The qualifying games for Olympic baseball are scheduled to take place next week (May 31-June 5) in Florida, meaning countries are in the process of finalizing and announcing their rosters. (The United States did as much on Sunday.)
On Wednesday, Baseball America published the squads from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic as the countries try to qualify for this summer's Olympic Games. In the interest of community service, we decided to put together a quick cheat sheet highlighting what and who you need to know about each of their rosters.
Let's get to it.
The most famous players on the Venezuela roster are pitcher Aníbal Sánchez and catcher Robinson Chirinos.
Sánchez, 37, pitched most recently with the Washington Nationals in 2020. He drew interest from various teams this spring, but seemingly elected to focus his energy on the Olympics instead. Sánchez for his big-league career has a 4.05 ERA (103 ERA+) and 27 Wins Above Replacement (according to Baseball Reference's calculations) in 1,948 1/3 innings pitched.
Chirinos, who will turn 37 in June, split last season between the Texas Rangers and the New York Mets. He's presently a member of the New York Yankees' Triple-A roster, though he'll be unavailable to them while he plays for his country. Chirinos is a career .231/.325/.431 (100 OPS+) hitter with 12 career Wins Above Replacement.
Conversely, the biggest name attached to Puerto Rico's roster isn't playing. Rather, it's manager Juan Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 51, won a pair of Most Valuable Player Awards during his playing days (1996 and 1998) and made three All-Star Games. For his career, he hit .295/.343/.561 (132 OPS+) with 434 home runs and nearly 40 Wins Above Replacement.
Gonzalez will be overseeing a roster that includes only a few notable former big-league players, such as Ivan De Jesus and Noel Cuevas.
As with Puerto Rico, Colombia doesn't have a great deal of established names on its roster. Yohan Pino and Sugar Ray Marimon each pitched in the majors, but the most talented player in camp is likely a youngster: Boston Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs.
Downs entered the spring ranked by CBS Sports as the top prospect in Boston's system. Here's what we wrote at the time:
You have to feel bad for Downs. He's been traded twice in as many years: first going from the Reds to the Dodgers as part of a seven-player swap, and then to the Red Sox in the Betts blockbuster. Through it all, he's remained a solid prospect. Downs' value stems from his offense. He has a quick swing and a disciplined approach that should enable him to hit for average and get on base at healthy clips. There's some juice in his bat, too, and he maximizes his slugging ability by lifting the ball at an absurd frequency; about a quarter of his batted balls in 2019 were grounders, per FanGraphs. On defense, he's expected to end up at the keystone, though it's possible the Red Sox continue to give him reps at shortstop to maintain his optionality. Downs isn't likely to be a star, but he should be a steady starter, and soon.
None of the four rosters offer as much star power as the Dominican Republic's does. The D.R. can field an outfield that features former All-Stars José Bautista and Melky Cabrera, as well as Seattle Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez.
Bautista, 40, last played in the majors in 2018 as a member of three National League East squads: the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies. He made six All-Star Games and won three Silver Slugger Awards. For his career, he hit .247/.361/.475 (124 OPS+) with 344 home runs. Bautista also accumulated nearly 37 Wins Above Replacement, an impressive feat given that he didn't become an above-average regular until his age-29 season.
Cabrera, 36, made his most recent big-league appearances in 2019, as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit .285/.334/.417 (103 OPS+) with 144 home runs and 101 stolen bases for his career. Cabrera made an All-Star Game and eclipsed 20 Wins Above Replacement.
As for Rodríguez, he entered the spring ranked by CBS Sports as the fourth best prospect in the minors. Here's what we wrote at the time:
Rodríguez will almost certainly be the top prospect in the M's system this time next year. He has the makings of becoming a middle-of-the-order fixture who hits for average and big-time power alike thanks to his bat speed, strength, and feel for making loud contact. Rodríguez split the 2019 season between A- and High-A and, despite being several years younger than his competition, hit .326/.390/.540 in what was his stateside debut. Defensively, he's likely heading for permanent residence in right field, where his well-above-average arm should help him atone for whatever range he may lose in time as he adds weight to his frame.