The 2023 World Baseball Classic served as a chance for MLB fans to get a glimpse of some of the top non-Major League players from around the world. In the semifinals of the tournament, Japan right-hander Roki Sasaki shined in what was essentially a de facto showcase for Major League teams.
A Look at Sasaki
North American-based baseball fans got a first-hand look at Team Japan hurler Roki Sasaki, a pitcher deemed by many to be the best non-MLB pitcher in the world. After seeing him pitch against Mexico, it’s not hard to see why.
In a sense, Sasaki looked reminiscent of Jacob deGrom. The young Japan right-hander relied heavily on two pitches in the semifinal of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, one of which was a plus-plus fastball that sat in the low-100s and a pitch that Sasaki has good command of. On top of that weapon, the 21-year-old can change speeds with a devastating splitter that not only differs in speed by about 10 MPH, but essentially mirrors the fastball before dropping straight out of the zone.
It’s the kind of pitch that can really tie up hitters attempting to time a fastball.
Sasaki pitched three scoreless innings to start off the semifinal game against Mexico. The 21-year-old then gave up two singles with two outs in the fourth before surrendering a three-run shot to Brewers infielder Luis Urias. Sasaki struck out three over four innings in Japan’s walk-off win versus Mexico.
What it Means
One would expect a bidding war should Sasaki be posted by Chiba Lotte, his team in Japan, in the near future. However, that will be a while. The 21-year-old would need to be posted to Major Leagues teams by his pro team, a reality that probably won’t happen for at least the next four seasons. Then, Sasaki’s pro team can post the right-hander for a healthy sum of money.
A lot could obviously change for a young pitcher like Sasaki, but it’s fair to think that MLB teams — particularly the ones that could afford to pay a large sum to acquire the righty — are already salivating at the idea of adding an arm like him. After all, we see that his stuff plays up well against Major Leaguers like Randy Arozarena, Rowdy Tellez, and Alex Verdugo.