The NPB All-Star Sport wrapped up this week and the second half of the 2023 season is about to begin again up tomorrow. Let’s meet up with the NPB stars who could also be making their technique to MLB.
For extra detailed profiles and playstyles, please check out the first publish of the collection from April!
Gamers seemingly out there within the 2023 offseason (most rumored or have publicly introduced need to play in MLB)
1. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Orix Buffaloes
Within the final replace, I wrote that Yamamoto had his finest month of the season. The 24-year-old right-hander has maintained his wonderful type by way of June and thru the All-Star break. Outdoors of a June 23 begin in opposition to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks the place he gave up 4 runs in six innings, he’s tossed a minimum of eight innings of one-run ball in every of his final three begins, together with an entire recreation in opposition to the Saitama Seibu Lions on July 8.
On the season, Yamamoto has a 1.74 ERA, a stable 28.7 Okay%, and a formidable 3.3 BB% in 13 begins and 93 ⅓ innings pitched. He’s fourth within the Pacific League in innings regardless of having three fewer begins than the league chief. He’s issued only one stroll in his previous 4 begins, and hitters have a .201 batting common in opposition to him. He was a shock and controversial snub from the preliminary All-Star poll, however was ultimately voted in by way of the “Plus One” runoff voting to earn his fifth consecutive All-Star nod.
MLB groups are ramping up their curiosity in Yamamoto, with scouts of eight groups attending his July eighth begin, per Sports activities Hochi. He additionally ranks second in MLBTR’s latest 2023 free company energy rankings, and as Steve Adams writes, “A contract in extra of $200MM doesn’t appear outlandish if he can stay wholesome and productive.”
2. Shota Imanaga, Yokohama DeNA Baystars
The 29-year-old left-hander has been at his absolute best for the reason that final replace, permitting simply three runs in 32 innings in his final 4 begins — together with a one-run, full recreation in opposition to the Hanshin Tigers on June 23 and a seven-inning, 15-strikeout gem in opposition to the Yomiuri Giants on July 7. He completed June with a 1.41 ERA and has a 0.60 ERA to this point in July.
Imanaga’s ERA is right down to 2.07, which is fourth amongst certified pitchers within the Central League, with a 28.5 Okay% and a minuscule 2.4 BB% in 12 begins and 87 innings pitched. These stats have been adequate for the lefty to get to his second profession All-Star nod. Though he’s nonetheless liable to lengthy balls with 11 homers allowed on the season, he’s in any other case prevented bother. Imanaga’s possibilities of coming to MLB are fairly excessive, as he signed with the U.S.-based company Octagon to assist talks towards a posting settlement final offseason.
3. Yuki Matsui, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
The 27-year-old left-hander completed the primary half with 23 saves, tied for many in NPB. He’s but to surrender a run in eight appearances in July and has been key to the Eagles going 11-3 within the month. The elevated workload is a giant distinction from NPB updates earlier within the season the place Matsui didn’t have as many appearances as a result of Eagles’ poor file.
Matsui has a 0.55 ERA in 34 appearances, with a 36.3 Okay% and a 4.1 BB%. Though he was snubbed from the All-Star Sport, Matsui is proud of the remainder. “I’m grateful [for the increased workload], it’s my job to shut out video games and win so it’s a very good factor,” Matsui mentioned. Matsui has nonetheless not made his plans past 2023 clear, however he’s undoubtedly a reputation to regulate for groups that want a lefty for his or her bullpen.
4. Kona Takahashi, Saitama Seibu Lions
Takahashi has had a tough July on paper, recording a 3.79 ERA in three begins, together with two outings lasting simply 5 innings. He’s bounced again from these outings in his most up-to-date begin on July 16, tossing a four-hit, six-strikeout, full recreation shutout in opposition to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. It was his first shutout since 2020 and the fourth of his profession.
The 26-year-old right-hander’s ERA now sits at 2.25 regardless of the tough begins up to now few months, with a 19.1 Okay% and a 6.8 BB% in 16 begins and 108 innings pitched. Takahashi additionally missed out on the All-Star recreation regardless of his robust efficiency within the first half because of a deep pool of high quality starters within the Pacific League.
Takahashi’s strikeout charge has dropped up to now few weeks, however elevated common fastball velocity and talent to eat innings ought to nonetheless be interesting to MLB groups searching for some beginning pitching assist.
5. Naoyuki Uwasawa, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters
Within the final replace, I wrote that Uwasawa was again to his finest, and ending the season nearer to a 2.50 ERA would assist his possibilities for an MLB contract this offseason. The 29-year-old right-hander adopted up his robust June with stable performances in July, together with eight shutout innings in opposition to the Lions this previous weekend.
His season ERA is right down to 2.87 with a 17.3 Okay% and seven.4 BB%. If you happen to take away his worst begin of the season in opposition to the Lions on April 15 (the place he gave up eight earned runs in 5 ⅓ innings), his ERA goes all the best way right down to 2.31. It’s fairly a exceptional turnaround for Uwasawa contemplating that his ERA was as much as 4.62 on Might 6. He’s third within the Pacific League with 106 ⅔ innings in 15 begins. Uwasawa acquired his second profession All-Star nod, his first since 2021.
Youthful stars to regulate
1. Roki Sasaki, Chiba Lotte Marines
In his final three begins for the reason that final replace, Sasaki has allowed only one run in 22 frames whereas going a minimum of seven innings and fanning a minimum of 10 in each a kind of begins. He additionally matched the file for the quickest NPB pitch at 103 MPH. In his most up-to-date begin, the place he struck out 14 in seven innings, the common velocity on his fastball was at 99 MPH. There aren’t sufficient phrases to explain Sasaki’s dominance within the first half of 2023, as he completed with an NPB-best 1.48 ERA in 12 begins. He had an unfathomable 41 Okay%, 4.7 BB%, and a.151 opponent batting common in 79 innings pitched. It’s onerous to think about Sasaki can enhance on these numbers, however with the mixture of his age at 21 and 2023 being simply his second full season of labor, it’s actually attainable he reaches one other stage. Sasaki nonetheless has room to enhance his in-game stamina and has some remaining bodily projection.
2. Munetaka Murakami, Tokyo Yakult Swallows
Murakami continues to look extra like his Triple Crown-winning self, following up a robust June with just a few stable weeks to complete up the primary half of the season. He’s slashing .306/.352/.612 with 4 homers in July. Murakami completed the primary half of the season slashing .242/.359/.451 with 16 homers and his OPS is lastly above .800 at .809. Regardless of his horrendous stoop to open the season, Murakami nonetheless completed the primary half within the high three in homers and RBI within the Central League. He’s managed to regain a few of his type although the Swallows are lacking key lineup contributors with accidents: together with perennial All-Star Tetsuto Yamada and Yasutaka Shiomi, who has been a .800 OPS hitter since 2020. Murakami remains to be putting out at an alarming 31% charge and has a robust 14.2 BB%. Murakami missed out on the All-Star Sport,
3. Kazuma Okamoto, Yomiuri Giants
Though the 27-year-old nook infielder is slashing a .297/.393/.557 with a .950 OPS, 20 homers, and 51 RBIs (all within the three in all classes within the Central League), Okamoto has cooled off considerably in July, slashing simply .208/.328/.375. The All-Star break couldn’t have come at a greater time for Okamoto, who had simply two hits out of 26 plate appearances in his final six video games to shut the primary half. He was the primary to succeed in the 20-homer mark in NPB on July 7, on a solo homer off of Imanaga, however hasn’t added to his tally since. Regardless of the mini-slump, Okamoto remains to be on tempo for what can be his sixth consecutive 30-homer season.
An fascinating notice is that he has been mashing lefties this season, slashing .355/.463/.656 in 110 plate appearances. If he is ready to proceed to mash lefties, the mixture of Okamoto’s constant energy numbers, stable protection on the corners (two-time Gold Glove winner), and potential for positional versatility (taking reps at left subject this 12 months) must be a compelling package deal for MLB groups trying so as to add a right-handed energy bat.
The next gamers have both expressed their need to play within the large leagues, been rumored by Japanese media, or have drawn curiosity from MLB scouts however have components (age, crew stance on posting system) stopping a possible transfer. I’ve additionally added high performers who could also be of curiosity.
Shosei Togo, right-handed beginning pitcher, Yomiuri Giants; Taisei Ohta, right-handed reliever, Yomiuri Giants; Hiroto Takahashi, right-handed beginning pitcher, Chunichi Dragons; Kaima Taira, right-handed beginning pitcher, Saitama Seibu Lions; Atsuki Yuasa, right-handed reliever, Hanshin Tigers; Shinnosuke Ogasawara, left-handed beginning pitcher, Chunichi Dragons; Shunpeita Yamashita, Orix Buffaloes; Atsuki Taneichi, right-handed starter, Chiba Lotte Marines.