Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball is targeting a June 19 Opening Day. As is the case with the Korea Baseball Organization, the league has plenty of recognizable names for MLB fans to follow as we await the return of baseball in North America. NPB is larger than the KBO (12 teams vs. 10) and has slightly lesser restrictions on foreign players. As such, we’ll split the “names to watch” rundown into two posts — one covering the Japan Pacific League and another still to come on the Japan Central League.
Teams have been ordered based on 2019 records:
Saitama Seibu Lions (80-62-1):
- Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP: You read that right. Dice-K is still chugging along. The now-39-year-old veteran pitched just 5 1/3 innings for the Chunichi Dragons last year due to a shoulder injury that, according to the Japan Times, was caused by an excited fan grabbing/yanking his arm (seriously). Matsuzaka was NPB’s comeback player of the year in 2018 and is returning to the Lions, his original club, for the…