In the year 2000, the United States sent a team of unknown prospects and journeymen players to face off against the powerhouse that was Cuba in the Olympics, in a quest to try and defeat the team that had already run rampant through both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic baseball talent pool. While the player pool may have had some faces included in it that, later on, went on to have very solid MLB careers, at the time their impact was not expected to be all that huge.
Two pitchers helped lead that team, Milwaukee Brewers farmhand Ben Sheets and Houston Astros starter Roy Oswalt, both of whom did not have much of a chance at playing at the MLB level that year. In a way to try and get a bit more of exposure, both players combined with the rest of their ragtag roster and made the ‘Miracle on Grass,’ which was led by Tommy Lasorda.
Fast forward to the year 2020, and it looks like the sport of baseball has another chance at making the Olympics fun again.
Minor leaguers from all across the MiLB, as well as MLB veteran players that are optioned down to the minor leagues as Spring Training ends, are all eligible to represent their respective countries in the qualifier rounds. Essentially, 40-man roster players that are not in the major leagues are able to submit their names to be considered for the Olympic qualifier.
While the U.S. should have the cream of the crop to choose from to fill out their 26-player rosters, other countries like Canada and the Dominican Republic will be able to reap the benefits of the expansion in eligibility requirements for all players.
For the U.S., players like LHP Mackenzie Gore (San Diego Padres), SP Casey Mize (Detroit Tigers), OF Jo Adell (Los Angeles Angels), OF Dylan Carlson (St. Louis Cardinals), and RHP Nate Pearson (Toronto Blue Jays), among others, should lead the list of players that are likely to be requested by U.S. Baseball to help them in their Olympic qualifier games, which will help determine if they do or do not make it back to the Olympics.
For Canada, RHP Nick Pivetta of the Philadelphia Phillies could become a major factor in their performance if he does not make the team as their fifth starter or long-relief arm, and pitcher Cal Quantrill and right fielder Josh Naylor (Padres) could also become big-time role players in this qualifier. On the other hand, the Dominican Republic could bring in Atlanta Braves’ prospect Cristian Pache and Tampa Bay Rays’ shortstop Wander Franco.
In competition with the U.S., their group (Group A) consists of Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, with Group B having countries like Venezuela, Canda, Cuba, and Colombia fighting for a spot. Two MLB Spring Training facilities, as well as both Diable Stadium and Surprise Stadium, will be hosts to the eight-team Americas qualifier, which will only produce a bid for one team.