Prospects, All-Stars on U.S. Olympic roster

May 30th, 2021

It’s crunch time for the United States if it hopes to return to Olympic glory. On Sunday, the baseball world got its first look at the roster for the group aiming to lead it there.

Headlined by Top 100 prospects and big league veterans, USA Baseball released its 26-player Olympic qualifying roster for the upcoming WBSC Americas Olympic Baseball Qualifier, set for May 31-June 5 in Florida.

Baseball’s No. 30 overall prospect of the Cardinals, No. 33 (Red Sox), No. 73 (Blue Jays) and No. 92 (Red Sox) lead the way among USA Baseball’s prospect talent.

Left-hander Liberatore jumped two Minor League levels to open this season with Triple-A Memphis after last pitching in the Minors for Class A Bowling Green in 2019 while he was still with the Tampa Bay Rays organization. In four outings for the Redbirds so far this year, the 21-year-old has gone 0-3 with a 4.58 ERA and has struck out 19 against four walks in 21 1/3 innings.

Casas has been stellar in his first taste of Double-A this season. The slugging first baseman currently boasts a .328/.400/.552 slash line for Portland with four homers and 16 RBIs in 17 games played. Over parts of three Minor League seasons, Casas is a .264/.355/.486 hitter and is still young for his level at 21 years old in Double-A.

Liberatore and Casas were teammates on the 2017 USA Baseball U18 national team that captured the world championship in the U18 Baseball World Cup. Casas was named Most Valuable Player of that event in Thunder Bay, Ontario, after hitting .250/.385/.625 with a tournament-best three home runs and 13 RBIs. Liberatore did not allow a run over 12 innings in his two starts for the US, striking out 13 against five walks and only surrendering five hits.

The Americans went 9-0 in the 2017 U18 Baseball World Cup with an average margin of victory of over six runs per game. The U.S. pitching staff, part of a prospect-stacked roster, combined to yield just three earned runs of five total, strike out 101 and walk 29 in 77 innings over the course of the tournament.

Woods Richardson is currently with Double-A New Hampshire and has gotten off to a terrific start. In four outings, the righty is 1-0 with a 2.37 ERA and has struck out 31 with just eight walks in 19 innings. Opponents have managed just a .197 average against him, and Woods Richardson’s WHIP sits at 1.16.

Casas’ Red Sox organizational teammate Duran is one step up the ladder from the first baseman. Duran, currently Triple-A Worcester’s regular center fielder, is batting .299/.390/.672 with seven homers and four doubles among his 20 hits in 17 games played. Duran is also coming off recent international experience of his own, having played for Puerto Rico in the 2021 Caribbean Series after finishing strong with the Criollos De Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Over seven Caribbean Series games, Duran was a force with a .400/.500/.640 slash line.

Oakland’s No. 3 prospect , Tampa Bay’s No. 12 and Milwaukee's No. 25 are also among the preliminary group. Allen, a second baseman/shortstop, is currently with Double-A Midland and batting .275/.358/.377 through his first 18 games this season. Right-handed pitcher Ryan is part of a prospect-heavy Triple-A Durham roster and has made five starts for the Bulls, going 2-2 with a 4.57 ERA, striking out 32 while walking only six in 21 2/3 innings pitched. Two-way player Andrews is currently with Triple-A Nashville and has pitched seven games in relief with a 4.82 ERA while going hitless in five at-bats. He has yet to see time in the outfield this season.

The United States training camp roster also includes an intriguing mix of players, like big league veterans , , and , all free agents, along with infielder , currently in Triple-A with the Brewers.

Additionally, former Olympic speed skater and current Marlins farmhand , free-agent catcher and Mariners farmhand , who is trying to play his way to the Majors after playing just 125 Minor League games since the start of 2018, are on the roster. Former Major Leaguer is one of the returning members of the U.S. roster from the 2019 WBSC Premier12 tournament when the Americans took fourth place and narrowly missed out on an Olympic berth by losing the bronze medal game to Mexico.

The United States open the Americas Olympic Qualifier Monday against Nicaragua at 5 p.m. ET from Clover Park in St. Lucie, Fla. The Mets’ Spring Training home and The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches (spring home of the Astros and Nationals) will serve as host venues for the six-day event.

The winner of the qualifier will clinch a trip to the Tokyo Olympic Games while the second and third-place finishers will move on to WBSC’s Final Global Qualifier set to be held with dates to be confirmed after the Americas event.

USA Baseball won the bronze medal in 2008 in Beijing, the last time the sport was included in the Olympic Games. The U.S. has captured just one gold in Olympic baseball history, doing so by knocking off international powerhouse Cuba in the 2000 Sydney Games.