Now that the roster has been announced, I’m much more optimistic about the
United States Olympic baseball team’s chances than I have been. While I
disagree with some of the choices, the fact is that most of these guys take
walks and some of them hit for power. Some even do both. The pitching
choices seem to reflect an overall strategy that I hadn’t found in USA
Baseball’s public comments. There are some excellent choices here.
Nevertheless, the selection committee has still made some plain bad
decisions. I understand that there were a lot of limitations on who would
and could play, and that some teams supposedly didn’t cooperate at all with
USA Baseball (Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, rumors
borne out by the puzzling lack of their best talent here, even talent they
obviously weren’t going to need or use). Players that I hoped would be
available, like Aubrey Huff and Adam Piatt, got callups.
Ryan Anderson is injured.
Even with those caveats, I can’t help but think that this is a team that
could have been dramatically better with only a few changes. There are 30
major-league teams with about 25 players at both Triple- and Double-A ball,
half of them American. That’s 750 players, and some of those must have been
available to play center field.
Here are the position players for the U.S. 2000 Olympic Baseball team. On
Friday, we’ll cover the pitchers, along with commentary on the overall
makeup of the team and the likely lineup cards.
Name Pos B AVG OBP SLG G PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS Borders C R .276 .313 .430 90 357 93 16 0 12 20 63 6 2 Jensen C R .235 .386 .412 10 42 8 3 0 1 8 5 0 1 Kinkade C R .364 .471 .509 15 66 20 5 0 1 11 11 0 1 Abernathy 2B R .295 .348 .399 111 455 124 25 2 5 34 38 21 15 Burroughs 3B L .291 .383 .401 108 450 114 29 4 2 58 45 6 8 Butler 2B R .288 .353 .421 120 473 124 34 1 7 43 45 1 3 Dawkins IF R .234 .311 .380 88 378 80 20 6 6 36 69 18 10 Everett SS R .246 .362 .348 118 493 104 24 2 5 70 96 11 4 Mientkiewicz 1B L .331 .403 .524 125 520 153 32 3 17 58 65 7 5 Neill OF L .298 .418 .479 107 450 112 36 1 10 74 102 9 3 Sanders OF R .307 .358 .512 110 440 126 21 3 19 30 103 8 8 Wilkerson OF L .258 .398 .473 56 227 48 11 1 9 41 51 5 4 Young OF R .263 .357 .541 118 496 114 16 0 35 62 108 10 1 Coolbaugh UT R .264 .376 .495 112 433 97 25 0 20 65 94 6 2 Gilbert UT R .338 .456 .540 80 328 92 17 4 10 56 63 11 9
In 2000: Triple-A (Devil Rays)
Offers: Veteran catching experience
When they said they were going to get some veteran catching to handle the
young, untamed pitching, they weren’t kidding. I suspect he’s here to take
Terry Steinbach‘s place on the team. Pat Borders had two decent
seasons and one good one in his 12-year major-league career, along with
nine really bad ones. Poor plate discipline, poor power. As much as this
pains me to write, I wish Steinbach could have remained healthy so he could
have been selected.
In 2000: Triple-A (Twins) (Pan Am Games Veteran)
Offense: Below average
Offers: International experience, defense
Marcus Jensen played some in the Pan Am games, getting 24 plate appearances
and hitting well. He drew four walks and had six hits, including three home
runs. He has some major-league experience to boot, so he’s a good pick to
get some playing time.
In 2000: Triple-A (Orioles)
Offense: Below average
Offers: A potentially hot bat at catcher
Mike Kinkade spent some time at nearly every position during his time with
the Mets. He has never hit well in the minors for any extended period, but
he’s been doing really well this season, and he’s 27, so this might be the
burst of glory.
I have to admit that I don’t understand why he’s here. He doesn’t bat
left-handed, he doesn’t steal bases or draw walks or even get plunked for
dollars, Nick Johnson-style. But it could be worse: they could have
taken Jim Leyritz.
In 2000: Triple-A (Devil Rays)
Defense: Opinions vary (pretty good or below average)
Offers: Speed, doubles
Brent Abernathy doesn’t have a lot of power, but he will soon. He’s hit 25
doubles so far in 2000, with five home runs as well in his 455 plate
appearances. His walk rate is poor (7%). Abernathy is a base-stealing
threat, but not a great one: he’s 21-for-36 on the bases. His defense is
lauded or mocked, depending on who you listen to. His cheerleading section
will be led by John Sickels.
In 2000: Double-A (Padres)
Defense: Below average
Offers: On-base ability, doubles
Tagged as a future star, Sean Burroughs has shown some power this year
(only two home runs, but 29 doubles). He drew 58 walks and struck out 45
times in 450 plate appearances in the Texas League. His defense is
described as "rough".
In 2000: Triple-A (Rockies)
Defense: Above average
Offers: Doubles, defense
Brent Butler was considered a top prospect not too long ago, but a terrible
year at Double-A Arkansas got him shipped out of the Cardinals system. He’s
playing in Colorado Springs now, which inflates his statistics
(.288/.353/.421). Butler is drawing more walks this year, which is good,
but he’s got a ways to go. I think the selection committee was fooled by
his park-inflated numbers.
In 2000: Double-A (Reds) (Pan Am Games Veteran)
Offers: International experience, name recognition
Despite making it to the major leagues back in May, Travis Dawkins has
struggled as a Double-A repeater, which doesn’t bode well for him. In 378
PAs, Dawkins hit six home runs and 20 doubles, but he’s still not walking–just
36 so far–and he’s still striking out a lot, 69 times. In fact, his season
so far resembles almost exactly his 1998 season with Burlington in A ball.
Once regarded as a big base-stealing threat, he’s swiped just 18 in 28
attempts, which isn’t good.
Dawkins is likely on the team because he was on the 1999 Pan Am Games team
that finished second to Cuba, securing the U.S. one of two Western
Hemisphere berths in the Olympics.
In 2000: Triple-A (Astros)
Offers: Great defense and on-base ability
Adam Everett is not having a monster season at Triple-A, as his his power
has been doubles-only. He is still walking, which is good. He’s reportedly
an amazing fielder; if you can get that and on-base ability in the same
shortstop, well, that’s a fine deal.
In 2000: Triple-A (Twins)
Offers: A hot bat, defense at a position that doesn’t need it
In getting a full season of major-league experience at the expense of
David Ortiz, Doug Mientkiewicz played a good defensive first base
and didn’t hit a lot. He’s having a monster season this year, so his
selection makes sense, but this is a position to stick an extra monster
There was word the team would pick Carlos Pena, born in the
Dominican Republic but who moved to the fair state of Massachusetts with
his family. That would have been an awesome pick. Heck, J.R.
Phillips is still floating around somewhere, terrorizing minor-league
pitching, and I’m sure he’d have loved to go.
In 2000: Triple-A (Mariners) (Pan Am Games Veteran)
Offers: International experience, great offense
Mike Neill delivered the two-out, 10th inning, game-winning hit to beat
Mexico and get the U.S. team into the Olympics. He had just seven at-bats
in those Pan Am Games, but he still talks about the experience. He’s going
to be a huge offensive force: he draws walks, hits a homer once in a while
and he hit two doubles in the time it took me to look up his stat line.
It’s too bad that Mike Neill never had a major-league career, his
development hampered by a shoulder injury. At least this way, Neill has a
chance to do something great and historic anyway. I wish him all the best.
In 2000: Triple-A (Mariners)
Offers: Power threat off the bench
Anthony Sanders has one of the worst walk rates of those selected, just 7%.
He has never and, we can safely assume, won’t, learn to walk in the next
three weeks. He brings power to the plate, though: he’s already hit 21
doubles and 19 home runs.
In 2000: Triple-A (Expos)
Offers: On-base ability, outfield defense
Pick: Not so hot
Brad Wilkerson had a great college career, including a stint on the Team
USA Juniors in which he shutout Taiwan in the final game. Wilkerson won two
College World Series, all while pitching and driving the ball all over the
I think that’s a big part of his selection: USA Baseball has talked a lot
about bringing in players who could handle the pressure, and Wilkerson has
certainly proved that much. He still hasn’t proved he can really hit,
though. He controls the strike zone well, with the highest walk rate of
anyone selected, but he doesn’t hit doubles or many home runs. As much as
I’m a proponent of plate discipline, I want outfielders to hit for power,
the more, the better. Like Ernie Young.
In 2000: Triple-A (Cardinals)
Defense: Good enough, as if it matters
Offers: The ability to lay out fool pitchers like kitchen tile
Ernie Young is one of the minor-league sluggers who make organizations
hesitant to promote their pitchers to Triple-A just yet. He’ll take his
walks and drives pitches into the stands. Like Mike Neill, in a just world
he’d be playing and Fonzie Bichette would have had to take Young’s
turn in the PCL. An ideal cleanup hitter for the team.
In 2000: Triple-A (Yankees)
Defense: Varies by position, generally good
Offers: The ability to play anywhere with a respectable bat
Mike Coolbaugh is finally drawing some walks and enjoying the benefits. He
can play third base and the outfield, but I can’t find any comments on how
well he manages, so he could be Charles Gipson or he could be
John Mabry. As a bat off the bench, he could serve this team well.
In 2000: Triple-A (Dodgers) (Pan Am Games Veteran)
Offers: Age-based experience, ability to play any position
"Get off my lawn," I imagine Shawn Gilbert yelling at
neighborhood kids, shaking a bat that Paul O’Neill cracked in BP one
day and discarded. Gilbert has been having a heck of a year in Albuquerque,
but I’m here to tell you: in 13 minor-league seasons his line is
.259/.342/354. His selection is largely due to his service in the Pan Am
Games. He plays all over the place, but Baseball America thinks he
may actually be thought of as the starting center fielder. And Corey
Patterson isn’t going because he’d have been an alternate? Argh.
Derek Zumsteg can be reached at email@example.com.