While most of the western WBC teams aren’t going to reveal their full rosters until January, Japan has already come up with a provisional roster of 34 players. Eventually, they will cut it down to 28 players, but for now, here’s an analysis of their provisional roster. As expected, they have no MLB players, due to the fact they all bailed out. Ichiro, for example, may be with a new team and apparently said after the ’09 Classic that he was unlikely to play in it again because he wants to have gone out on top. Yu Darvish is worried about how his body will be after throwing so much last season. Hiroki Kuroda is old.
So, instead, Japan will be sending an NPB all-star team. Many of these guys could play in MLB if they wanted to and some of them still may. One of them- Kazuo Matsui- was once an MLB player. And, of course, they will have been preparing for a month or more for the tournament, as opposed to the week or so that most of the western teams will.
Don’t underestimate them. Instead, go after the jump for my analysis.
Japan seems to be aiming to use some of it’s starters as relievers, given the fact that, even after cuts, there will probably be more starters than relievers left on the roster.
The leading pitchers here include Tadashi Settsu, a right-handed Fukuoka Softbank Hawk who won NPB’s Sawamura Award (their equivalent of the Cy Young) in 2012 when he went 17-5 with a 1.91 ERA. Masahiro Tanaka of Rakuten is only 23, but went 10-4 with a 1.87 ERA in 2012 and has already been a 4-time All-Star. Wouldn’t shock me if he follows in the steps of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish and one day comes over the States.
Tetsuya Utsumi of the Yomiuri Giants will likely be the main left-handed starter. He went 15-6 with a 1.96 ERA this season.
Again, it’s likely that many of the starters will be acting as relievers (Yakyu Baka, for example, says that starter Kazuhisa Makita will be the closer). Still, some notable names here, including Testuya Yamaguchi (who spent some time in the Arizona organization early in his career) and Hideaki Wakui, who had 30 saves in 2012.
Shinnosuke Abe is the Captain of Samurai Japan, coming off a Triple Crown year. The other two are only really there for defensive purposes or in case of emergency.
First Basemen: Atsunori Inaba
Inaba is the only full-time 1B on the Japanese roster.
Second Basemen: Yuichi Honda
Honda’s a good-fielding but little-hitting 2B, and it wouldn’t be surprising if one of the other infielders gets most of the time.
Sakamoto tied for the lead in his league for hits in 2012, while Matsui is the lone player on the provisional roster with MLB experience.
Kakunaka won the batting title in the Pacific League. Chono tied Sakamoto for the Central League hits lead. Oshima and Hijirisawa are speedsters who won the stolen base titles of the Central and Pacific League, respectively.
More WBC posts in the days, weeks and months ahead.