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AWARD: WBN’s International Player of the Week

 Julian Guilarte  |    May 16th, 2024 3:45pm EDT

Munetaka Murakami hits a solo home run. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)

The winner of WBN’s International Player of the Week is Japanese Slugger Munetaka Murakami. The lefty third baseman plays for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and broke the NPB record for the youngest player to hit 200 home runs at 24 years old.


He hit the home run against the Hiroshima Toyo Carp against Takuya Tasaki in the eighth inning of a 2-0 win on May 15 at home in Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo. Murakami leads the NBP with nine home runs this season with 17 RBI and an OPS of .905 in 128 at-bats.


Murakami debuted with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in 2018 and has played seven seasons in the NPB. His career numbers in the NPB are 200 home runs, 531 RBI, and 63 stolen bases. His slash line is .275/.400/.562 in 2,558 career at-bats.

He won two Central League MVPs in 2021 and 2022 and the Japanese Triple Crown in 2022. He had 56 home runs, 134 RBI, and a batting average of 38 in 2022.


In 2021, he also led the NBP with 39 home runs and helped the Tokyo Yakult Swallows win the Japan Series against the Orix Buffaloes in six games.


Murakami won a gold medal with Team Japan in the 2020 Olympics in Japan at Yokohama Stadium and homered in the 2-0 victory against Team USA in the gold medal game. He also won the World Baseball Classic with Japan in 2023 against team USA 3-2 and hit a solo home run for Japan’s first run of the game at loanDepot Park in Miami.


Murakami delivered an opposite-field walk-off two-run double against Team Mexico, winning the game 6-5 for Japan and sending them to the finals against Team USA.


According to the Japan Times, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows have publicly promised to post Murakami for MLB teams after the 2025 season.


International Notes:

Dominican Outfielder Jerar Encarnacion set a Liga Mexicana de Beisbol record with 19 home runs for Guerreros de Oaxaca through May this season; the previous high was 16 home runs by Guerreros de Oaxaca first baseman Kyle Martin in 2022.


Encarnacion, 26,  got the attention of the San Francisco Giants, who offered him a chance to play in the Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats, on May 13, per Z101 Digital reporter Mike Rodriguez.


Pelota de Cubana USA journalist Yusseff Diaz reported on May 14 that Encarnacion hasn’t agreed with the Giants yet and is also considering playing in Asia.


Encarnación has played 26 games with Guerreros de Oaxaca and has 19 home runs, 36 RBI, and a .366 batting average in 93 at-bats. He leads the Mexican League with a slugging percentage of .989 and an OPS of 1.428.


Encarnacion was signed by the Miami Marlins as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017. He spent six seasons in the minors with the Marlins and made his MLB debut with them in 2022.


In the MLB, Encarnacion has three home runs, 14 RBI, two stolen bases, and an OPS of .548 in 77 at-bats. The Marlins released him after the 2023 season.