World Baseball Classic 2013: Players We're Most Excited to See for Team USA
In the words of Adam Duritz, “It’s been a long December.” It’s also been a long January and February, but there’s reason to be excited. Baseball is back.
Spring training is about to commence, but there’s meaningful baseball to be played throughout the rest of the world, too. It’s time for the World Baseball Classic.
Sixteen teams will take part in the round-robin first round set to begin on March 1. While plenty of current and former MLB stars will be representing their countries, no team will field as much MLB firepower as the U.S. squad.
We’ll take a look at Team USA’s roster and highlight some of the players we’re most excited to watch.
|LHP Jeremy Affeldt||RHP Kris Medlen||2B Brandon Phillips|
|RHP Heath Bell||RHP Chris Perez||SS Jimmy Rollins|
|RHP Mitchell Boggs||LHP Glen Perkins||1B Mark Teixeira|
|RHP Steve Cishek||RHP Vinnie Pestano||3B David Wright|
|LHP Tim Collins||RHP Ryan Vogelsong||INF Ben Zobrist|
|RHP R.A. Dickey||C J.P. Arencibia||OF Ryan Braun|
|RHP Luke Gregerson||C Jonathan Lucroy||OF Adam Jones|
|LHP Derek Holland||C Joe Mauer||OF Giancarlo Stanton|
|RHP Craig Kimbrel||SS Willie Bloomquist||OF Shane Victorino|
Ryan Braun: OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun hasn’t exactly had the best offseason, having been linked to multiple PED reports in the last several weeks. While he hasn’t been found guilty of any wrongdoing, Braun has to be glad baseball is starting back up. When he takes the field, the PED talk will again take a backseat.
Off-the-field issues aside, Braun is one of the most dynamic players in the MLB. Last season with the Brewers, Braun blasted 41 home runs, drove in 112 runs and hit .319 with a .391 on-base percentage. He also sprinkled in 30 stolen bases and cemented his place as one of the premier outfielders in the league.
Team USA has no shortage of outfield talent. Braun will be playing alongside Giancarlo Stanton and Adam Jones, a trio that every MLB team would love to field. As good as Stanton and Jones are, Braun is still the gem of the USA’s lineup.
The “Hebrew Hammer” could have opted to play for Israel in the WBC due to his Jewish heritage (a rule that helps field a team for a country in which baseball is in its infancy), but he chose to represent the U.S., and he has a chance to be the team’s biggest star in March.
Giancarlo Stanton: OF, Miami Marlins
At 23 years old, Stanton is perhaps the best young outfielder in the entire league. He already has three years of big league experience under his belt and put up terrific numbers with the Marlins in 2012.
Stanton hit .290 in 123 games with Miami last season, adding 37 home runs and 86 RBI in the process. The Marlins gutted their roster this offseason, but Stanton isn’t going anywhere. He’s already a top-five offensive talent at the position.
In a lineup with as much firepower as Team USA will field, Stanton should have enough protection in the order to do some serious damage. He’ll be one of the most productive hitters in the WBC, and he’ll also be a ton of fun to watch.
R.A. Dickey: P, Toronto Blue Jays
2012 National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey has experienced a resurgence since developing a devastating knuckleball, which propelled him to 20 wins and a 2.73 ERA last season. And like so many other CY Young winners in recent years, Dickey was traded soon after.
Dickey will have to adjust to pitching in a dome in the American League, but his first test will be in the WBC against a group that consists of Italy, Canada and Mexico.
Knuckleballers aren’t very common these days, which is why Dickey is one of the most exciting pitchers to watch in all of baseball right now. As long as his knuckleball keeps doing things a baseball simply shouldn’t do, he’ll keep winning and we’ll keep watching.
David Wright: 3B, New York Mets
David Wright has been around for a while, but he’s still one of the best players to watch in all of baseball.
The quintessential five-tool player, Wright continues to produce at an ultra-high level. In 2012, the 30-year-old third baseman belted 21 homers, drove in 93 runs and stole 15 bases, all while besting his career batting average (.301) with a .306 effort.
Wright puts up the numbers, and he’s also one of the most exciting players to watch in the MLB. Wright plays baseball the right way—not just for a paycheck, but for the love of the game. He’ll play hard until he’s done with the game, and he’ll be fun to watch take the field in the WBC.
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