If Team USA and Japan ultimately meet in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, it won’t be until the end, in either the semifinals or the championship game during the second half of March. In that scenario, Mike Trout would face off against his Los Angeles Angels teammate, two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, pinning the sport’s two transcendent stars against one another on a global stage.
With such an alluring possibility hanging overhead, Trout, Team USA’s captain, was asked if he’d sit in on the pitchers’ meeting and the hitters’ meeting to offer up advice against Ohtani.
“I don’t even know what to tell ’em,” Trout said during MLB Network’s roster reveal show on Thursday. “I’m watching him from center field pitching — he’s got the best stuff in the league, I think. I don’t think I’ve talked to anybody in the league who wants to face that dude. And at the plate, he’s got very little weaknesses. Nothing even comes to the top of my head.”
Trout will headline what looks like an appreciably deep United States team, hitting near the top of a lineup that will also feature Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, J.T. Realmuto, Tim Anderson, Will Smith and Kyle Tucker, with Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Nestor Cortes, Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly among those making up the pitching staff. Ohtani will highlight a decorated Japanese team that also includes the likes of Yu Darvish, Seiya Suzuki, Masataka Yoshida and Roki Sasaki, a 21-year-old phenom who previously twirled 17 consecutive perfect innings in Japan’s Pacific League.
They’ll each face plenty of competition — most notably from the Dominican Republic.
The baseball hotbed boasts what might be the most talented roster in the 20-team tournament, with a combined 40 All-Star appearances. The lineup features Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Julio Rodriguez, Rafael Devers, Wander Franco, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Jeremy Pena; the pitching staff will boast Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia, Johnny Cueto and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara.
But numerous other stars decorate the rosters of the 17 other teams taking part in the fifth iteration of the World Baseball Classic, which this year will run from March 8 to 21. Team Puerto Rico won’t have Carlos Correa, who opted out because of the upcoming birth of his second child, but will feature Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Edwin Diaz, Jose Berrios and Marcus Stroman. Team Venezuela is headlined by Ronald Acuna Jr. — recently given permission by the Atlanta Braves to take part — and will also include Jose Altuve, Gleyber Torres, Salvador Perez, Ranger Suarez and Pablo Lopez, forming what might be its most talented team in tournament history.
Alejandro Kirk, Alex Verdugo, Julio Urias, Randy Arozarena and Jose Urquidy headline Team Mexico; Freddie Freeman, Cal Quantrill and Nick Pivetta will lead Team Canada; Tommy Edman and Ha-Seong Kim will star for Team Korea; Xander Bogaerts represent The Netherlands; and Joc Pederson will lead Team Israel. Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada will suit up for Cuba, marking the first time the authoritarian island nation will have active major league players on its roster.
First-round groups are:
A: Taichung, March 8-13 — Cuba, Italy, Netherlands, Taiwan
B: Tokyo, March 9-13 — Australia, China, Japan, South Korea
C: Phoenix, March 11-15 — Canada, Colombia, Mexico, United States
D: Miami, March 11-15 — Dominican Republic, Israel, Puerto Rico Venezuela
The top two teams in each group advance to quarterfinals, at Tokyo on March 15-16 and at Miami on March 17-18. The semifinals on March 19 and the final will be at Marlins Park.
Japan won the first two iterations of the WBC, in 2006 and 2009, followed by the Dominican Republic in 2013 and Team USA in 2017. The tournament will essentially be played under Major League Baseball’s rules from 2022, which means there will be a universal designated hitter but the new directives — pitch clocks, shift restrictions, bigger bases — will not be in play.
“It’s gonna be fun,” Trout told MLB Network. “It’s a big stage, we’ve got the best players in the world playing against each other — this is what everyone wants to see.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.