Baseball: 3 Japanese listed in U.S. report as next for huge MLB deals

5 months ago

CBS Sports on Tuesday highlighted three young Japanese players who could be the next to follow Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto in fetching huge MLB contracts.

In an online article, the sports division of U.S. television network CBS listed Lotte Marines right-hander Roki Sasaki, 22, Yakult Swallows third baseman Munetaka Murakami, 23, and Orix Buffaloes right-hander Shumpeita Yamashita, 21.

In April 2022, Sasaki struck out a record-tying 19 batters as part of Nippon Professional Baseball’s first perfect game in 28 years before throwing eight perfect innings in his next start a week later.

The flamethrower reportedly asked the Marines to post him ahead of the Dec. 15 deadline, only to be refused.

“Sasaki does need to improve his durability,” CBS Sports said. “He was limited to 91 innings (this past season) by an oblique injury, and to date he’s cleared the century mark just once. Otherwise, Sasaki can rightly claim to already be one of the planet’s most talented pitchers.”

Murakami became Japan’s youngest Triple Crown winner at age 22 in 2022 with a .318 batting average, 56 home runs and 134 RBIs.

The left-handed hitter signed a three-year contract with the Swallows last December that ensured he will be posted after the 2025 season.

“There are some drawbacks to his game,” CBS Sports said. “He’s consistently posted alarmingly high strikeout rates (over 28 percent in 2023, when the league-average mark was 19.6 percent), and he’s not a skilled defender at the hot corner, suggesting he’ll end up sliding down the defensive spectrum.”

As for Yamashita, the 2023 Pacific League Rookie of the Year, CBS Sports said he will be a familiar name soon, given that “he’s the obvious successor to Sasaki in more ways than one.”

“Yamashita resembles a MLB starter. He’s 6-foot-2 and strong,” it said. “He’s already adept at playing the vertical game, elevating his mid-90s fastball over bats and burying his curveball below them. He threw a career-high 95 innings last season, punching out 26.4 percent of batters while walking less than 8 percent of them.”

This offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed two-way star Ohtani to a $700 million, 10-year contract while reportedly agreeing to a $325 million, 12-year deal with Yamamoto, arguably the best pitcher in Japan.

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