A stacked Team USA club begins the quest for its first World Baseball Classic championship Friday in Miami against Colombia. With All-Stars and Gold Glove winners galore, the Americans will also face off against the Dominican Republic and Canada in round-robin pool play.
Here’s a look at Team USA’s biggest X-factors.
Although he struggled in 2016 with a 4.02 ERA, the 28-year-old righty still has a blazing fastball and nasty slider in his arsenal. He struck out 233 batters for the Rays last season — the second-most of his career.
Look for Archer, who starts Friday, to use the WBC to reestablish himself as Tampa Bay’s trusty ace.
Posey’s Hall of Fame trajectory is undeniable. Perhaps the best catcher of his generation, the 2012 NL MVP is a consistent .300 hitter who helped the Giants to three World Series crowns. The 29-year-old’s bat is always an equalizer, no matter where he is in the lineup.
The Rockies third basemen has been a stud since entering the majors in 2013. He finished 2016 with 41 homers and career highs in batting average (.294), RBIs (133) and OBP (.362).
The only thing more impressive than his bat is his glove. Arenado, 25, has earned four straight Gold Gloves, never committing more than 17 errors in a season.
A two-time MVP runner up, the 29-year-old has been a steady source of power for the last five years. The Diamondbacks first baseman was named to his fourth consecutive All-Star Game in 2016 and finished second in baseball with 110 walks.
Stanton, 27, will feel right at home playing in Miami during the opening round. The Marlins right fielder is a powder keg at the plate.
Even as he’s struggled with injuries, Stanton’s bat has kept the Marlins afloat for stretches at a time with 27 home runs in 119 games. When healthy, few can match his power.