Top prospects highlight U.S. Olympic baseball team
Though it undoubtedly did not get some of its first choices after whittling down the names from a list of over 200 candidates, USA Baseball managed to get the services of some of baseball's top prospects for the trip to Beijing, including some who could make an impact in the big leagues as soon as this season.
Outfielders Matt LaPorta of the Indians, acquired in the deal that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers, and Colby Rasmus of the Cardinals both could have starting jobs for their respective teams on Opening Day next season.
LaPorta has been compared to Adam Dunn for his ability to get on base and for his power potential, while Rasmus is the proverbial five-tool outfielder, able to do everything on the baseball field.
Catchers Taylor Teagarden of the Rangers and Lou Marson of the Phillies, are arguably two of the top prospects at the position in the minors. Both are above-average defenders who also wield the bat, Teagarden is the power hitter, while Marson is the contact specialist who posts a high batting average.
The most intriguing aspect of the roster is the starting pitching, in which three of the better pitching prospects in baseball, should provide a formidable rotation in China.
Baltimore's Jake Arrieta, and Oakland's Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson all look to be potential No. 3 starters or better in the major league. All have had a lot of success at high Class A this season, and the Oakland pitchers have continued that success upon promotion to Double-A, with Arrieta expecting to move up soon.
Arrieta's mid-90s fastball, Cahill's hard sinker and Anderson's command of four different pitches provide varied looks for opposing teams.
Joining that group is San Diego State's right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the lone amateur on the team. Strasburg could be taken with the first-overall pick in the 2009 draft.
In the late innings, the team turns to Casey Weathers, the former Vanderbilt star who the Rockies selected with the eighth overall pick in last year's draft, and is expected to be the team's closer of the future. Weathers is currently pitching with their Double-A club, but could see big league action later this season.
The official cutoff date for submitting the final roster is July 22, and the team could have a player or two pulled back by their big league club before then.
This impressive mix of young players will combine with some Triple-A veterans to create a formidable contender for the medal stand in Beijing.
Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program.
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