Previewing The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics Baseball Field
Six teams will participate in the Summer Olympics in baseball. Here is a glance at the teams competing.
Note: Baseball began as a demonstration sport in 1984 and did not become an official medal sport until 1992. It was not played at the 2012 or 2016 Olympics.
No official medals were awarded in 1984 or 1988.
WBSC World Rank: 1
How It Qualified: Earned automatic berth as host nation
Previous Olympics Appearances: 1984 (gold), 1988 (silver), 1992 (bronze), 1996 (silver), 2000, 2004 (bronze), 2008.
Outlook: Japan is the heavy favorite to win the gold medal on its home turf. With access to the best and brightest stars in Nippon Professional Baseball, the country’s highest league and the second-best league in the world behind only MLB, Japan will have the Olympics' most talented roster and the advantage of playing at home.
WBSC World Rank: 3
How It Qualified: Finished second at WBSC Premier12 in 2019
Previous Olympics Appearances: 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000 (bronze), 2008 (gold)
Outlook: The defending gold medalist has relied on pitching for its past success, most famously riding Hyun-Jin Ryu to gold in 2008. With Ryu and more recent international standouts Kwang-Hyun Kim and Hyeon-jong Yang now pitching in the majors, it will be difficult to win gold again. Having access to the top players in its major league, Korea Baseball Organization, still makes South Korea a favorite to finish somewhere on the medal podium.
WBSC World Rank: 4
How It Qualified: Won Americas Qualifier in 2021
Previous Olympics Appearances: 1984 (silver), 1988 (gold), 1992, 1996 (bronze), 2000 (gold), 2008 (bronze)
Outlook: Team USA found a winning formula during qualifying by mixing former major leaguers and top prospects as opposed to going all prospects or all ex-big leaguers. The restriction against the use of players on 40-man rosters in the Olympics puts the U.S. at a disadvantage, but it may be able to pull off an upset if it plays clean baseball as it did throughout the Americas Qualifier.
WBSC World Rank: 5
How It Qualified: Finished third at WBSC Premier12 in 2019
Previous Olympics Appearances: None
Outlook: Mexico clinched its first Olympics berth by relying on former major leaguers or upper-level minor leaguers with Mexican heritage, such as Matt Clark, Jonathan Jones and Noah Perio. Players like that, combined with the many experienced veterans of the Mexican League and some talented players not on 40-man rosters, give Mexico a chance to finish on the medal stand.
WBSC World Rank: 7
How It Qualified: Won WBSC Final Qualifier in 2021
Previous Olympics Appearances: 1992
Outlook: The Dominican Republic featured a high-powered offense that could outscore just about anybody during qualifying. With a deep pool of ex-big leaguers like Melky Cabrera and top prospects like Julio Rodriguez to pull from, the Dominicans have a chance to finish on the medal stand even if their pitching is merely just ok.
WBSC World Rank: 24
How It Qualified: Won Europe/Africa Qualifier in 2019
Previous Olympics Appearances: None
Outlook: Israel followed up its Cinderella run at the 2017 World Baseball Classic by reaching its first Olympics this year. It is the first time Israel qualified for the Olympics in any team sport since 1976. Israel has relied on Jewish major leaguers from the U.S. to fuel its rise in baseball, including Danny Valencia and Ty Kelly during qualifying. They will be decided underdogs in the Olympics, but they’ve shown the ability to upset traditional baseball powers frequently over the last four years, including South Korea in the WBC.