WBSC Premier12 stars set to impact NPB Japan Series

WBSC Premier12 stars set to impact NPB Japan Series
The final series of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) 2020 season opens on 21 November at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, and will feature many WBSC alumni.

Nippon Professional Baseball's upcoming Japan Series will showcase national team talent, including WBSC Premier12 alumni from the 2015 and 2019 editions.

The Yomiuri Tokyo Giants and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks recently announced their 40-men rosters for the Japan Series, which will open at Osaka's Kyocera Dome on Saturday, 21 November. The game roster will be down to 26 players.

The Hawks won't have top starting pitcher Nao Higashihama. Their staff counts on Premier12 alumni such as Shota Takeda, who started two games for Samurai Japan in 2015, and reliever Livan Moinelo, who was on Cuba's roster in 2019. Rick Van den Hurk played for the Netherlands National Team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and was a Miami Marlin of Major League Baseball (MLB) -- he also won the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) Korean Series with the Samsung Lions.

Catcher Kai Takuya was on the Samurai Japan roster that won the WBSC Premier12 2019. Third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda played for Japan in both the 2015 and the 2019 Premier12.

Manager Kimiyasu Kudo will count on the strength of his line-up. Speedster Ukyo Shuto, who recently broke the NPB record for consecutive games with a stolen base, will become a threat once on base, as he showed in the Premier12 2019.

Yurisbel Gracial, who was on Cuba's roster at the Premier12 2019, earned MVP honours during the Japan Series 2019.

More power will be provided by home run king Wladimir Balentien, a former MLB and KBO player who played for the Dutch National Team at the 2015 Premier12. Two more big bats that have international experience are on the team: Akira Nakamura, who went 11-for-15 for Japan during the inaugural Premier12, and Cuban slugger Alfredo Despaigne, a veteran who represented Cuba in the Olympics and the WBSC Premier12.

The HAWKS full roster

The manager of the Giants Tatsunori Hara is no stranger to international baseball. He managed Samurai Japan to a World Baseball Classic title in 2009.

His roster features WBSC Premier12 alumni such as ace pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano, catcher Ginjiro Sumitani, outfielder Yoshihiro Maru and star shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who recently celebrated 2,000 career-hits.

Both Giants' import pitchers are Dominicans and former MLB players. Robby De La Rosa played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Angel Sanchez played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and for the KBO SK Wyverns.

The GIANTS complete roster

After the opener, the Kyocera Dome will host Game 2 on 22 November. The series will then move to the PayPay Dome in Fukuoka for Games 3, 4 and eventual Game 5 (24, 25, 26 November). Games 6 and 7, if necessary, are scheduled for 28 and 29 November at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka.

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