Team USA World Baseball Classic roster: Adam Wainwright, Nestor Cortes join; Ken Griffey Jr. on coaching staff

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, and two qualifying events are set to take place later this year. 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.

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.

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 will be Story’s first time participating in the WBC. It’s worth noting Story is a full-time second baseman now, though returning to shortstop for USA could be in the cards depending on who else commits to playing.

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.

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.

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.

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 is dealing with a ligament issue in his elbow, and if he needs surgery at some point, he would likely miss the tournament.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Add another big name to USA’s star-laden lineup. Current Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner has committed to the event, it was announced on Aug. 31. Turner is the third current Dodgers player to commit to USA along with Betts and Smith, though he will be a free agent this offseason, and could be with another MLB organization come WBC time. Either way, Turner will provide USA with a dynamic power-speed combination.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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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