Through two games at the World Baseball Classic, Japanese outfielder Lars Nootbaar is certainly making a name for himself. As the leadoff hitter for Team Japan, the young Cardinals outfielder has been the perfect spark at the top of the Japanese lineup. Going 2 for 4 in both games, Nootbaar is quickly finding fans across the world. Once the World Baseball Classic ends, the Cardinals will hope Lars Nootbaar’s international success will translate into a breakout season back in St. Louis.
The Newest Japanese Superstar
It seems that every World Baseball Classic features a star emerging for their countries. For Team Japan, during their title runs in 2006 and 2009, it was Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka putting the team on his shoulders. In 2013, while Team Japan finished the tournament in third place, a 24 year old Masahiro Tanaka introduced himself to the world stage. Finally, in 2017 Tomoyuki Sugano helped lead the team to another third place result.
This year, it appears to be Lars Nootbaar’s turn to make his introduction on the international stage. Despite being born in the United States, Nootbar, whose mother is Japanese, has quickly become one of the vocal heroes of the team, as he has been seen giving the pre-game speech before their contest with bitter rival South Korea.
Meanwhile, children in Japan have quickly taken to the “pepper grinder” which has become Lars Nootbaar’s signature celebration. It appears that Lars Nootbaar has been a perfect fit with Team Japan, despite being born and raised in Southern California.
While plenty of games have yet to be played in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Nootbaar appears to be an early name to watch. Team Japan once again has aspirations for another championship and if they end up winning it all, they’ll need more than just Shohei Ohtani leading the charge.
As their leadoff hitter, Lars Nootbaar appears to be the perfect person for the job. Having gotten on base 6 times in 10 plate appearances, Nootbaar has scored 4 times and even stolen a base so far in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Looking Ahead to the 2023 MLB Season
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to be thrilled with what they are seeing from their young outfielder. Despite winning the NL Central this past season, the Cardinals find themselves in an interesting situation. The team appears to be in win-now mode following an MVP season from Paul Goldschmidt while third baseman Nolan Arenado finished in third after his own dominant season.
However, it is fair to wonder how much longer both can maintain their dominant forms. Goldschmidt turned 35 this past September while Arenado will turn 32 this April. Meanwhile, the team did lose veteran leader Yadier Molina who hung up his spikes after an impressive 19-year career.
Despite the incredible seasons from their two superstars, the Cardinals unfortunately saw their season end in the first round of the MLB Playoffs at the hands of the eventual National League Pennant winners, the Philadelphia Phillies.
To help boost the middle of the order, the team poached catcher Willson Contreras from the rival Chicago Cubs, giving the team one of the best trio of power hitters in the sport. If Nootbaar can solidify his place at the top of the order, something he has done wonderfully for Team Japan, he should be able to create a significant number of RBI situations for the team’s superstars.
Do you see a breakout season coming for Lars Nootbaar with the St. Louis Cardinals? Do you think Team Japan will win their third World Baseball Classic? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
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