If baseball was in the 2024 Olympics, who would make Team USA’s roster?

NBC Sports Bay Area

Long considered America’s pastime, Team USA would be a shoe-in for gold if the sport was an event in the 2024 Paris Olympics, right?

Just like we expect Team USA to win gold, the same would be true for baseball. However, Team USA has only won the World Baseball Classic, the equivalent of an Olympic competition, one time since the event began in 2006 (it takes place every 3 to 4 years).

Japan, on the other hand, has won the WBC three times, representing more than half of the total WBC titles, with the Dominican Republic being the only other country with a WBC trophy. (Not to mention, Japan also won gold when baseball was part of the Olympics in 2021, however, major leaguers did not play in that competition.)

Based on past international events, it appears Team USA would have their work cut out for them if they were to compete at the 2024 Olympics. However, the team would still be stacked and have a fair shot at gold.

And one thing is for sure, Team USA would be fun to watch. Let’s take a closer look at who could make the team:

According to Aeriel Epstein of Fanatics Sportsbook, here is who would make the starting lineup:

(Stats represent 2024 season as of June 28)

DH: Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies (.820 OPS, 17 HR, 49 RBI)

C: Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles (.830 OPS, 15 HR, 55 RBI)

1B: Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies (.981 OPS, 20 HR, 58 RBI)

2B: (assuming he is healthy in time) Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers (.892 OPS, 10 HR, 40 RBI)

SS: Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles (1.000 OPS, 26 HR, 58 RBI)

3B: Alec Bohm, Philadelphia Phillies (.835 OPS, 9 HR, 65 RBI)

CF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (1.131 OPS, 30 HR, 79 RBI)

LF: Riley Greene, Detroit Tigers (.850 OPS, 15 HR, 41 RBI)

RF: Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros (.979 OPS, 19 HR, 40 RBI – On 10-Day IL since June 3)

SP: Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies (2.73 ERA, 112 K, 0.98 WHIP)

Most of this starting lineup looks pretty solid. However, there could be some adjustments.

First, Bohm starting at third base is debatable. Bohm is not an excellent fielder, having already accumulated 10 errors this season, and his offensive numbers are good but not good enough to be a must in America’s starting lineup.

Although he now plays strictly shortstop for the Orioles to make way for Jordan Westburg (.849 OPS, 13 HR, 48 RBI), Henderson has played more than a 100 at third base in the majors, making him a better option for Team USA. Then, our hypothetical Team USA manager, Bruce Bochy, could start Bobby Witt, Jr. (.894 OPS, 12 HR, 53 RBI) at shortstop.

Bohm, and Westburg, could possibly make the bench. But we will get to that later.

As for the DH position, there is no reason to have the DH be an actual career DH. Nothing against Schwarber, but he is slow running the bases, doesn’t play the field and a power hitter in a Team USA lineup already full of home run hitters.

Team USA would have a better lineup with Freddie Freeman (.894 OPS, 12 HR, 50 RBI) of the Los Angeles Dodgers as their DH. Plus, Freeman can play the infield if needed.

Now, let’s look at the starting pitcher. Obviously, Team USA would have ideally five starting pitchers, and not just one. However, if the pick is who would be THE starting pitcher, it would have to be the reigning American League Cy Young Gerrit Cole.

Yes, Cole has been hurt this year. But he has returned to the majors and would have a full pitch count to work with when the Olympics begin next month.

In 2023, Cole had a 2.63 ERA, 222 strikeouts and a 0.98 WHIP. In his playoff career, Cole has a 2.93 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 134 Ks in 17 starts. That’s big time.

Wheeler would still make the roster, along with Corbin Burnes (2.28 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 99 K) of the Orioles, along with Chris Sale (2.79 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 118 K) and Max Fried (3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 80 K) of the Braves.

On Team USA’s bench, Bohm and Westburg would both be utility infielders, despite Westburg not having a full MLB season under his belt. Our backup catcher would be Will Smith (.805 OPS, 11 HR, 50 RBI) of the Dodgers. And as for America’s backup outfielder, it has to be Bryan Reynolds (.816 OPS, 13 HR, 46 RBI) of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Last, but not least, the bullpen.

Kyle Finnegan (2.23 ERA, 22 SV) of the Washington Nationals has a few good years under his belt to be a real contender for closer, along with Clay Holmes (2.45 ERA, 19 SV) of the Yankees.

However, Team USA may have to go with the seasoned veteran Craig Kimbrel (2.45 ERA, 18 SV) of the Baltimore Orioles to close things out.

Other relievers on the roster include the young phenom, Mason Miller (1.96 ERA, 14 SV) of the Oakland A’s, Josh Hader (3.79 ERA, 11 SV) of the Astros and Evan Phillips (1.59 ERA, 13 SV) of the Dodgers.

Team USA should also have two long relievers in case one of their starting pitchers gets battered around in these hypothetical Olympics. So, Sonny Gray (2.81 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 103 K) of the St. Louis Cardinals and Tyler Glasnow (2.88 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 135 K) of the Dodgers will also make the team.

After all that, should we put together the starting lineup? Yes, yes, we should.

  1. Gunnar Henderson, 3B
  2. Freddie Freeman, DH
  3. Aaron Judge, CF
  4. Bryce Harper, 1B
  5. Mookie Betts, 2B
  6. Kyle Tucker, RF
  7. Adley Rutschman, C
  8. Bobby Witt Jr. SS
  9. Riley Greene, LF

A lineup like that seems to good to be true. However, baseball will return to the Olympics for Los Angeles in 2028.

Although MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said it would “be difficult” to pause the 2028 MLB season to allow major leaguers to play in the Olympics. However, Bryce Harper has said he thinks the season should be paused, and that he would like to play in the Games.

All we can do is hope that major leaguers take part in the 2028 Olympics, but until then, it’s still fun to imagine.

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