20 Best Asian Players In World Baseball Classic

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WBC Trophy

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Gary A. Vasquez- USA TODAY Sports

The World Baseball Classic is underway and has already provided some exciting moments for the world to behold. Baseball is front and center to nearly the entire globe eight years after the tournament kicked off.

For many nations, the WBC is an opportunity to show how the sport has grown in thier countries. It is also a chance for the players to try to make a name for themselves while possibly grabbing some Major League Baseball attention.

While baseball has always been a big sport for the United States and several Caribbean nations, it is also the main sport for countries in the Far East such as two-time WBC champion Japan. South Korea and Chinese Taipei--or Taiwan--have always been competitive in international play, but China is starting to emerge as a strong nation looking to build upon its baseball program. While they only managed to win one game, that one victory is a major accomplishment and a boost to the baseball-loving morale in China.

All four Asian nations have participated in the first round in Pool A and B with Japan and Chinese Taipei being the countries to advance. A difficult early elimination for South Korea and an unsurprising one for China make for the other half heading home.

Regardless of who is in and who is out, the following slides will give a brief summary of the best players the Far East has to offer.

-Michael Augustine is a writer for Rant Sports covering the Saint Louis Cardinals. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your circles on Google Plus

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Kenta Maeda- RHP Japan

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KTODO

While not the ace of the staff, Maeda is the most durable. Maeda has an outstanding out pitch slider but his velocity is lacking. He's off to a good start with a win and an 0.40 WHIP

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Nobuhiro Matsuda- 3B Japan

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Koji Wantanabe- Getty Images

29 year old Matsuda plays good defense and might be the best pure hitter for Japan.  Currently hitting .300 with a .364 OBP.

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Masahiro Tanaka- RHP Japan

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Mark J. Rebilas- USA TODAY Sports

Tanaka is 75-35 with a 2.50 ERA over six years in Japan.  Tanaka has a good one-two combo of a plus fastball and slider.  He's pitched four innings with a 1.75 WHIP through the first round.

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Yoshio Itoi- OF Japan

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Associated Press

Itoi is making a lot happen offensively for team Japan.  Through the first round, he's hitting .300 with an  .817 OPS and leads the team with two stolen bases and four RBIs.

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Tetsuya Utsumi- LHP Japan

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Christopher Hanewinckel- USA TODAY Sports

Utsumi could be the most valuable pitcher for Japan.  He mixes pitches well and has an ERA of 1.85 the past two seasons.  He has two strikeouts over 1.2 innings thus far in relief.

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Toshiya Sugiuchi- LHP Japan

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Christopher Hanewinckel- USA TODAY Sports

Sugiuchi is a Nippon League veteran and second oldest on team Japan.   He's not seen much action thus far only throwing two innings with a WHIP of 1.50.

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Jen-Ho Tseng- RHP Chinese Taipei

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International Baseball Federation

The imposing 19-year-old and rising Far East star has very strong stuff but might be suffering from some early nerves as he's currently holding a WHIP of 6.00 in 0.1 innings pitched.

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Yang Dai-Kang- OF Chinese Taipei

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Chung Sung-Jun- Getty Images

Yang is the best hitter on the squad and is demonstrating it with a .333 average, a .940 OPS, and one of the teams two home runs.

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Yang Yao-HSun- LHP Chinese Taipei

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Wang Min-Wei- Taipei Times

One of the team veterans, lefty Yao-Hsun has one no decision start with a 2.45 ERA and a good 1.09 WHIP.

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Cheng-Min Peng- 1B Chinese Taipei

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Havana Times

Peng only has a .200 batting average but excels at working the count and finding the outfield gaps from time to time.

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Chih-Sheng Lin- SS Chinese Taipei

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Chung Sung-Jun- Getty Images

The athletic Lin leads all regulars with a .417 OBP but is a bit of a wild swinger.  Known more for his defense than his offense.

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Wei-Lun Pan- LHP Chinese Taipei

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Maxx Wolfson- Getty Images

The lefty Pan has put in the second most innings of work so far and has been an outstanding reliever.  He won't blow hitters away but gets key groundouts as a pitch to contact guy.

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Chien Ming Wang- RHP Chinese Taipei

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Joy R. Absalon- USA TODAY Sports

Most of you are aware of Wang with his brief but stellar career with the New York Yankees and stint with the Washington Nationals.  Wang is looking to make a comeback from unfortunate injuries and has dominated when he pitches thus far.

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Yoon Suk-Min- RHP South Korea

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Gary A. Vasquez- USA TODAY Sports

Played on the Korean team that was the runner up in the 2009 WBC as well as the gold medal-winning Olympic squad.  Yoon was beaten up in Korea's only loss in the first round.

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Chong Tae-Hyon- RHP South Korea

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Pichi Chuang- REUTERS

Chong was called upon situationally for Korea pitching brilliantly in 1.1 innings of relief.  Had Korea advanced, he'd have been an asset in late innings.

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Kim Hyun Soo- OF South Korea

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Kirby Lee- USA TODAY Sports

Kim lead off for Korea but never got much going offensively like he was expected, leading the team with four strike outs.  Korea could have used his speed to put across some runs.

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Lee Dae-Ho- 1B South Korea

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Gray A Sanchez- USA TODAY Sports

Lee lead the team with five hits and could have been a productive RBI man for Korea if they only had some more base runners.  Lee is the best overall hitter on team Korea.

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Noh Kyung-eun- RHP South Korea

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Yonhap News

Noh was expected to set up for closer Seungwan Oh but was too wild and blew some games.  Despite that, Noh struck out five in three innings pitched.

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Lee Seung-Yuop- 1B South Korea

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Associated Press

Seung-Yuop lead the way in the first round for Korea and was a great one-two punch with Lee Dae-Ho.  He lead the team with a 1.100 OPS and was second to Lee in average hitting .400.

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Tao Bu- RHP China

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Koji Wantanabe- Getty Images

China didn't have much going for them in this year's WBC but their star is/was lefty Bu. Bu set the Chinese up for their inspired lone victory of the tournament over team Brazil.  Bu pitched a terrific five innings allowing one run on two hits.

 

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