2023 World Baseball Classic: 5 things to know about Team USA, from a Mike Trout-led offense to the competition

The 2023 World Baseball Classic is already underway and Team USA will finally get into the action on Saturday, playing their first official game of the tournament against underdogs Great Britain. So, to get the baseball enthusiast in general, and the US rooter in particular, in the mood, we’re here for a quick tour of this edition of Team USA. We do this in the timeless medium of “things to know,” in which we designate several things—things related to the subject at hand—as worth knowing.

On that note, here is the full WBC schedule and here is everything you need to know about this year’s event. Now let’s talk about Team USA.

1. Team USA is the defending champion of the WBC

Thanks largely to the pandemic, the 2023 edition is the first WBC in six years. Back in 2017, the USA captured their first WBC title by beating Japan 2-1 in the semifinals and beating Puerto Rico 8-0 in the finals. This was the first time in the relatively short history of the WBC that Team USA had won it:


WBC champion


United States


Dominican Republic





Notably, Team USA’s 2017 title run MVP Marcus Stroman is back in the WBC this time, but he won’t be competing for USA. In recognition and honor of his mother’s Puerto Rican roots, he will lead the rotation for Yadier Molina’s Puerto Rico squad.

2. The USA should be considered favorites in their first round pool

And what about the chances of a US repeat? It appears to be helped by the fact that the US will be part of a winnable Pool C in the round-robin opening round. The top two teams in each pool will advance to the quarter-finals, and in the case of the USA, they will face Mexico, Canada, Colombia and Great Britain to earn one of those two spots in Pool C. According to our Matt Snyder’s pre-tournament WBC power ranking, Team USA should be the paper pool favorite. They come in third, and Mexico and Canada check in at #6 and #10, respectively. USA’s Saturday opponents Great Britain sit 16th out of 20 teams. Compare that to the total gauntlet that is Pool D — No. 1 Dominican Republic, No. 4 Venezuela and No. 5 Puerto Rico will all call them home for the first round.

After the pool game, the WBC essentially becomes an eight-team single-elimination tournament, and in a sport like baseball, such a format tends to be chaotic. However, Team USA should be a part of it.

3. The American lineup is stacked with All-Stars

Will the 2023 WBC team have the best batter streak in Team USA history? You can argue convincingly that this is the case. Consider the lineup manager Mark DeRosa can field against right-handers:

  1. Trea Turner, S.S
  2. Mookie Betts, RF
  3. Mike Forelle, CF
  4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  5. Kyle Schwarber, DH
  6. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  7. Kyle Tucker, L.F
  8. Jeff McNeil, 2B
  9. JT Realmuto, C

As for other options, including potential platoon partners, the US roster also includes imposing figures like Pete Alonso, Cedric Mullins, Will Smith, Tim Anderson and Bobby Witt Jr. It’s also possible that Betts sees time at second base, which would give DeRosa even more roster flexibility. Mix it up however you like — the point is, it’s a powerhouse no matter how you structure it. Speaking of which, here’s DeRosa’s current lineup for the recent show against the Giants:

If the US is defending belts and titles, offense will likely carry them there.

4. Rotation is a big question mark

And now for the disappointment. It’s always a challenge to find starting pitchers ready to hit the ground running in the WBC when the calendar says they should still be ramping up regardless of usage rules. The US lineup of appetizers this time speaks to that reality. Right now, DeRosa’s rotation options include Lance Lynn of the White Sox, Miles Mikolas of the Cardinals, teammate Adam Wainwright, Nick Martinez of the Padres, Kyle Freeland of the Rockies, Merrill Kelly of the Diamondbacks and Brady Singer of the Royals. That’s certainly not an embarrassing crop, but it’s a far cry from the star power found in the lineup. Also, one of those pitchers — Wainwright — is 41 years old and has been struggling with deceleration this spring.

In addition to Stroman’s aforementioned situation, the US also planned to have Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Nestor Cortes of the Yankees in the mix, but health concerns got in the way. Giants ace Logan Webb was also willing to participate but ended up not on the list. Perhaps none of this is such a problem in the game of billiards, but it could be once the US encounters a thunderous lineup like the Dominican Republic’s across the street.

5. The bullpen may be able to take up the slack

All in all, the US bullpen might just be there for US starting pitchers who have nowhere to go. Given the high leverage of things, the modern management strategy, and the restrictions imposed on novices, relievers play a very important role in the WBC. Luckily for the US, they should be well armed on that front.

At the helm of the U.S. Relief Corps are Devin Williams of the Brewers, Adam Ottavino of the Mets, Ryan Pressly of the Astros, Jason Adam of the Rays, David Bednar of the Pirates, and Brooks Raley of The Rays and Kendall Graveman of the White Sox (and an unused starter or two to be named). That octet in 2022 combined for a 2.32 ERA with 580 strikeouts in 468 2/3 innings and a 3.92 strikeout-to-unintentional walk ratio. In summary, this is elite run prevention, lots of missed bats, and dominance at the command-and-control level. There’s not much depth from the left, but overall this is a dominant collection of helpers. That’s exactly what they need given the suspicious rotation.

Leave a Comment