Five Foreign Players Named to Central League Roster For NPB All-Star Series

Raidel Martinez of Cuba throws in the ninth inning during the World Baseball Classic quarterfinal between Australia and Cuba at Tokyo Dome on March 15, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

The number of foreign players in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan has rapidly grown over the past 20 years, as the league relaxed the limit on the number of foreign players on team rosters.

This year, a total of 74 foreign players were on the active rosters of NPB teams at the start of the 2023 regular season in both the Pacific League and Central League. 

In NPB, only four foreign players are allowed on the 25-man game roster, with a maximum of three position players or three pitchers. There cannot be four position players or four pitchers rostered at one time according to JapaneseBaseball.com. 

This year, five foreign players have been named to the NPB All-Star Game Series for the Central League. The NPB’s two All-Star Games are scheduled for July 19 and July 20. This is the 73rd NPB All-Star Game Series in the history of the league. 

The first game of the All-Star Game Series between the Pacific League and Central League will be played at the Vantelin Nagoya Dome in Nagoya, Japan, home of the Central League Chunichi Dragons on July 19 at 5:30 a.m. EDT. The second game of the All-Star Game Series will be played at Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium in Hiroshima, Japan, home of the Central League Hiroshima Carp on July 20 at 5:30 a.m. EDT. 

NPB Foreign Player Central League List 2023 All-Star Tracker 

Raidel Martinez – RP, Chunichi Dragons 
Dragons Closer Raidel Martinez, 26, was born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba and has played in Nippon Professional Baseball for six seasons with the Chunichi Dragons. His fastball tops out at 100 mph, and he also throws a forkball reaching 93 mph with effective low crease break to right handed hitters as a right handed flame thrower. 

Martinez was selected to his first All-Star Game last season as he went 4-3 facing 213 hitters in 56 games throwing 55.2 innings recording a 0.97 ERA with 39 saves allowing 30 hits, two home runs, six total earned runs, 12 walks, and striking out 62. 

This season, Martinez is 1-1 with his ERA astonishingly at 0.00 facing 111 batters throwing 29 innings with 21 saves allowing 22 hits, no home runs, walking two batters, and striking out 43. 

Martinez’s lifetime stats in NPB at 10-15 with a 1.91 ERA eclipsing 112 saves, throwing 235 innings allowing 164 hits, 11 home runs, walking 58, and striking out 275 batters. Martinez has not given up a run in 38 consecutive appearances. The last time he gave up a run was on September 9, 2022 against their Central League rival the Yomiuri Giants. 

Cy Sneed – SP, Tokyo Yakult Swallows
Sneed, 30, born in Elko, Nevada was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the third round of the 2014 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft out of Dallas Baptist University and has been selected to his first All-Star Game since coming to NPB in 2021. 

Sneed played two seasons in Major League Baseball with the Houston Astros in 2019 and 2020 after playing five seasons progressing through the minors. 

Sneed was unspectacular with the Astros, recording a 5.59 ERA in 26 appearances over two seasons out of the bullpen, throwing 38.2 innings and allowing 48 hits, eight home runs, walking 15 batters, and striking out four. He requested an unconditional release from the Astros on December 2, 2020, so that he could sign with the Swallows. 

In his first season with the Swallows, Sneed helped the franchise win their sixth Japan Series Championship, beating the Orix Buffaloes in six games as he went 6-2 with a 3.41 ERA over 13 games, throwing 68.2 innings and allowing 60 hits, nine home runs, walking 23 and striking out 69. Last season, Sneed posted a 3.54 ERA in 23 games, throwing 132.1 innings and allowing 140 hits, 17 home runs, 26 walks, and 96 strikeouts with a 1.254 WHIP. 

This season, Sneed is 5-5 through 14 starts with a 3.43 ERA, throwing 81.1 innings and allowing 86 hits, 10 home runs, 23 walks, and 69 strikeouts, including a complete game shutout against the Chunichi Dragons where he allowed six hits, one walk and struck out five batters facing 32 batters on June 23. 

Trevor Bauer – SP, Yokohama DeNA Baystars
In Bauer’s first season in Nippon Professional Baseball, he was selected as an All-Star.

He signed an incentive-laden one-year $4 million contract with the Baystars on March 13, 2023 after playing 10 seasons in Major League Baseball. 

Bauer has been toying with Japanese hitters quite successfully after missing all of the 2022 season after being placed on administrative leave from Major League Baseball on July 2, 2021, for an internal investigation into sexual assault allegations that were made against him. 

On December 22, 2022, Bauer’s suspension was reduced from 324 games to 194 games. Bauer was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers and no other MLB club was interested in his services. 

In Bauer’s first season in Japan, he has started in 11 games, posting a 3.67 ERA with a 6-2 record throwing 73.2 innings with two complete games, allowing 33 hits, 12 home runs, walking 19, and striking out 81 with a 1.222 WHIP. He was named the NPB Most Valuable Player for the month of June. 

Bauer pitched a complete game at home against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on July 6, throwing 128 pitches and allowing two earned runs, four hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts while facing 34 batters. In his last start on July 12 on the road against the Hanshin Tigers, he threw 7.1 innings, allowing four earned runs, six hits, with a walk and five strikeouts, earning a no-decision. 

Sheldon Neuse – OF, Hanshin Tigers
Neuse, 28, from Fort Worth, Texas, is playing in his seventh professional season and was selected to the NPB All-star game in his first season in Japan, where he’s hitting .237 through 77 games with 318 plate appearances, recording 69 hits, six doubles, five home runs, 30 RBI, and 22 walks with a .609 OPS. 

Neuse was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft in the second round and played three Major League seasons. 

Neuse played four seasons in Triple-A starting off with the first season in 2018 in Nashville, 2019 and 2022 in Las Vegas and Oklahoma City in 2021 after going back and forth between the minors and the big leagues. In four seasons at the Triple-A level, Neuse hit .299 playing in 364 games with 1,159 plate appearances recording 424 hits, 76 doubles, nine triples, 50 home runs, 233 RBI, and walking 120 times. 

He played two seasons with the Oakland Athletics in 2019 and 2022 and one season for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021. In three Major League seasons, Neuse hit .212, playing in 147 games with 420 plate appearances, recording 83 hits, seven home runs, 37 RBI, and 25 walks. 

The Hanshin Tigers signed Neuse on November 19, 2022, and he helped them reach first place at the end of the first half of the 2023 season at 45-33-3, two games in front of the second place Yokohama DeNA Baystars at 43-35-2. 

Nik Turley – SP, Hiroshima Carp
Turley, 33, born in La Canada, California, is playing in his 15th professional season and second season in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Hiroshima Carp. 

Turley was drafted out of high school and signed to the New York Yankees after being selected in the 50th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft. Turley played for the Yankees organization in the minor leagues for seven seasons before the San Francisco Giants signed him as a minor-league free agent on December 5, 2014. He made several more stops in his professional career, including a stint with the Boston Red Sox in Double-A Portland in 2016, and with the Minnesota Twins organization in 2017, splitting time between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester before making his Major League debut on June 11, 2017. 

On November 5, 2017, Turley was claimed off of waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and shortly after was suspended for 80 games at the beginning of the 2018 regular season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Shortly after serving his suspension, he landed on the 60-day Injured List with a left elbow strain. 

Turley was assigned to extended spring training from the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians at the beginning of the 2019 regular season, but was shut down by the Pirates and missed the whole 2019 season following Tommy John surgery. 

In 2020, Turley made the 30-man roster for the Pirates and started in three games, going 0-3 and recording a 4.98 ERA, throwing 21.2 innings in 25 appearances and allowing 13 hits, one home run, walking 11, and striking out 20. 

During the 2021 regular season, Turley played with the Chicago White Sox organization after he was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics on March 21, 2021, spending the season at Triple-A Charlotte before electing free agency. He signed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp on November 9, 2021. 

Last season, Turley went 2-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 45 appearances, throwing 37.2 innings and allowing 26 hits, seven home runs, walking 16, and striking out 32 with a 1.115 WHIP. 

This season, Turley has helped the Carp reach third place in the Central League at 44-38, where they are three games back of the first place Hanshin Tigers (45-38-3). Turley has posted a 4-0 record out of the bullpen, appearing in 33 games with a 2.05 ERA and throwing 30.2 innings while allowing 31 hits, one home run, 10 walks, and 29 strikeouts with a 1.337 WHIP. 

How to Stream NPB Games From the Regular Season Through the Japan Series 

Bwintv.net is a Korean language streaming website that will show Nippon Professional Baseball games throughout the 2023 regular season. Use Google Translate or Google Chrome to translate the website and make it easier to watch the games.  Bwintv.net is a free site and you do not need to login to watch.  

NPB Foreign Player Limit From 1951-Present 
1951: No limit
1952-1954: Three on the active roster
1955-1962: Three in the organization
1963-1965: Three, including manager and coaches
1966-1980: Two in the organization
1981-1993: Three in the organization, two on the active roster
1994-1995: Three in the organization, three on the active roster, only two position players on the field
1996-1997: No organizational limit, three on the active roster, only two position players on the field
1998-2001: No organizational limit, four on the active roster (two position players and two pitchers)
2002-present: No organizational limit, four on the active roster (maximum three pitchers or fielders)

Corrections: An earlier version of this story stated that Nik Turley played eight seasons in the minor leagues with the New York Yankees organization. He played seven seasons in the Yankees organization before signing with the San Francisco Giants organization as a minor league free agent.

A previous version of this story stated that there were 68 foreign players in NPB this season. Further research revealed that there are 74, and the story has been corrected to reflect that number.

A previous version of this story listed the stadium in Nagoya as the Valentin Nagoya Dome. It is the Vantelin Nagoya Dome, and the story has been changed to reflect the correct name.

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