Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics Baseball Team Preview: United States
Baseball may be America's Pastime, but Team USA has won a gold medal only once in the five Olympics since baseball became a medal sport in 1992. (Team USA did finish first at the 1988 Olympics, when baseball was a demonstration sport.)
Team USA begins its quest for gold on Friday when it opens the Tokyo Olympics against Israel. Led by manager Mike Scioscia, Team USA is comprised of a mix of veteran free agents, ex-major leaguers playing abroad and top prospects looking to make their mark.
Here is a look at Team USA's strengths, weaknesses and overall outlook as the Summer Games begin.
*No official medal awarded.
WBSC World Rank: 4
How It Qualified: Won WBSC Americas Qualifier in 2021
Previous Olympics Appearances: 1984 (silver)*, 1988 (gold)*, 1992, 1996 (bronze), 2000 (gold), 2008 (bronze)
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Scioscia, 62, was a two-time all-star catcher for the Dodgers and led them to a pair of World Series championships in 1981 and 1988. He spent 19 seasons as the Angels manager from 2000-2018 and won another World Series in 2002. Scioscia hadn’t coached since stepping down as the Angels manager following the 2018 season, but he was hired as Team USA’s manager in April and led the team to an undefeated record at the Americas Qualifier.
Frazier, a two-time all-star and 11-year major league veteran, emerged as Team USA’s leader both on and off the field during qualifying. He led the team in almost every offensive category while setting the emotional tone with his passion and energy playing for his country. Robertson, Jackson and Kazmir are all accomplished veterans and will be in the bullpen behind an expected starting rotation of RHPs Baz, Joe Ryan, Simeon Woods Richardson and Nick Martinez. Casas and Baz are Top 100 prospects and Woods Richardson, Ryan, SS Nick Allen and C Mark Kolozsvary emerged as key prospect contributors during qualifying.
2B Eddy Alvarez won a silver medal in the 5,000 meter short-track speed skating relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Now Team USA’s starting second baseman, he will attempt to become the first male athlete—from any country—to win a medal in both a Summer and Winter Olympics since 1936. The Marlins prospect was selected as a flag-bearer for the Opening Ceremonies, the first baseball player ever chosen for the honor … Scioscia is trying to follow in the footsteps of his former manager and friend Tommy Lasorda and lead Team USA to a gold medal. Lasorda managed Team USA to its only gold in 2000 … Martinez, OF Tyler Austin and RHP Scott McGough all play in Japan’s major league, Nippon Professional Baseball, and were added to the roster in part for their knowledge and experience against Japanese players.
Team USA’s infield defense stood out during qualifying and should once again be solid with Frazier, Allen, Alvarez and Casas around the infield and Kolozsvary behind the plate. The bullpen features plenty of experience and velocity and should be able to hold down leads at the end of games. The lineup is not as deep as it was during qualifying, but still has a number of patient hitters in Frazier, Casas, Alvarez and OF Eric Filia and has legitimate power threats from both sides of the plate.
Team USA lost the two catalysts at the top of its lineup with OFs Luke Williams and Jarren Duran now in the majors. Team USA will be hard-pressed to replace their speed, on-base skills, power and outfield defense, and the lineup is nowhere near as dynamic without them. Team USA’s starting rotation is very young and will be challenged facing older, veteran hitters, especially in a potential matchup with Japan.
Team USA isn’t the favorite, but its mix of accomplished veterans, promising young players and strong coaching should help it finish at least somewhere on the medal stand. Winning gold will likely require an upset over heavily-favored Japan.