A Look at Team Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic

We finish our look at Pool B of the 2023 World Baseball Classic with the host nation: Japan. The two-time winner fell in the semifinals to the United States back in 2017, but Japan will look to change that in 2023. Team Japan will bring a strong unit to the Classic, led by arguably the best player in the world today.

Related: A Look at Team Korea in the 2023 World Baseball Classic


Most of Team Japan is from the Nippon Pro Baseball League, including pitchers Shota Imanaga and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. With Yokohama in 2022, Imanaga recorded the third-best ERA (2.26) in the Central League, and went 11-4 with the Bay Stars. Orix right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, meanwhile, went 15-5 with 205 strikeouts and a 1.68 ERA in 193 innings.

The keys to the pitching staff, however, will be the two most notable names on the roster. Padres star Yu Darvish has a new contract, and will look to start his 2023 off on a good note. Darvish dominated in San Diego last season, as he posted a very strong 3.10 ERA across 194.2 innings. Then there’s Ohtani, who should play a two-way role with Japan. Ohtani had his best MLB season on the mound last year, a season that saw the 28-year-old record a career-high 219 strikeouts.

However, one notable piece from the 2017 World Baseball Classic that won’t be back for 2023 is new Mets pitcher Kodai Senga. Senga and his “ghost” splitter will be back in Florida at Spring Training, as he prepares for this first season in the Majors.

Position Players

*denoted injury and will not participate

In addition to Ohtani, Team Japan’s lineup is set to include 23-year-old Munetaka Murakami. The Yakalt Swallows infield is a name to watch going forward for MLB fans, since the youngster has little to prove in Japan. Last season with Yakalt, Murakami hit .318/.458/.711 with 56 home runs and 134 RBIs.

Japan may not have Senga on its pitching staff, but the country will have new Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida in its lineup. Yoshida is set to be joined by Cubs star Seiya Suzuki and Cardinals youngster Lars Nootbaar. Nootbaar hit 14 home runs and 33 extra base hits in first season in the Majors, and posted a respectable .340 OBP despite a low .228 batting average.

Team Japan is the host nation for Pool B, and should be considered the favorite to win the group.

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