Shohei Ohtani (Japan's Steve Nebraska) and other players to look for during the Japan All-Star Series
Shohei Ohtani and others to look for on Japan roster
Major League Baseball's Japan All-Star Series begins on Tuesday and -- while we're fairly certain you're familiar with guys like Robinson Cano and Yasiel Puig -- we thought it would be a good idea to get to know the guys in the other dugout.
On Tuesday, the MLB stars will play an exhibition against a team comprised of players from NPB's Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants. Then, they'll play a five-game series against the Japan All-Star Series Samurai team, featuring players from across all of NPB's franchises. Here's a look at some of the incredible talent that'll be put on display:
In America, we've got pitchers ... and we've got hitters. In Japan, they've got Shohei Ohtani. The 20-year-old phenom is basically the real-life equivalent of Steve Nebraska. Ohtani went 11-4 with a 2.61 ERA and 179 strikeouts over 155 1/3 innings for NPB's Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2014. He also managed to match NPB's record for fastest pitch as he was clocked at 162 km/h (or 101 mph).
Oh, and he also hit .274 with 10 home runs and 17 doubles. And he drew 21 walks, if that's your kinda thing.
If you watched the 2013 World Baseball Classic, then you know Shinnosuke Abe. He's one of the greatest catchers in the history of Japanese baseball. Abe hit .340 and belted 27 homers for the Yomiuri Giants en route to a Japan Series title. Then he added to his own legend by launching two homers in the same inning during a WBC qualifying game against the Netherlands.
Speaking of the World Baseball Classic, you might remember outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa as one of the top producers for Japan's team. In the 2013 WBC, Uchikawa went 8-for-23 with a triple and a homer.
Uchikawa's got a .314 career average over in Japan, thanks in large part to a .378 campaign in 2008. For reference, the last MLB player to hit .378 or better was Larry Walker in 1999.
Then there's Nobuhiro Matsuda. Matsuda is a lifetime .276 hitter, but is coming off a .301 showing last season. He put his power on display during the 2013 baseball classic ...
... but his speed also poses a great threat. He's stolen 85 bases over the last five seasons and has accumulated 42 triples over nine seasons in Japan. Only four active MLB players have hit more triples in fewer seasons.
But if speed and power are what you're looking for, you'll want to keep an eye out for Yoshio Itoi. The 33-year-old outfielder swiped two bags during the last WBC and has taken at least 20 in each of his six full seasons in Pacific League play. He's coming off his fifth consecutive 150-hit season in which he set career bests in hits, HR, BA, OBP and SLG.
MLB Network will broadcast all seven games of the Japan All-Star Series and MLB.TV subscribers will be able to watch every game as well. The first exhibition matchup is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. E.T.