Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Although Shohei Ohtani is the unquestioned headliner of MLB free agency this winter, another Japanese right-hander, Roki Sasaki, is widely considered to be the same caliber of pitcher as the two-way star.
Sasaki burst onto the scene while playing for Team Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He just turned 22 years old and is expected to be posted by the Chiba Lotte Marines for MLB free agency at some point.
While that conceivably could take place this winter, the much more likely scenario is Sasaki does not look to make the jump to MLB until he turns 25 in order to avoid being limited to a Minor League contract as an international amateur.
Nevertheless, the Dodgers heavily scouted Sasaki during his 2023 season in the Japan Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), according to Jorge Castillo and Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:
The Dodgers devoted considerable time to scouting pitching sensation Roki Sasaki this year, hopeful at one point the right-hander would be posted this winter, according to people with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly. Sasaki, however, is not expected to be available for MLB clubs this offseason.
Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers were not alone, as the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants also committed significant resources to scouting Sasaki:
In addition to the Dodgers, the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants are among the teams that have intensely scouted Sasaki, according to a person with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly. His eventual move to the majors is expected to produce a bidding war. The question is when.
In addition to Ohtani and Sasaki, the Dodgers are also among the teams with reported interest in Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is expected to be posted by the Orix Buffaloes in the coming days.
Further adding to his profile after the WBC, Sasaki’s fastball reached 103 mph during the summer. He missed two months because of an oblique injury but still went 7-4 with a 1.78 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 91 innings across 15 starts.
When Sasaki pitched a full season in 2022, he sported a 2.02 ERA and collected 173 strikeouts against 23 walks over 129.1 innings pitched.
When will Rōki Sasaki be posted?
MLB posting system rules require foreign-born players to have completed six professional seasons or be at least 25 years old in order to be eligible for free agency without any restrictions.
Considering Sasaki has completed just three NPB seasons and is only 22 years old (November 3, 2001 birthday), he doesn’t figure to be made available for MLB teams until after the 2026 season.
If posted prior to that point, Sasaki’s earning potential would be capped much in the same way it was for Ohtani when he left NPB at just 23 years old. Ohtani wound up receiving a $2.3 million signing bonus from the Los Angeles Angels.
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