Japanese Pitching Prodigy Set to Disrupt Baseball

Roki Sasaki's MLB debut eagerly anticipated by scouts

by Zain ul Abedin
Japanese Pitching Prodigy Set to Disrupt Baseball
© Eric Espada/Getty Images

Currently the talk of Major League teams is Roki Sasaki, a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher with great pitching. The kid is in his fourth season in the NPB and plays for the Chiba Lotte Marines. It is said he stands at the doors of the MLB.

His fastball can go up to an astonishing 103 MPH, while his splitter has seen batters actually shaking their head back to the dugout. Sasaki has an ERA of 1.94 in his 59 career appearances which makes him one of the most wanted players by MLB executives, a name known to them for years.

Sasaki's desire to join the MLB sooner rather than later is palpable, despite the traditional expectations for Japanese players to remain in NPB longer. It would be very exceptional in a rule, as no Japanese has ever made that leap to the MLB before their 25th birthday, but then there is only Shohei Ohtani.

According to his teammate Gregory Polanco, Sasaki can hardly wait to be included.

Anticipated MLB Posting

MLB teams are preparing for Sasaki to be posted this off-season despite no official word from Sasaki or his representation.

The posting system allows Japanese players to move to MLB before completing the nine years required for free agency in Japan, though it limits their earnings to rookie salaries and signing bonuses. This limitation affects both the player's immediate income and the financial compensation for their NPB team.

Sasaki's journey to this point has been marked by resilience and talent. His family fell on tough times, losing his father and his grandparents in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Yet out of this difficult situation, Sasaki emerged as the high school pitching sensation, gaining national attention with his 101 mph fastball.

He made his debut in May 2021 and fast became one of the top pitchers at the top level. Sasaki opened the 2022 NPB year with the first perfect game since 1993, 28 years ago, when he punched out 19. Though he's still yet to throw as many innings as some of those former models, last year he cemented his reputation with a 1.78 ERA.

Sasaki's current season has seen mixed performances, with his fastball velocity occasionally dipping. However, he continues to show promise, evidenced by his seven scoreless innings in a recent game against a stout lineup.

He's yet to put together the resume of some of these Japanese stars, but clubs believe his talent and potential make Sasaki a difference-maker. As MLB teams clear international bonus space and scout his games, it seems increasingly likely that Sasaki will join their ranks soon.

His potential move represents a shift in the balance between tradition and talent in Japanese baseball, signaling a new era for young players eager to compete on the global stage.