ESPN

Class of the Classic (Non-MLB Division)

Grid
5 of 14
Previous
Next

The Backstop Backbone

Photograph By The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Images

Shinnosuke Abe

Team: Japan
Position: C
Bats: Left. Throws: Right

Abe, who will turn 34 on March 20, has been playing off and on for the Japanese national team since 1997, and that includes the 2009 World Baseball Classic -- he backed up starting catcher Kenji Johjima for Japan's gold medalists that year. Almost always among the Nippon Pro League power leaders over the past decade, Abe was named the Central League's MVP in 2012 in a nearly unanimous vote after he hit .340 with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs for the Yomiuri Giants.