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A Way-Too-Early Look At Potential WBSC Premier12 Rosters: Japan, Chinese Taipei, & Dominican Republic

 Conor Liguori - World Baseball Network  |    Mar 16th, 2024 9:13am EDT

The 2024 WBSC Premier12 tournament will feature the top 12 nations in the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s World Baseball Rankings facing off in tournament play from Nov. 10-24, 2024. The 12 nations competing are No. 1 Japan, No. 2 Mexico, No. 3 United States, No. 4 Korea, No. 5 Chinese Taipei, No. 6 Venezuela, No. 7 Netherlands, No. 8 Cuba, No. 9 Dominican Republic, No. 10 Panama, No. 11 Australia, and No. 12 Puerto Rico.  

Let’s examine potential players in this year’s Premier12 for Japan, Chinese Taipei, and the Dominican Republic.  

No. 1 Japan  


Roki Sasaki of Team Japan pitches during the 2023 World Baseball Classic Semifinal game against Team Mexico at loanDepot Park on March 20, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Roki Sasaki, RHP, Chiba Lotte Marines – Sasaki has been one of the best starting pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball and should be Japan’s ace in the tournament. He features a fastball that routinely touches 100 mph and has dominated NPB hitters in his three-year career, posting a 1.90 ERA in 51 games.  

Kaima Taira, RHP, Saitama Seibu Lions- Taira has experienced dominance similar to Sasaki’s out of the bullpen for the Lions. He transitioned to a starting pitcher in 2023 and remained consistent with a 2.40 ERA in 23 games, placing him as the potential reliable hurler behind Sasaki.  


Takuya Kai, C, Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks – Kai is a three-time NPB All-Star and has won six Mitsui Golden Gloves at catcher. He also has experience in international baseball, playing for Japan in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and the 2023 World Baseball Classic.  

Infielders – Potential infielders include third baseman Munetaka Murakami, second baseman Shugo Maki, first baseman Kazuma Okamoto, and shortstop Kenta Imamiya.  

Murakami and Okamoto have hit over 150 career home runs each in NPB, and Maki and Imamiya use contact and speed to reach base. Murakami and Maki may play in MLB in the future and were members of Japan’s 2023 WBC roster.  

 Murakami is the biggest name to watch. At just 24 years old, he is already a three-time NPB All-Star, two-time Central League MVP, and led the Central League in home runs in 2021 and 2022.  

Outfielders – Potential outfielders include Kensuke Kondoh, Keita Sano, and Yuki Okabayashi.  

Kondoh led the Pacific League in home runs in 2023 with 26, Sano only struck out 77 times in 613 plate appearances in 2023, and Okabayashi is a two-time Central League Mitsui Golden Glove Award winner for his sound defense.  

Kondoh also has experience behind the plate, so that remains an option for Japan.  

No. 5 Chinese Taipei  


C.C. Lee, RHP, CTBC Brothers – Lee pitched for Chinese Taipei in the 2023 World Baseball Classic and for the Cleveland Guardians from 2013-15. The Brothers selected him first overall in the 2018 CPBL draft, and he could be the primary relief pitcher out of the bullpen for Chinese Taipei in the Premier12.  

Huang Peng-Tzu, RHP, Rakuten Monkeys – Huang threw seven scoreless innings against Curacao in the 2016 Haarlem Baseball Week and 2.2 innings against the Netherlands in the 2023 WBC, allowing two runs in the win. His experience in international play may be needed for Chinese Taipei in the Premier12.  


Kungkuan Giljegiljaw, C, Wei Chuan Dragons – Giljegiljaw could be Chinese Taipeis’ primary source of power in the tournament. In 2023, he hit 23 home runs with the Wei Chuan Dragons. He played for Chinese Taipei in the 2023 WBC and the Cleveland Guardians organization for six years in minor-league baseball. The catcher led the CPBL in home runs in 2022 with 14.  

Infielders – Potential infielders include shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin, utilityman Yu Chang, third baseman Lin Li, and first baseman Fan Chen-Kuo.  

Lin and Chang have filled utility roles in Major League Baseball for the better part of their careers and have been serviceable. Li and Kuo are both veterans of the CPBL and have excellent fielding repertoires.   

Chang was selected to the 2023 All-World Baseball Classic team, and Lin has stolen 12 bases in 14 attempts in 103 career MLB games with the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. Lin has played for Chinese Taipei in the 2018 U-18 Baseball World Cup and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.  

Outfielders – Potential outfielders include speedster Chin Cheng, Chen Wei-Chen, and Wang Po- jung.  

Wang broke numerous records during his rookie season in 2016 with the Lamigo Monkeys, including becoming the first player in CPBL history to finish with 200 hits in a season.  

Cheng, a member of the Rakuten Monkeys, has only hit six home runs in his career but has stolen 46 bases in 68 attempts.  

Chen’s offensive production slipped from 2022 to 2023, going from a .808 OPS to .670, but still had 38 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 108 games.  

No. 9 Dominican Republic  


Neftali Feliz, RHP, LMB Durango – Feliz, still throws his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, as evident by his performance in the 2024 Caribbean Series for the Tigres del Licey. He is currently not on a Major League Baseball team’s 40-man roster but would be a very useful and reliable arm out of the Dominican Republic’s bullpen.  

Cesar Valdez, shown here delivering to the plate in the championship game of the Caribbean Series, was named the event’s MVP. (Photo Courtesy of CBPC)

Cesar Valdez, RHP, Leones de Yucatan – Valdez, now 38 years old, uses a deadly changeup and quirky windup to throw hitters off balance. Like Feliz, he has pitched in professional baseball in several leagues and has had relatively successful stints wherever he has gone.  


Wilin Rosario, C, Free Agent – Rosario has not played in MLB since 2015 with the Colorado Rockies. However, he still manages to sign contracts internationally due to his solid glove behind the plate and veteran presence. Rosario has played professional baseball in MLB, Korea, China, Japan, and Mexico.  

Infielders – Potential Dominican Republic infielders include second baseman Robinson Cano, utility infielder Wilmer Difo, shortstop Leury Garcia, and third baseman Miguel Andujar.  

Robinson Cano is the most well-known player on this list. He won the World Series with the New York Yankees in 2009 and, at 41, is still playing professional baseball for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico of Liga Mexicana de Beisbol. 

Difo spent the 2023 MiLB season with Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre and hit .208 with five home runs and 24 RBI, but his solid glove at nearly every infield position makes him valuable. The same can be said for Leury Garcia, who helped the Tigres del Licey reach the 2024 Caribbean Series championship.  

Andujar is on the Oakland Athletics’ 40-man roster but will be a free agent at the end of the season. He was once a top prospect for the New York Yankees.  

Outfielders – Potential outfielders for the Dominican Republic include Aristides Aquino, Junior Lake, and Emilio Bonifacio.  

Once a top prospect with the Cincinnati Reds, Aquino took the MLB by storm in 2019, hitting 19 home runs in just 56 games. Still just 29 years old, he can be a power source for the Dominican Republic in the Premier12.  

Junior Lake’s MLB career was much shorter than many expected, but he has remained a reliable power source, hitting 13 home runs with the El Aguila de Veracruz in LMB in 2023.  

Bonifacio, 38, was one of the more impressive players to watch at the 2024 Caribbean Series for the Tigres del Licey. He laid down bunt hits and quickly tracked down hard-hit fly balls. His play at the tournament may have earned him a spot at the Premier12 with the Dominican Republic this November.  

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Conor Liguori - World Baseball Network