Asian baseball players have made their mark in the MLB in recent decades. These stars from the East have brought their accomplished resumes to the biggest stage and some of them have shone under the brightest of lights.
Here are the top Asian baseball players who have made an impact in MLB:
1. Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro Suzuki arrived in 2001 and he was one of the top statistical performers year after year. During his rookie season in Seattle, Ichiro was named as AL MVP after leading the league in batting average at .350, runs at 127 and stolen bases at 56. He also recorded 8 outfield assists that season. Ichiro also recorded at least 200 hits in each of his first 10 MLB seasons. No batter in the history of the league has ever done that. He leads Asians in almost every offensive category in the MLB. In his combined career with the NPB and MLB, Ichiro recorded 17 straight selections as All-Star and Golden Glove winner. He won a total of four MVP awards and nine batting titles.
2. Hideo Nomo
Hideki Nomo started the Asian invasion of the MLB. He burst into the scene in 1995 and immediately, he baffled major league hitters with a unique delivery and his killer splitter. He was named Rookie of the Year after leading the league with 236 strikeouts, 3 shutouts and a batting average against of .182. Nomo and Sandy Koufax are the only pitchers in MLB history to record 200 strikeouts in their first three MLB seasons. Nomo had one less career victory than Chan Ho Park but he was considered as the one who truly opened the door for Asians in the MLB.
3. Hideki Matsui
Known as Godzilla, Hideki Matsui played one decade in the MLB, primarily with the New York Yankees. He is the Asian MLB leader in home runs and RBIs. Matsui had at least 100 RBIs in four out of his first five MLB seasons and was a prominent figure in the middle of the Yankees’ batting order. Matsui was a performer, especially in the clutch. He registered a line of .312/.391/.541 in 56 career postseason games Matsui earned his place in Yankees history by winning MVP honors in the 2009 World Series.
4. Chan Ho Park
Chan Ho Park is the career leader among Asians with 124 wins. He earned them during a 17-year MLB career which was spent mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Park had a 90 mph fastball and a nasty slider that made him one of the best strikeout pitchers during his time. . He finished in the Top 10 in strikeouts in the National League for five straight seasons from 1997-2001. Although his career ERA is 4.36, there is no question that he is the best Korean MLB player ever.
5. Koji Uehara
Koji Uehara became Asia’s best relief pitcher ever during a six-year period. His Strikeout to Bases on Balls ratio of 7.33 is the best of any pitcher in MLB history with at least 100 innings pitched. This right-hander had a career strikeout average of 10.7 K/9 innings and a walk rate of 1.5 BB/9. He was the 2013 ALCS MVP winner and closed out the final game of the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The win made him the 16th player to win the World Series and the World Baseball Classic.
6. Hiroki Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda ranks third among Asians in starts and number of wins. He compiled a total of 79 wins in the MLB in a carer split between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. After retiring from the MLB, he returned to his former NPB team Hiroshima Toyo Carp to finish his baseball career. Kuroda won a bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics while playing for the Japanese National team.
7. Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka signed a 7-year $155M deal with the New York Yankees in 2013, the 5th largest deal given to a pitcher at that time. He is a two time MLB All-Star and has started four Opening Day games for the Yankees, the most Opening Day outings for any Asian pitcher. His current career record is 99-35 with an ERA of 3.74 and a total of 912 strikeouts.
8. Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish is currently a starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. The 32-year-old right-hander was considered as the best Japanese pitcher when he came to the MLB in 2012. He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting and then second in the AL Cy Young race. Yu reached the 500 strikeout mark in fewer innings than any other pitcher in MLB history. He led the AL in strikeouts in 2013 and is a four-time MLB All-Star.
9. Shin-Soo Choo
Shin-Soo Choo is a right fielder for the Texas Rangers. He earned an All-Star selection in 2018 and is the MLB’s active player career leader for being hit by a pitch. In 2018, he reached base safely in 52 straight games which are the longest streak in Texas Rangers history.
10. Hisashi Iwakuma
Hisashi Iwakuma pitched for the Seattle Mariners from 2012-17. He was named as an All-Star in 2013 and finished third in the AL Cy Young balloting that same season. In 2015, he joined Hideo Nomo as the only Japanese pitchers to throw a no-hitter. He finished his MLB career with a record of 63-39 with an ERA of 3.42 and a WHIP of 1.17.