World Baseball Classic: Who is Japan’s Roki Sasaki?

Roki Sasaki 2

In an unexpected fashion, Japan comes from behind to beat Mexico in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. As expected, MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani stepped up and displayed his great talent. However, with Japan’s clutch win, a young pitcher caught the eyes of the baseball fans – Roki Sasaki. To find out who Roki Sasaki is, read more below.

Who is the Japanese sensation, Roki Sasaki?

Roki Sasaki is a Japanese baseball player who prides himself as arguably the best pitcher in Japan. Sasaki, 21, just made his debut on the international stage (World Baseball Classic) on March 11 against the Czech Republic in which he showed flashes of greatness.

Sasaki is currently playing in the Japanese Pro League, the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). The 21-year-old is a pitcher for the Chiba Lotte Marines. Although he signed with the Marines in 2020, he made his debut in 2021. At a very young age, Sasaki has already shown he is a generational talent, much like his now teammate, Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. The starting pitcher for Japan in this year’s World Baseball Classic tournament gained praise from baseball fans with how much his pitches are. It was also evident that his fastballs were one of the key factors in Japan’s victory over the Czech Republic and Mexico. In the 2023 WBC, Sasaki recorded a 102 mph (or almost 165 km/hr) fastball against Mexico.


When is Roki Sasaki coming to Major League Baseball (MLB)?

When asked if he wants to play in the Major League, Roki Sasaki responded: “That is my dream”. But, in Japan, professional baseball athletes are handled with perfect care. Sometimes, they seem they don’t want to deal them to other leagues outside their own. According to their rulebook, Japanese baseball players are obligated to play with the NPB for at least nine (9) years to become international free agents. After that, they can have the option to play in the Major Leagues.

However, Sasaki can work his way around this rule via an auction system. If his team allows him to leave for another league, he may do so only if he reaches the age of 25 and has played professionally for a minimum of six (6) seasons. If that’s the case, we might be seeing Sasaki hit the MLB field after the 2027 season.

Meanwhile, with Japan advancing, they will be facing the powerhouse of Team USA in the WBC Finals

Japan is once again in the final stage after two consecutive semi-final exits (2013 and 2017). The two-time champions (2006 and 2009) will be facing off against the reigning champions, Team USA.

Shohei Ohtani seems prepared for what’s coming tomorrow but still won’t hold back.

“On the ultimate stage, we’re facing the toughest opponents,” Ohtani said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. Naturally, it’s going to be tense, but I want everyone to give their all with a strong desire to win whatever it takes.”

Aside from Ohtani, fans should also look out for Masataka Yoshida, Munetaka Murakami, and of course, the rookie Roki Sasaki. On the other hand, the Americans are looking to repeat with their extremely talented lineup led by MLB all-star center fielder Mike Trout.

Is Roki Sasaki better than Shohei Ohtani? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. For more content, stay with us, here at Spiel Times.

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