Top 10 MLB Best Asian Baseball Players of All Time Rankings
Ranking the greatest Asian Baseball players in the history of MLB in honor of AAPI Heritage Month
By admin | June 6, 2023
AAPI Heritage Month
The international landscape of baseball continues to grow as baseball popularity increases around the world. This popularity continues to be seen in Asian countries as baseball continues to rank among the most popular sports played within the countries.
The level of talent continues to grow within the Nippon Professional Baseball league (NPB) and Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) to name a few which has helped open the door for some talented Asian baseball players to make it to Major League Baseball.
As you look at the Top 10 MLB Asian Baseball Players All-Time Rankings list the list is loaded with players who have made key impacts to Major League Baseball since arriving.
One of those players who ranks among the best MLB Asian baseball players to play within the league is MLB Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki.
Suzuki put together an impressive MLB resume after a stellar NPB career. After arriving with the Seattle Mariners in 2001, Suzuki made 10 MLB All-Star teams, won an AL MVP Award, won 10 Gold Glove Awards, and was the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year.
As Suzuki is an easy candidate to take home the top spot, other top MLB Asian baseball players include current Los Angeles Angels All-Star Shohei Ohtani as well as former players Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui, and Shin Soo Choo. Here is a look at the Top 10 MLB Asian Baseball Players All-Time Rankings list:
Chan Ho Park
Position(s): Starting Pitcher, Relief Pitcher
Team(s): Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, & New York Yankees
Landing just outside of the Top 10 MLB Asian Baseball Players All-Time Rankings list is the 17-year MLB asian pitcher Chan Ho Park. Park, who started his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers back during the 1994 MLB Season.
The long-time pitcher star would go on to post six different MLB seasons with at least 12 wins including his 15-11 performance during the 2001 MLB season earning him a spot among the NL All-Star team.
When his career was completed in 2010, the South Korean native finished with a career 124-98 record to go along with a 4.36 earned run average over 1993 career innings of work.
Position(s): Starting Pitcher
Team(s): Los Angeles Dodgers & New York Yankees
Another former MLB Japanese baseball player and pitcher who put together a solid MLB career is the former Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.
Kuroda who made his way over to the United States after making five NPB All-Star teams. After arriving in 2008, Kuroda won at least eight games in all seven of his MLB seasons including five straight double-digit win seasons.
To go along with the five straight double-digit win seasons, Kuroda never allowed higher than a 3.76 earned run average mark over his seven-year career while posting a career 3.45 earned run average while going 79-79 over that stretch.
Kuroda posted his best season during the 2012 MLB season winning 16 of his 33 starts while posting a 3.32 earned run average and striking out 167 batters.
Top 10 Asian MLB Players All-Time
10. Kazuhiro Sasaki
Team(s): Seattle Mariners
Coming in at number 10 on the Top 10 MLB Asian Baseball Players All-Time Rankings is the former Seattle Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki.
After pitching within the NPB from 1990 to 2005, the longtime NPB star made his transition to Major League Baseball with the Mariners where he would play for the four solid seasons in the league before leaving to return to Japan.
In his first season with the Mariners, Sasaki would post 37 saves to go along with a 3.16 earned run average while winning the 2000 AL Rookie of the Year.
Over the next two seasons Sasaki would make two AL All-Star teams while posting 82 saves over that stretch while ranking among the best closers in baseball.
9. Koji Uehara
Position(s): Starting Pitcher, Relief Pitcher, Closer
Team(s): Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox & Chicago Cubs
One Japanese player who had all the stuff to be a great baseball player is Koji Uehara who joined the league after making nine NPB All-Star teams.
Unfortunately, Uehara struggled to stay healthy during his playing days but showed his potential at times over his MLB career posting a career 22-26 record to go along with a 2.66 earned run average with 95 career saves.
After converting from a starting pitcher in 2009, Uehara posted his best season as a closer with the Boston Red Sox in 2014 finishing with a 2.52 earned run average and posting 26 saves. From 2013 to 2015, Uehara posted at least 21 saves to go along with a 2.52 or lower earned run average.
8. Hisashi Iwakuma
Team(s): Seattle Mariners
Another former NPB All-Star who ranks among the best Asian baseball players to play in Major League Baseball is Hisashi Iwakuma.
Iwakuma who was a three-time NPB All-Star and Pacific League MVP signed with the Seattle Mariners before the start of the 2012 MLB Season would go on to pitch six seasons for the Mariners posting a 63-39 career record to go along with a career 3.42 earned run average.
In 2013, Iwakuma posted his best season within Major League Baseball posting a 14-6 overall record to go along with a 2.66 earned run average, 185 strikeouts while making his only MLB All-Star team.
7. Masahiro Tanaka
Position(s): Starting Pitcher
Team(s): New York Yankees
One of the most exciting players to be posted to Major League Baseball was the former Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
After being posted six teams made bids for Tanaka before the New York Yankees landed him. After joining the Yankees Tanaka would pitch from 2014 to 2020 with the team posting a 78-46 career record to go with a 3.74 career earned run average mark and 991 career wins.
Tanaka posted at least 11 wins in each of his first six seasons while earning an AL All-Star selection during the 2014 MLB season and 2019 MLB season. Tanaka would return to the Golden Eagles after the 2020 MLB season and remains one of the highest paid players within the league.
6. Yu Darvish
Position(s): Starting Pitcher
Team(s): Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres (Active)
One of two current Top 10 MLB Asians of All-Time who are still actively playing in Major League Baseball is the San Diego Padres starting pitcher Yu Darvish.
Since arriving in the United States, Darvish has made five MLB All-Star teams, led the National League in wins, led the American League in strikeouts, and was an All-MLB First Team selection during the 2020 MLB season.
The current San Diego Padres starting pitcher has won 16 games twice during his MLB career including during the 2020 MLB season while posting an earned run average below 3.50 in five different MLB seasons. Darvish entered the 2023 MLB season with a career 95-75 record on the mound to go along with 1,788 career strikeouts.
5. Hideo Nomo
Position(s): Starting Pitcher
Team(s): Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Devils Rays, & Kansas City Royals
Rounding out the Top 5 on the Top 10 MLB Asian Baseball Players All-Time Rankings is the former 12-year MLB pitcher Hideo Nomo.
Nomo who was known for his unorthodox windup deliveries was brilliant over his career while posting a career 123-109 record to go along with 1,918 strikeouts and a 4.24 career earned run average.
Over his 12-year career, Nomo posted at least 12 wins in seven different seasons including a 13-6 record in his rookie season in 1995 earning him his only MLB All-Star selection and the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
In addition to those numbers Nomo threw two career no-hitters while leading the league in strikeouts in two different MLB seasons.
4. Shin-Soo Choo
Team(s): Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, & Texas Rangers
One of the most popular MLB Asian baseball players is the former longtime Texas Ranger and Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo who made his MLB debut during the 2005 MLB season played from 2005 to 2020 before joining the KBO where he has played in each of the past few seasons.
Choo racked up 218 career home runs over 7,157 career at bats over his career to go along with 782 runs batted in. Over his 16-year MLB career, Choo posted at least 20 home runs in seven different seasons while picking up at least 140 hits in eight different seasons.
3. Hideki Matsui
Position(s): Left Fielder, Designated Hitter
Team(s): New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s & Tampa Bay Rays
When it comes to the top three MLB Asian Baseball players to play, each is well deserving of a mention as three of the greatest of All Time. One of those three is the former New York Yankees All-Star outfielder Hideki Matsui who also was known as Godzilla.
Matsui prior to signing with the New York Yankees was a 9-time NPB All-Star and three-time Central League MVP. After joining the Yankees Matsui would make back-to-back All-Star teams in 2003 and 2004 while driving in at least 106 runs in each season.
Matsui would finish his career with four 100 plus runs batted in seasons and five seasons with at least 21 home runs. The 10-year MLB would make two All-Star teams and win a World Series MVP during his time with the Yankees.
2. Shohei Ohtani
Position(s): Starting Pitcher, Designated Hitter
Team(s): Los Angeles Angels
As of now the current Los Angeles Angels All-Star Shohei Ohtani lands at number two among the greatest Asians to play in Major League Baseball.
The current Angels starting pitcher and designated hitter continues to perform among the best players in the league both on the mound as well as at the plate. Ohtani, who is doing something that MLB fans have not seen since Babe Ruth, has dominated both as a hitter as a hitter.
His performance since arriving in Major League Baseball includes being selected to back-to-back All-Star teams, winning the 2021 AL MVP Award, the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Award, and a member of the Cycle Club after hitting for the cycle during the 2019 MLB Season.
1. Ichiro Suzuki
Team(s): Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, & Miami Marlins
In at number one on the Top 10 MLB Asian Baseball Players All-Time Rankings is the former Seattle Mariners Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki. It is hard to look past Suzuki as not only the best Japanese baseball player but also the greatest Asian baseball player to play in Major League Baseball.
The NPB seven-time All-Star was as dominant as any player after arriving in the United States while making 10 straight MLB All-Star teams and 10 Gold Glove Awards.
In his first season during the 2001 MLB season, Suzuki won the AL Rookie of the Year Award as well as the 2001 AL MVP Award. Suzuki would go on to win two AL Batting crowns, lead the AL in stolen bases, and post an MLB record 262 career hits during a single season.
Suzuki would finish his career with 10 straight 200 plus hit seasons, 3089 career hits, 362 doubles, 780 runs batted in, 509 stolen bases and a career .311 batting average.
How would rank these Asian Baseball Players? Rank below to be added in the Power Rankings
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