2021 Americas Qualifier: Everything You Need To Know Heading Into The Super Round
The Super Round of the Americas Qualifier begins Friday with Team USA taking on Canada and Venezuela facing the Dominican Republic in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The Super Round is the final round of the qualifier and will determine which team goes to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The team with the best overall record at the end of the Super Round will be declared the winner and receive a berth to the Summer Games. The second-place and third-place finishers will advance to the Final Qualifier in Mexico on June 22-26, where they will have one last chance to qualify for the Olympics.
Here is a rundown of where things stand in the Americas Qualifier, and what to watch for as the Super Round begins.
WHO IS STILL ALIVE?
Team USA, Canada, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela are the four teams in the Super Round and still in contention for the Olympics. Each team will play two more games—one each on Friday and Saturday. Team USA, which won Pool A, and will face Pool B runner-up Canada on Friday and Pool B winner Venezuela on Saturday. The Dominican Republic, the Pool A runner-up, will face Venezuela on Friday and Canada on Saturday.
WHO HAS BEEN ELIMINATED?
Cuba, Colombia, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico have been eliminated from the Americas Qualifier and Olympic contention. This is the first time baseball became a medal sport in 1992 that Cuba did not qualify for the Olympics.
WHAT DOES TEAM USA HAVE TO DO TO QUALIFY?
It’s pretty simple: win. Team USA is unbeaten in the qualifier and controls its own destiny. If it beats Canada and Venezuela in the Super Round, it qualifies for the Olympics. If it loses either (or both) of the two games and another team finishes with a better overall record, Team USA will have to finish in either second or third place to advance to the Final Qualifier and have one last chance at qualifying for the Olympics. There are also a number of potential tie-breaker scenarios in play, but Team USA can avoid them by taking care of business and winning its final two games.
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS TO WATCH?
Team USA features longtime former major leaguers Matt Kemp, Todd Frazier and David Robertson, among others, on its roster, but it’s mostly the prospects who have carried the team to this point. Including stats from Thursday’s canceled game, OF Luke Williams (Phillies) is batting .500 and has reached base eight times in 14 plate appearances out of the leadoff spot; 1B Triston Casas (Red Sox) is 5-for-9 with four runs scored; SS Nick Allen (Athletics) has played stellar defense throughout the event and hit a grand slam Thursday; C Mark Kolozsvary (Reds) has a pair of homers; and LHP Matthew Liberatore (Cardinals), RHP Joe Ryan (Rays) and RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (Blue Jays) have all delivered strong starts for Team USA.
Venezuela is led by former Angels catcher Carlos Perez, who has been one of the tournament's hottest hitters and is 7-for-11 with a double, two home runs and six RBIs in three games. RHP Anibal Sanchez, the former Tigers and Nationals starter, got hit hard in Venezuela's opener but is lined up to face Team USA on full rest Saturday. Dominican Republic OF Julio Rodriguez, the No. 3 prospect on the BA Top 100, homered twice in the D.R.’s most recent win over Nicaragua and is 6-for-14 in the tournament. Longtime former big leaguers Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Juan Francisco are also in the Dominican lineup, with Francisco leading the qualifier with three home runs. LHP Andrew Albers and two relievers threw a combined no-hitter in Canada’s opener. The Canadian pitching staff includes Albers, RHP John Axford and RHP Scott Mathieson among other former major leaguers.
WHO IS ALREADY IN THE OLYMPICS?
Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Israel have all qualified for the Tokyo Games. Japan received an automatic berth as the host nation, South Korea earned a berth with its second-place finish at WBSC Premier12 and Mexico qualified when it beat Team USA in the bronze-medal game at WBSC Premier12. Israel qualified by winning the Africa/Europe Qualifier in September 2019. The winner of the Americas Qualifier and the winner of the Final Qualifier will receive the final two spots in the six-team field.
WHO IS IN THE FINAL QUALIFIER?
Australia and the Netherlands are in the Final Qualifier and will be joined by the second- and third-place finishers from the Americas Qualifier. China and Taiwan were also supposed to take part but withdrew their teams from the qualifier.
WHEN IS THE FINAL QUALIFIER?
The Final Qualifier will take place June 22-26 in Puebla, Mexico. It was originally supposed to take place in Taichung, Taiwan, but was moved after Taiwan imposed new travel restrictions due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.