I know you spent the past two weeks watching team handball and synchronized swimming, so you may have missed the announcement that baseball (and softball) will be returning to the 2020 Olympics, for the first time since 2008.
Those Olympics are in Tokyo, so it's no surprise baseball was added considering the passion for the sport in Japan, plus the advantage of having baseball-ready stadiums already built. There's no guarantee the sport will be held in the next Olympics, although Los Angeles is one of the four cities bidding to host in 2024 (if Budapest wins, don't count on baseball and softball being contested).
The problem with baseball in the Olympics, of course, is that the best players in the major leagues don't participate, so the United States and Latin American countries don't field their best teams. In the last Olympics baseball tournament, Japan and Korea, however, did send their best non-U.S.-based players, with Yu Darvish pitching for Japan, for example. Korea, which went 9-0 in the tournament, beat Cuba 3-2 in the gold medal game behind future Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu.
If the best U.S. players were allowed to participate, what might a dream team look like? Let's project out a 24-player Olympic roster four years from now, with the player's age in four years in parentheses:
1. RF -- Mookie Betts (27)
So good and still so young, there's no reason to think he won't still be one of the game's best all-around players in 2020.
2. SS -- Corey Seager (26)
An MVP candidate as a rookie, he should win one by 2020. And, yes, he's good enough defensively to remain at shortstop.
CF -- Mike Trout (29)
Let's see, 2020 will be his ninth full season in the majors, so probably his ninth season as the best position player in the game.
3B -- Kris Bryant (28)
He'll already be a Cubs legend by 2020 with two MVP Awards, a 50-homer season in 2019, and that famous Game 7 World Series-clinching homer in 2016.
LF -- Bryce Harper (27)
After resting his sore shoulder for a week, he's been back on a tear. He'll be fine. The Yankees will happily sign him after 2018.
DH -- Paul Goldschmidt (32)
You know you're pretty good when you have a .423 OBP in an off year. Should still be one of the game's elite hitters even at age 32.
1B -- Anthony Rizzo (31)
I don't see any of the top-rated first-base prospects -- Cody Bellinger, Dominic Smith, A.J. Reed, Josh Bell -- supplanting Rizzo.
C -- Buster Posey (33)
If there's a future U.S.-born star catcher on the rise, I have no idea who it may be, so let's say Posey is still the best in four years.
2B -- Trea Turner (27)
After 35 games in the majors, he already looks like a star. I'm not sure of his ultimate position, but I could him see him moving to second base with Daniel Murphy sliding over to first.
Bench -- Chance Sisco, C (25); Alex Bregman, IF (26); Nolan Arenado, 3B (29); Christian Yelich, OF (28).
I left off Manny Machado because he's said he'd play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Yelich over teammate Giancarlo Stanton? Well, he's the better bet to be healthy.
Pitchers -- Clayton Kershaw (32): Madison Bumgarner (31); Noah Syndergaard (27); Aaron Sanchez (28); Michael Fulmer (27); Jon Gray (28); Alex Reyes (25); Dellin Betances (32); Zach Britton (32); Michael Kopech (24); Sean Newcomb (27).
You could go a hundred different ways here and there are certainly a few guys in college right now who could emerge by 2020, like North Carolina right-hander J.B. Bukauskas. Kopech is the Red Sox farmhand who has topped 100 mph and is still developing as a potential starter, but with the bullpen as a backup option. Newcomb's control issues may push him into the bullpen as a potential Andrew Miller-like power lefty. Gray may be the surprise here, but he's having a breakthrough season with the Rockies, considering Coors Field inflation. If he can stay healthy in the high altitude, he's going to be a good one. Reyes has already reached the majors and if he's doesn't make it as a starter, has future closer written all over him.
Of course, this won't be the team. As in 2008, the team will primarily be prospects and a few veteran minor league/fringe major league types. The 2008 roster included Jake Arrieta, then in Class A for the Orioles; Rockies prospect Dexter Fowler; A's prospects Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill; and Stephen Strasburg, the only college player on the team.
So here's a projected 2020 roster with current team/organization:
C -- Jake Rogers (Astros). A third-round pick in 2016 out of Tulane, an outstanding defensive catcher with a questionable bat.
1B -- Darin Ruf (Phillies). One of those players who would have been a good bench player back when teams carried more bench players.
2B -- Taylor Walls (Florida State). A member of Team USA this summer, hit .355 as a sophomore.
3B -- Josh Lowe (Rays). A first-round pick in 2016 out of a Georgia high school, should be close to the majors by 2020.
SS -- Ford Proctor (Rice). A member of Baseball America's 2016 all-freshman team.
LF -- J.B. Shuck (White Sox). The veteran outfielder is currently hitting .216 for the White Sox.
CF -- Braden Bishop (Mariners). A speedy defender, but the bat profiles as fringe major leaguer.
RF -- Seth Beer (Clemson). Hit .369 with 18 home runs as a freshman.
DH -- Xavier Scruggs (Marlins). The 28-year-old has 21 home runs at Triple-A New Orleans.
Bench -- A.J. Pierzynski (Braves); Gavin Lux (Dodgers); Jake Mangum (Mississippi State); Tyler Holt (Reds).
Pitchers -- Riley Pint (Rockies); Tristan Beck (Stanford); Tim Cate (Connecticut); Hunter Greene (Stevenson Ranch, Calif.); Hans Crouse (Dana Point, California); Nick Anderson (Twins); Pat Venditte (Mariners); Marc Rzepczynski (A's); Sean Gilmartin (Mets); Jonathan Papelbon.