The biggest stage in sports, The Olympics, returns this summer in Tokyo, Japan, and baseball is returning with it. After baseball was removed as an event following the 2008 Beijing Games, it is set to return this year. With the Major League Baseball season in full swing, you won’t see the big stars in Tokyo, but it would be fun to imagine a dream starting nine on the diamond with “U.S.A.” written across their chest. So, if the Major League superstars could make the trip to Japan, here is what a dream team on the baseball field might look like.
Catchers: J.T. Realmuto and Buster Posey
J.T. Realmuto is arguably the best catcher in baseball, and without a doubt, the best American catcher because Yasmani Grandal was born in Cuba. Realmuto easily gets the starting job behind the plate for Team U.S.A. Buster Posey, at the age of 34, is in the back end of his hall of fame baseball career. For who was one of the best players in baseball at one time, an Olympic gold medal to go along with a World Baseball Classic gold medal would be a nice addition to a winning career that includes three World Series championships. An icon of baseball for the last decade, like Posey, deserves to be on the biggest stage in sports, even if he is not starting.
Infield: D.J. LeMahieu, Trea Turner, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Paul Goldschmidt, Kris Bryant
The versatility that D.J. LeMahieu has allowed this infield to be as stacked as it is. Going into the games, I would have LeMahieu as the starting first baseman with Trea Turner at second base due to his experience at second. On the left side would be Trevor Story at shortstop and Nolan Arenado at third. Kris Bryant is the backup third baseman and LeMahieu is the backup second baseman. Paul Goldschmidt would be the backup at first base, so if someone were to go down with an injury, there is not much production lost. Some honorable mentions that did not make the team are Whit Merrifield, Max Muncy and Bo Bichette.
Outfield: Mookie Betts, Nick Castellanos, Aaron Judge, Christian Yelich
Current injuries have derailed the perfect Team U.S.A outfield. The best player in the game, Mike Trout, has been injured with no timetable which means he would not be able to play. Cody Bellinger just returned from a fractured bone in his leg and hasn’t had the best numbers in the games he has played. Bryce Harper has battled injuries throughout the 2021 season, and so theoretically, I don’t think he would have gone to Japan if MLB players were going. Obviously, Mookie Betts was a lock for a starting spot. With the season Nick Castellanos is having, it would be hard to leave him off the roster. And then there’s Aaron Judge, one of the most marketable players in the league. The layout I would have is Mookie in center, Castellanos in left, and Judge in right. Christian Yelich battled injuries in the beginning of the 2021 season and is working to be the player he used to be, so I would have him as the backup outfielder. Bryant and Turner also add depth as they have outfield experience.
Starting Pitching: Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer
There’s not much to say regarding Jacob deGrom besides he is the best pitcher on the planet. Gerrit Cole has become one of the most electric, dominant righties in the game and is among the league’s best. And then there’s Walker Buehler, who at the age of 26, looks like the future of starting pitching in Major League Baseball. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are in the same boat here; two future hall of famers who are past their primes but can still compete among the best. Two legends like Kershaw and Scherzer get seniority to make the team over Trevor Bauer, who was left off. Justin Verlander could have been in the same scenario, but he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Shane Bieber is also injured right now, which is why he did not make the team.
Relievers: Madison Bumgarner, Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, Mark Melancon, Brad Hand, Devin Williams, Ian Kennedy, Will Smith, Jake McGee
A lights-out bullpen can go a long way, which is exactly what this bullpen is. I have Madison Bumgarner in the bullpen as a long man and backup starter, which he is capable of doing as we saw his bullpen performance in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. Josh Hader, Brad Hand, Will Smith and Jake McGee represent the lefty relievers while Mark Melancon, Devin Williams and Ian Kennedy take care of the righties. I have Craig Kimbrel as the closer of this group.
It’s a shame we won’t see the world’s best baseball players on the Olympic stage from late July into early August, but expect Team U.S.A. to be composed of older big leaguers, prospects and college players while being managed by Mike Scioscia. Olympic baseball is set to begin July 27 and end on August 7.