A glimpse into the future of baseball in Asia The Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) returns six years after its inaugural edition in 2017. This time around, it’s expanded to include Australia.
With age and experience restrictions of players born after 1999 or in their third year of professional play, and wild cards limited to those born after 1994, the APBC is a tournament with a clear concept of ‘discovering future resources’.
While the roster may not be as glamorous as the World Baseball Classic (WBC), it’s a chance to see who’s coming up ahead of the Premier 12 in 2024, the WBC in 2026, and the LA Olympics in 2028.
Two Japanese pitchers and a catcher received wild cards. Seibu pitcher Tatsuya Imai, Yakult pitcher Kazuto Taguchi, who also competed in the 2017 tournament, and Hiroshima catcher Shogo Sakakura are the wild cards.
Imai reached double-digit wins (10-5 in 19 games) for the first time this year, six years after his first-team debut. Despite falling short of the 10-inning mark, he posted a 2.30 ERA, his lowest since his debut.
Taguchi was a starter in the last tournament, but this time around, he will pitch out of the bullpen. He moved to the closer’s role in 2019, and this year, for the first time in his career, he served as the closer, posting a 1.86 ERA in 33 saves.
Sakakura is a catcher who has hit double-digit home runs in three straight years, from 2021, when he began to establish himself as a starter, to this year.
As the tournament is designed to find the next generation of national team members, WBC members were excluded as much as possible. Only one player, DeNA infielder Shugo Maki, will play in the APBC after the WBC.
Maki is a slugger who Ibata has already identified as the No. 4 hitter. He played in all 143 games this year, batting .293 with 29 home runs. His 103 RBIs lead the team. He was the only player in all 12 organizations with more than 100 RBIs. “In good times and bad, he doesn’t waver,” Ibata said. That’s the best thing about him,” Ibata said, calling him the centerpiece of the batting order. 굿모닝토토
Some players may seem unfamiliar to Korean eyes. Nippon Ham outfielder Jusei Mannami is a mixed-race player born to a Congolese father and Japanese mother. In his fourth year in the first team, he has improved dramatically in all areas of his offense. After hitting 19 home runs in 151 games over the past three years, he hit 24 in 141 games this year.
Japan also selected Seiji Uebayashi, a mixed-race Japanese-Korean player with a Korean mother and Japanese father, to the team at the last APBC (Uebayashi was released by SoftBank after this season).