Imagining Japan's Olympic Baseball Dream Team

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 22: Starting pitcher Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers visits with right fielder Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners during batting practice prior to the game at Safeco Field on May 22, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Author's Note: Imagine a world in which MLB allows its greatest stars to leave the American stage for a month to represent their respective countries on the world stage at the London Olympics. This post is part of a series outlining what the top national team rosters would look like in such a ridiculous, and admittedly fun, scenario.)

TEAM JAPAN

Batting Order:

1. Norichika Aoki (CF)

2. Ichiro Suzuki (RF)

3. Takeya Nakamura (1B)

4. Shuichi Murata (DH)

5. Shinnosuke Abe (C)

6. Hiroyuki Nakajima (3B)

7. Kosuke Fukudome (LF)

8. Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B)

9. Munenori Kawasaki (SS)

QUICK THOUGHT: As the careers of respective players like Ichiro, Fukudome, Akinori Iwamura, Kenji Johjima and Hideki Matsui, among other players familiar in the U.S., wind down, this lineup fills up with relative unknowns. Guys like Murata, Abe and Nakamura have been stars in Japan for years, though.

Bench

C: Kenji Johjima

IF: Hayato Sakamoto

IF: Nobuhiro Matsuda

OF: Seiichi Uchikawa

QUICK THOUGHT: The only name here that's presumably familiar to Americans would be Johjima, but there's a bunch of talent. Uchikawa is one of the top hitters in the PCL, and Sakamoto is regarded as a rising star at shortstop for the Yomiuri Giants.

Starting Rotation

1. Yu Darvish

2. Hiroki Kuroda

3. Hisashi Iwakuma

4. Masahiro Tanaka

5. Daisuke Matsuzaka

QUICK THOUGHT: Darvish gives the team an ace and Kuroda is a strong No. 2, but the rest of the rotation is full of question marks. Iwakuma has had mixed results in the majors with Seattle, Tanaka is talented but young and Matsuzaka is a flat out wild card at this point, but it's an interesting bunch.

Bullpen

Ryota Igarashi, Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito, Junichi Tazawa, Hisanori Takahashi, Kyuji Fujikawa, Koji Uehara

QUICK THOUGHT: The mix here is intriguing, as there are quality MLB guys (Uehara, Tazawa), quality PCL guys (Fujikawa), guys that haven't stuck in the majors yet (Igarashi) and guys that stuck for a while before going home (Okajima).

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