On the 6th, Hideki Kuriyama, head coach of the Japan national baseball team, announced 12 of the 30 finalists who will participate in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in advance. Coach Kuriyama explained, “There are some members, but they are central players.” “I chose these players because I thought it would be good for the balance of the team.”
Only 40% of the final entry has been released, but key resources are scattered throughout. Six of the 12 pitchers, including star star Shohei Ohtani 안전놀이터 (LA Angels), Yu Darvish (San Diego Padres), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes), Rocky Sasaki (Chiba Lotte Marines), and Shota Imanaga (Yokohama DeNA Baystars) are pitchers. was Excluding active big leaguers Otani and Darvish, the remaining four players are all aces representing each Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) team. Sasaki, who completed the youngest perfect game in NPB history in April of last year, and Yamamoto and Imanaga, who achieved no-hit no-run side by side in June, were all on board. Dogo Shōsei (Yomiuri Giants)’s performance last season was also outstanding with an average ERA of 2.62 with 12 wins and 8 losses.
Japan’s Chunichi Sports explained, “We are steadily organizing a strong pitching team,” expecting professional bullpen Ota Daisei (Yomiuri) and Yuasa Atsuki (Hanshin Tigers) to join the national team. Daisei’s performance last season was 37 saves and an average ERA of 2.05, while Atsuki took the NPB hold king (43) and recorded an average ERA of 1.09.
The WBC final entry is based on the registration of 14 pitchers. It seems that NPB representative players will be added one after another. Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Golden Eagles), who was left out of the 12-man list, said, “I want to do my best in any role I can play,” and hoped to participate in the WBC. Tanaka is a ‘legend’ who has won 190 career victories in NPB and American Major League Baseball (MLB).
Munetaka Murakami (Yakult Swallows) was selected as the infielder without difficulty. Murakami hit 56 home runs last season, breaking the all-time NPB Japanese record for most home runs in a single season in 58 years. He is a “monster” who has won three NPB youngest batting crowns in history, ranking first not only in home runs but also in batting average (0.318) and RBIs (134).
In addition, Sosuke Kenda (Seibu Lions), gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, and Shugo Maki (Yokohama), who finished first in NPB doubles, also confirmed their participation. Kensuke Kondo (Softbank Hawks), Seiya Suzuki (Chicago Cubs), and Takuya Guy (Softbank) were selected as outfielders and catchers, respectively.
Pacific League representative outfielder Kondo’s depth (player base) is so solid that his position as a starting pitcher is in jeopardy. Chunichi Sports predicted that ‘Suzuki, Masataka Yoshida (Boston Red Sox), and Lars Nuthba (St. Louis Cardinals) are likely to take over the outfield for the national team’, and expected that ‘it is likely to be the strongest Samurai Japan batting line in history’. Yoshida entered the MLB this winter with a posting system (private competitive bidding), and Nutba is a ‘Japanese big leaguer’ recruited with the goal of strengthening his power.
If Ohtani, who can be both a pitcher and a hitter, plays as a designated hitter, it is expected that more weight will be added to the batting line. In addition, it is highly likely that pitcher Senga Godai, who recently signed with the New York Mets, and Koji Chikamoto (Hanshin), the king of stolen bases in the Central League, will join the national team.
Coach Kuriyama said, “Japan plans to finalize the final entry of 30 players at the end of this month. From the 17th to the 27th of February, they will hold a training camp in Miyazaki to strengthen their organizational skills. Japan, who won the WBC twice in a row in 2006 and 2009, finished third in both 2013 and 2017. Early on, I set the goal of this tournament as ‘winning’. Darvish expressed his firm determination, saying, “Let’s try our best to convey the splendor of Japanese baseball.”