MLB

2023 Team USA World Baseball Classic roster: Jeff McNeil joins after Trevor Story’s injury

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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. 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, the United States and Venezuela. The Czech Republic, Great Britain, Nicaragua, and Panama secured the final four seeds during qualifying events in September and October.

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.

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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.

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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 would have been Story’s first time participating in the WBC. Alas and alack, Story had elbow surgery in January and will miss the WBC

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 had Tommy John surgery on Nov. 23, which will likely keep him out of the tournament.

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Fresh off leading the NL in home runs with 46, not to mention clubbing six in the NLCS and World Series combined, Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber has joined Team USA, it was announced Dec. 6. Always a major power threat with 199 career homers in his eight seasons, Schwarber has hit 78 home runs in 268 games in 2021-22 (a 162-game average of 47) with a .525 slugging percentage and 138 OPS+. He’d be an imposing presence in the five- or six-hole for USA with that power stroke. 

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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.

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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.

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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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Tim Anderson will serve as USA’s shortstop. The White Sox star joined the roster on Aug. 26, MLB announced. The 2019 American League batting champ is working on his fourth consecutive .300 season, plus he’d provide USA with stolen bases as well. This will be Anderson’s first time playing in the WBC.

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Another WBC first timer has joined the USA outfielder. Astros slugger Kyle Tucker has committed to play for USA, it was announced on Aug. 27. As is often the case with this event, USA has more high-quality outfielders than roster spots, though that is in no way a problem. Tucker is working toward a 30/30 season with Houston.

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USA will have arguably the two best catchers in baseball on the roster next spring. On Aug. 29, Dodgers backstop Will Smith announced he will suit up for USA. He and Realmuto will give the club with two excellent all-around backstops. Smith also brings championship-level experience, having won a World Series with Los Angeles in 2020.

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Add another big name to USA’s star-laden lineup. Now-Phillies shortstop Trea Turner has committed to the event, it was announced on Aug. 31.  Turner will provide USA with a dynamic power-speed combination.

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One of the game’s best rookies in 2022 will play for USA in the WBC. Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. has committed to the WBC, it was announced Oct. 6. Given the infield talent already on the roster, as well as Witt’s ability to play both shortstop and third base, the youngster figures to find himself in a utility role for USA. Then again, talented players have a way of forcing their way into the starting lineup.

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USA’s bullpen is beginning to take shape. Brewers closer Devin Williams will play in the WBC, it was announced Oct. 6. The right-hander is the first pitcher to commit to USA’s roster. Williams and his signature changeup — The Airbender — took over ninth inning duties after the trade deadline this summer and he has simply been one of the game’s most dominant relievers the last three seasons. USA will be in good hands when Williams is on the mound protecting a late lead.

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Pirates’ All-Star closer David Bednar will join Williams in USA’s bullpen, it was announced Oct. 6. Bednar missed all of August and most of September with a back injury, though he returned late in the season and will be good to go for the WBC next spring. The righty’s fearless fastball-heavy approach allows Bednar to pile up swings and misses, a skill always in demand in the late innings.

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On Oct. 6, it was announced Orioles do-it-all reliever Dillon Tate will suit up for USA in the WBC. The righty has pitched in just about every role the last few years (closer, setup man, fireman, etc.) and is a valuable ground ball specialist with the versatility to not be locked into a specific role. DeRosa and his coaches can use Tate to escape a mess situation in any inning.

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Diamondbacks righty Merrill Kelly is the first starting pitcher to commit to USA’s WBC roster. He was announced as part of the roster on Oct. 6. After spending 2015-18 with the then-SK Wyverns in Korea, Kelly came back stateside with the D-Backs in 2019 and was a solid inning-eater through 2021. He took his game to another level in 2022 and finished with one of the lowest ERAs in the National League.

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Veteran Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright has committed to play for Team USA. Wainwright, one of the top starting pitchers in Cardinals franchise history, is 41 years of age but has been an above-average starting pitcher over the last four seasons. He struggled down the stretch in 2022, but he and Cardinals coaches discovered some mechanical flaws that likely underpinned those struggles. That raises hopes that his 2023 will perhaps be better than his already solid 2022. 

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The lefty Nestor Cortes, who soon turns 28, has confirmed he’ll be pitching for the U.S. in the WBC. Cortes enjoyed a breakout 2022 for the Yankees, as he pitched to a 2.44 ERA and 4.29 K/BB ratio en route to finishing eighth in the AL Cy Young balloting. Since the start of the 2021 season, Cortes has an ERA of 2.61 and a K/BB of 4.22 in 251 1/3 innings. He’s a native of Cuba but attended high school in Florida.

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Rockies southpaw Kyle Freeland has committed to play for USA in the WBC, it was announced Dec. 2. Freeland has been steadily above average in his MLB career once you account for him pitching his home games at Coors Field. In 2022, the ground ball specialist threw 87 innings with a 5.00 ERA at home and 87 2/3 innings with a 3.08 ERA on the road.

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On Dec. 2 it was announced Royals righty Brady Singer would suit up for USA in the WBC. Singer was named to USA’s Collegiate National Team in 2017, but could not play in the tournament because his University of Florida Gators advanced to the College World Series. The 26-year-old had a breakout season in 2022, throwing 153 1/3 innings with a 3.23 ERA.

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A fourth Cardinal will suit up for USA in the WBC: Miles Mikolas has joined the squad, it was announced Dec. 12. The workhorse right-hander threw 202 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA in 2022 and went to his second career All-Star Game. This will be Mikolas’ first time playing in the WBC.

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Daniel Bard’s career renaissance will continue with the WBC. Bard will play for USA next spring, it was announced Dec. 13. Bard was out of baseball four years ago and working in player development with the Diamondbacks. Now he’s a lights out closer with the Rockies. The 37-year-old will bring his high octane fastball to the back of USA’s bullpen.

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Padres do-it-all righty Nick Martinez has committed to pitch for USA in the WBC, it was announced Dec. 13. Martinez pitched for USA in the Olympics two years ago, so he has international experience. He pitched in Japan from 2018-21 before returning to the United States this past season, when he was a valuable starter and later a reliever for the Padres.

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Despite being an unsigned free agent as of the announcement, Nathan Eovaldi has committed to pitch for USA in the WBC, it was announced on Dec. 14. The soon-to-be 33-year-old missing time with back and shoulder injuries this past season and MLB teams can block players from participating in the WBC under certain injury conditions. It’s unclear whether Eovaldi will remain on USA’s roster after signing a free agent deal.

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On Dec. 14, it was announced White Sox righty Lance Lynn will suit up for USA in the WBC next spring. This will be Lynn’s first time playing in the WBC. Just a year ago he was third in the AL Cy Young voting, and although it’s been a decade since Lynn last pitched out of the bullpen regularly, he has experience in that role should USA need him in relief.

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Righty Adam Ottavino, who pitched for Team Italy in 2009, will join USA for the WBC despite being a free agent at the time of the announcement on Dec. 15. The slider specialist struck out 79 batters in 65.2 innings with the Mets this past season. Teams can only block players from participating in the WBC in certain injury situations and Ottavino was healthy in 2022, so whichever team signs him will do so knowing he will leave the club for a few weeks in spring training.

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Logan Webb committed to Team USA on Dec. 1 and will be one of the top options in the rotation. The Giants righty had a breakout campaign in 2021 and followed it up with another strong effort in 2022. Webb finished 11th in NL Cy Young voting last season, compiling a 139 ERA+ and 163 strikeouts in 192 1/3 innings.

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Ryan Pressly, the closer for the World Series champion Astros, committed to Team USA on Dec. 1. Pressly was one of MLB’s top relievers in 2022, notching 33 saves with a 2.98 ERA. Pressly did not allow an earned run in 11 postseason innings and closed out the Phillies in Game 6 of the 2022 World Series.

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Clayton Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer, confirmed his decision to participate on Dec. 19. The 34-year-old lefty remains high-quality when healthy, and he’s coming off a 2022 season in which he pitched to a sparkling 2.28 ERA and 5.96 K/BB ratio in 126 1/3 innings for the Dodgers. Kershaw isn’t a workhorse these days, but he’s still within the top tier of starting pitchers when it comes to success on a rate basis. 

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Mets infielder Jeff McNeil is the latest player to commit to USA for the WBC. He made the announcement during an MLB Network radio interview on Jan. 20. McNeil will presumably replace Trevor Story, who had elbow surgery in January and will miss the WBC, and possibly the entire 2023 MLB season. The versatile McNeil gives USA a high contact lefty bat and also coverage at multiple positions.

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