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Full rosters for all 20 nations participating in the upcoming World Baseball Classic were recently revealed, and as expected this edition of Team USA has plenty of star power: 

  • Catchers (3): J.T. Realmuto (Phillies), Will Smith (Dodgers), Kyle Higashioka (Yankees);
  • First base (2): Pete Alonso (Mets), Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals);
  • Second base (1)Jeff McNeil (Mets)
  • Third base (1)Nolan Arenado (Cardinals)
  • Shortstop (3)Tim Anderson (White Sox), Trea Turner (Phillies), Bobby Witt Jr. (Royals);
  • Outfielders (5): Mike Trout (Angels), Mookie Betts (Dodgers), Kyle Schwarber (Phillies), Kyle Tucker (Astros), Cedric Mullins (Orioles).
  • Right-handers (13): Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Lance Lynn (White Sox), Jason Adam (Rays), Daniel Bard (Rockies), David Bednar (Pirates), Kendall Graveman (White Sox), Merrill Kelly (Diamondbacks), Nick Martinez (Padres), Miles Mikolas (Cardinals), Adam Ottavino (Mets), Ryan Pressly (Astros), Brady Singer (Royals), Devin Williams (Brewers); 
  • Left-handers (3): Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Nestor Cortes (Yankees), Brooks Raley (Mets).

  • In prior WBCs, the U.S. hasn't had quite this many frontline performers at its disposal, especially in terms of position players. As such, manager Mark DeRosa has some difficult decisions ahead of him when it comes to sorting out his lineup for the tournament that gets underway on March 8. Fortunately for the skipper, we're here with unsolicited advice. 

    Before we take a whack at this, please regard the following principles when it comes to lineup construction: 

    • A high on-base percentage is the most important trait for a leadoff hitter, and speed is also nice.
    • Ideally, one of the best hitters on the team will bat second.
    • Against right-handed starting pitchers, right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters should be staggered when possible, so as to complicate the opposing manager's bullpen decisions.
    • Against left-handed starting pitchers, the lineup should be stuffed with right-handed bats -- i.e., platoon non-superstars without ceasing.

    With those laid out, let's do Monsieur DeRosa's work for him and have a look at what Team USA's lineups should be once things get started. 

    Versus RHPs

    1. Trea Turner, SS
    2. Mike Trout, CF
    3. Mookie Betts, RF
    4. Kyle Schwarber, DH
    5. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
    6. Kyle Tucker, LF
    7. Nolan Arenado, 3B
    8. Jeff McNeil, 2B
    9. J.T. Realmuto, C

    Staggering righty bats with lefty bats isn't possible all the way up and down the lineup against right-handers, but Schwarber, Tucker, and McNeil provide balance after you get past that imposing top three. Speaking of which, Betts bats ahead of fellow righty thumpers like Goldschmidt and Arenado because he has more balanced platoon splits for his career and has been ever-so-slightly more effective against same-side pitching than the St. Louis duo has. Moving on ... 

    Versus LHPs

    1. Trea Turner, 2B
    2. Mike Trout, CF
    3. Paul Goldschmidt, DH
    4. Nolan Arenado, 3B
    5. Mookie Betts, RF
    6. Pete Alonso, 1B
    7. Tim Anderson, SS
    8. Will Smith, C
    9. Kyle Tucker, LF

    In the name of wedging more platoon-advantaged bats into the lineup against lefties, Turner shifts to second base, where he's made 79 starts in his career. That allows Anderson and his righty stick to man short and puts the lefty-swinging McNeil on the bench. Slotting Alonso in at first base lets Goldschmidt DH and get a day of semi-rest when a lefty is on the mound for the opposition. 

    Speaking of rest, Realmuto sits against lefties, and Smith spells him and along the way probably provides a modest offensive upgrade at the position. If DeRosa feels the need to bring Realmuto in for defensive purposes, then he's free to indulge that instinct thanks to the presence of the third catcher -- Higashioka -- on the U.S. roster. Tucker has shown some effectiveness against same-side pitching, albeit across a limited sample, so in lieu of a right-handed alternative he keeps his job. When a right-handed reliever inevitably comes in, DeRosa can turn to lefty bench bats like Schwarber, McNeil, and Mullins to parry. Witt Jr. is still around to spell Arenado or Turner when he's at short if needed. 

    And with that, roughly half of DeRosa's job is done. Never mind that it's the easy half.