The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are set to be the most well-represented NPB team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic after the final rosters for the tournament were revealed Wednesday in the United States.
The Hawks will send six players to the tournament, which begins March 6, in Seoul (Japan begins play at Tokyo Dome on March 7), and concludes March 22 in Los Angeles.
Hawks pitchers Kodai Senga and Shota Takeda (a late replacement for injured Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters ace Shohei Otani) will represent Japan alongside infielder Nobuhiro Matsuda and outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa. Rick van den Hurk will pitch for the Netherlands, while hurler Robert Suarez was named to Team Venezuela.
Some speculated sending a large number of players to the first tournament in 2006 contributed to a down season by the defending Japan Series champion Chiba Lotte Marines that year, after the Marines slumped to a fourth-place finish. The Yomiuri Giants, however, suffered no adverse effects in 2013, when the club sent eight players (seven Japanese and Canadian Scott Mathieson) to the WBC and still reached the Japan Series.
The Hawks are one of four NPB teams sending at least four players to the event this year.
The reigning Pacific League and Japan Series champion Fighters have five participating. Pitchers Hirotoshi Masui and Naoki Miyanishi, catcher Shota Ono and infielder Sho Nakata are on Samurai Japan, while Brandon Laird will suit up for Mexico.
The Giants will also send five, with Samurai Japan taking ace Tomoyuki Sugano, catcher Seiji Kobayashi and shortstop Hayato Sakamoto. Second baseman Luis Cruz will play for Mexico, for manager Edgar Gonzalez, a former Yomiuri second baseman, and reliever Mathieson will pitch for Canada.
The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles will be represented by four players, Japanese pitchers Yuki Matsui and Takahiro Norimoto, catcher Motohiro Shima and Mexican slugger Japhet Amador.
Among other teams, the reigning Central League champion Hiroshima Carp will send three players to the WBC, as will the Seibu Lions, and Tokyo Yakult Swallows. The Chunichi Dragons and Chiba Lotte Marines will be represented by a pair of players each, and the Orix Buffaloes and Yokohama BayStars by one apiece.
Other than Samurai Japan itself, the Mexicans have the most NPB players with three. The Netherlands and Taiwan each have a pair, while Canada and Venezuela both have one. Mathieson is the only active NPBer on the Canadian team, but will play with former NPB players in Chris Leroux (Yakult, 2013), Dustin Molleken (Fighters 2012-2013) and Jamie Romak (BayStars 2016).
Japan begins the tournament in Pool B with Australia, China and Cuba. Among a few of the familiar NPB names returning to Tokyo Dome for the first round are Australians Travis Blackley (Rakuten, 2014), Mitch Dening (Yakult, 2015) and Chirs Oxspring (Hanshin, 2006). Cuba’s Frederich Cepeda, a Giant in 2014 and ’15, will play at his former home stadium, while teammate Alfredo Despaigne (Lotte, 2014-16), will also return to Japan in the first round.
The Detroit Tigers are the most well-represented MLB franchise, with 15 players (eight from the 40-man roster) from the organization headed to the Classic according to MLB.com. The Detroit contingent is the second-largest by an MLB team in the WBC’s history (this being the fourth edition). The New York Mets organization sent 16 players to the 2009 WBC.
Japan’s lone MLB player is outfielder Norichika Aoki, from the Houston Astros.
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