was officially released on Thursday. A few names have trickled out over the last few weeks, but now we have confirmation of all the players on the initial roster.
When the World Baseball Classic was created, it was designed to bring more interest in the sport to countries around the world. The United States was thought to be the dominant country in the event, but it has yet to finish higher than fourth.
Here is a full look at the provisional roster for Team USA (via MLB's official Twitter) , as well as the key players to watch during the event. The 2013 World Baseball Classic starts on March 2.
|TEAM USA 2013 WBC PROVISIONAL ROSTER|
|P R.A. Dickey (Toronto Blue Jays)|
|P Jeremy Affeldt (San Francisco Giants)|
|P Ryan Vogelsong (San Francisco Giants)|
|P Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)|
|P Luke Gregerson (San Diego Padres)|
|P Chris Perez (Cleveland Indians)|
|P Vinnie Pestano (Cleveland Indians)|
|P Tim Collins (Kansas City Royals)|
|P Derek Holland (Texas Rangers)|
|P Glen Perkins (Minnesota Twins)|
|UT Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay Rays)|
|C JP Arencibia (Toronto Blue Jays)|
|C/1B Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins)|
|C Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers)|
|1B Mark Teixeira (New York Yankees)|
|2B Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds)|
|SS Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia Phillies)|
|3B David Wright (New York Mets)|
|UT Willie Bloomquist (Arizona Diamondbacks)|
|OF Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)|
|OF Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers)|
|OF Shane Victorino (Boston Red Sox)|
|OF Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles)|
|P Heath Bell (Arizona Diamondbacks)|
|P Mitchell Boggs (St. Louis Cardinals)|
P Steve Cishek (Miami Marlins)
P Kris Medlen (Atlanta Braves)
Players to Watch
Starting pitcher R.A. Dickey
Dickey was the feel-good story of the 2012 season, winning the National League Cy Young at the age of 37, throwing a knuckleball in a way that none of us has ever seen and going from a journeyman to a superstar in the blink of an eye.
Now, after being traded from New York to Toronto in the offseason, Dickey isn't going to sneak up on anyone. All the pressure is on him, because he is going to be the anchor of a vastly-improved Blue Jays team.
The World Baseball Classic will give us our first extended look at where Dickey stands heading into the 2013 season. It will be interesting to see if the command and control he displayed with that knuckleball last season comes right back after almost five months off.
Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton
Since the Marlins ruined his offseason by trading every valuable asset on the roster, Stanton can take out some of that frustration in the WBC.
There is not a more exciting player in baseball to watch stand in the batter's box than Stanton, because when he connects with the ball, it is going to go very, very far. He doesn't even have to hit the ball square to drive it 400 feet.
What's even more scary is Stanton just turned 23 years old in November. He has hit 93 home runs in 373 games played, slugged over .600 as a 22-year-old in 2012. Pitchers who make a mistake to him anywhere near the plate are never going to see the ball again.
First baseman Mark Teixeira
Unlike Dickey and Stanton, Teixeira has a lot of questions to answer this season. His performance has been slipping since he signed with the New York Yankees prior to the start of the 2009 season.
His batting average has gone from .308 in 2008 to .251 last season. His on-base percentage has declined in each of the last four seasons, going from .410 in 2009 to .332 in 2012. He also slugged a career-worst .475.
Injuries played a part in Teixeira's poor performance last season, but it's hardly the only reason to be concerned. He possesses the "old-man skills" (power and patience) that tend to deteriorate faster than normal. He turns 33 in April and is signed through 2016, so this is a big season for him.