Ariel Martinez of Cuba celebrates hitting a single in the second 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, three foreign players have been named to the NPB All-Star Game Series for the Pacific 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.
Ariel Martinez – C, Hokkaido Nippon Ham-Fighters
Martinez, 27, born in Matanzas, Cuba is playing in his sixth season in Nippon Professional Baseball after playing for the Chunichi Dragons from 2018-22, before signing a contract with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham-Fighters on December 21, 2022.
Martinez is back at the catcher position after playing outfield and first base last season, and has caught in 24 games with 133 putouts in 149 chances and just two errors defensively, coordinating the Ham-Fighters pitching staff and getting occasional time at first base in 13 games.
This season, Martinez has played in 65 games with 230 plate appearances and is batting .258 with an OPS of .811, 51 hits, nine doubles, 10 home runs, 29 RBI, and 23 walks, earning his first NPB all-star selection.
In the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Martinez handled the Cuba pitching staff, splitting time with current free agent Major League catcher Lorenzo Quintana and Serie Nacional Matanzas catcher Andrys Perez, helping Cuba reach the semifinals in Miami at loanDepot Park in Miami where they to the United States 14-2.
Martinez’s offensive numbers during the 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball season are better than his performance for Cuba, where he hit .083 in four games with 12 at-bats, recording one hit, walking once, and striking out four times in the World Baseball Classic.
Last season, Martinez played in 82 games with 286 plate appearances, batting .276 and recording 86 hits, 18 doubles, eight home runs, 24 RBI, and 23 walks.
In four seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, Martinez has played in 234 games with 719 plate appearances, batting .269 with 169 hits, 30 doubles, 22 home runs, 73 RBI, and 70 walks.
Luis Perdomo – RP, Chiba Lotte Marines
Perdomo, born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is in his first season playing in Japan after playing six seasons in the Major Leagues.
In his first season with Lotte, Perdomo has appeared in 34 games out of the bullpen with a 1-1 record, throwing 32.1 innings and allowing 29 hits, one home run, six walks, and striking out 23 batters with a 1.082 WHIP, helping the Marines reach second place in the Pacific League at 42-31-4, two and a half games back of the first place Orix Buffaloes at 48-32-2.
Last season, Perdomo was with the Milwaukee Brewers after spending his first five seasons in the big leagues with the San Diego Padres. It was his first season back after missing all of 2021 with Tommy John Surgery.
Perdomo split his time between Triple-A Nashville and the Brewers in 2022.
In Triple-A Nashville, he appeared in 24 games starting in three games, throwing 30.1 innings with a 2.67 ERA and allowing 21 hits, two home runs, four walks, and striking out 33 with a 0.824 WHIP and four saves.
With the Brewers, Perdomo went 3-0 in 14 games with a 3.80 ERA, throwing 23.2 innings and allowing 24 hits, four home runs, walking three, and striking out 12 with a 1.141 WHIP.
He signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines on January 13, 2023 for a $1.3 million guaranteed contract and incentives that can boost the total to $1.8 million.
In six seasons at the Major League level, Perdomo’s has a lifetime 5.12 ERA with a 23-31 overall record in 147 games, throwing 468 innings and allowing 537 hits, 57 home runs, 164 walks, and striking out 34.
Roberto Osuna – RP, Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks
Osuna, 28, born in Sinaloa, Mexico, is playing in his second season in Nippon Professional Baseball after playing for the Chiba Lotte Marines last season.
This season, Osuna is 2-0 with 16 saves, throwing 26 innings in 26 appearances with a 0.35 ERA and allowing 11 hits, one earned run, one home run, one walk, and striking 23, good for a 0.462 WHIP. The SoftBank Hawks are in third place in the Pacific League at 43-36-2, four-and-a-half games behind the first place Orix Buffaloes at 48-32-2.
Osuna signed with Softbank during last offseason on December 8, 2022.
Osuna started in Mexico for Diablos del Rojos Mexico of Liga Mexicana de Beisbol before signing with the Chiba Lotte Marines on June 9, 2022. Osuna came out of the bullpen for 12 games, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA and throwing 13.1 innings with six saves, allowing six hits, two earned runs, two home runs, two walks, striking out 15 before going to Japan.
With the Chiba Lotte Marines, Osuna went 4-1 with a 0.91 ERA in 29 games out of the bullpen, earning 10 saves and throwing 29.2 innings while allowing 15 hits, three earned runs, one home run, three walks, and striking out 32.
Osuna played two seasons in Mexico with Diablos Rojos del Mexico, going 5-0 with a 1.18 ERA and appearing in 36 games with 18 saves, throwing 38 innings and allowing 23 hits, four home runs, five walks, and 42 strikeouts with a 0.737 WHIP.
Osuna was suspended during the 2018 season on June 22 for 75 games after being placed on administrative leave by commissioner Rob Manfred Major League Baseball for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.
Osuna’s big league career spanned six seasons, three with Houston and three with Toronto, posting a career mark of 14-18 with a 2.74 ERA, striking out 348 batters and earning 155 saves. He was the American League saves leader in 2019 with 38.
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 (max three pitchers or fielders)
Correction: 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.