The Japanese baseball team has been able to fill all three outfield positions with major league players. Japanese-American outfielder Lars Nuthba (26) will represent Japan at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) held in March. He was put on the reserve list at the end of last year, and his joining was confirmed two months before the tournament. On the 4th, the affiliated team, the St. Louis Cardinals, finally allowed them to participate.
Nutba was born to a Dutch-American father and a Japanese mother. He is an American national born in Los Angeles, USA, but according to the WBC participation rules, he decided to compete for his mother’s home country, Japan.
Nutba, a right-handed left-hander, was selected by St. Louis with the eighth pick in the 2018 draft. He made his major league debut in June of 2021 after going through minor league teams in St. Louis. He made his first appearance as a 9-left fielder before the Detroit Tigers. In his first year, he played in 58 games and was recognized as a possibility, batting .
Last year, he played 108 games, mainly in right field, posting .228 (66 hits in 290 at-bats), 14 homers and 40 RBIs. His first year OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) was .739, which he raised to .788 in his second season.
There are three outfielders belonging to major league clubs, including Seiya Suzuki (29, Chicago Cubs), Masataka Yoshida (29, Boston Red Sox), 토토 and Nutba, who have already confirmed their participation.
Suzuki, who spent his first year in the major leagues last year, went .262 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs. It is evaluated that he has settled down smoothly. Yoshida, who transferred this winter, posted a .335, 21 homers, and 88 RBIs with the Orix Buffaloes last year.
If Yoshida plays left field, there is a high possibility that Nutba will play center field and Suzuki will play right field. As a major league player, he was able to build a strong outfield. Yoshida and Suzuki played an active role as central hitters for the Japanese national team during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
According to Japanese media, Nutba participated in the spring camp of his team and joined before the group stage match in the first round in early March. It is said that they are adjusting the schedule to participate in the evaluation match with the Hanshin Tigers, which will be held on March 6, right before the tournament.
Japan national team coach Hideki Kuriyama opened the door for the first championship in 14 years. He said that he listed and looked at 6 or 7 players of Japanese origin in the major leagues. Stephen Kwan (26), left-handed outfielder of the Cleveland Giants, was also mentioned as a potential candidate, but it is known that he failed to join the team because he did not meet the qualifications.
Coach Kuriyama expects the Japanese Major Leaguer to play an important role in the match against strong teams such as the United States and the Dominican Republic after the semifinals. The Japanese national team consisted of only Japanese players in all of the 1st to 4th tournaments.