By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Jan. 19, 2023
Samurai Japan, the current No. 1 in the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s World Baseball Rankings, announced their 30-man roster for the World Baseball Classic, Yuri Kurasawa of Japanball.com reported Monday.
Japan has produced back-to-back champions in recent WBSC senior events, winning the gold medal in the 2019 Premier 12, when they beat South Korea in the Tokyo Dome for the title, and at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, beating the United States at Yokohama Stadium.
Japan will retain a similar roster format for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, and hope to win the World Baseball Classic for a third time after winning the 2006 and 2009 editions.
Japan has filled its roster with players from Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball for the expanded 20-team field in 2023.
This past November, Japan played two games against Australia in an exhibition series at the Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, Hokkaido, former Home of NPB’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, which closed the ballpark for baseball during the end of the 2022 regular season. Japan World Baseball Classic manager Hideki Kuriyama evaluated the talent of Japan during the two games against Australia, where Japan won both games. Prior to the series against Australia, Samurai Japan played two exhibition games in the Tokyo Dome against NPB teams, beating the Nippon-Ham Fighters 5-4 and the Yomiuri Giants 8-4.
Top players to watch during the World Baseball Classic for Japan include Munetaka Murakami, the 2022 NPB home run leader with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. The NPB’s Chiba Lotte Marines are sending 21-year old starting pitcher Roki Sasaki, who threw a perfect game with 19 strikeouts against the Orix Buffaloes and then continued onto his next start against the Nippon Ham-Fighters, throwing 17 consecutive perfect innings against the during the month of April. Sasaki ended his season with a 9-4 record, pitching 129.1 innings with 173 strikeouts, and a 2.02 ERA during the 2022 season.
Japan will also have four Major Leaguers on their listed roster: Shoei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Lars Nootbar, and Seiya Suzuki.
Japan 30-man Roster For the 2023 World Baseball Classic
Yu Darvish (San Diego Padres)
Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes)
Roki Sasaki (Lotte Marines)
Shosei Togo (Yomiuri Giants)
Taisei Ota (Yomiuri Giants)
Atsuki Yuasa (Hanshin Tigers)
Ryoji Kuribayashi (Hiroshima Carp)
Shota Imanaga (DeNA Baystars)
Hiroya Miyagi (Orix Buffaloes)
Keiji Takahashi (Yakult Swallows)
Hiromi Itoh (Nippon-Ham Fighters)
Yuki Matsui (Rakuten Golden Eagles)
Yuki Udagawa (Orix Buffaloes)
Takuya Kai (SoftBank Hawks)
Yuhei Nakamura (Yakult Swallows)
Shugo Maki (DeNA Baystars)
Tetsuto Yamada (Yakult Swallows)
Sosuke Genda (Seibu Lions)
Munetaka Murakami (Yakult Swallows)
Masataka Yoshida (Boston Red Sox)
Lars Nootbaar (St. Louis Cardinals)
Seiya Suzuki (Chicago Cubs)
Censure Kondo (SoftBank Hawks)
Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels)
Ukyo Shuta (SoftBank Hawks)