After wrapping up the 2015 MLB off-season signings of players coming from Asia, which the list includes, Twins new acquisition Park Byung-ho, Orioles Kim Hyun-soo, Dodgers Kenta Maeda, and just this week, new Cardinals reliever Oh Seung-hwan and now M’s Lee Dae-ho. There’s still some other talents out there waiting to be seen.
In the near future, here are some prospects I know of and watched (via videos) that I’ve listed in which we’ll soon see make a jump to the Major leagues (or that has Major league potential) through the posting system… or via international free agency (10 years of service time needed for one to acquire this).
My top 5 list, ages 25 and below:
1.) Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters SP, Shohei Otani, Japan– You guys probably already know just how awesome he is, don’t cha, dun ya? I’ll just give some other details regarding about him… Shohei Otani, at just 21 years old, already has the fastest fastball speed in the league (162 kph, max velocity)… breaking several speed records in the Koshien tourney and in the NPB. Yep, he’s top one in my list. He’s a dual-type player, and he already said in a statement that he’d like to play for a Major league team that would like him as pitcher/non-pitcher. 3/4 years left for him to get posted.
(Otani’s pitching highlights, strikeouts)
(Otani’s 2014 homerun highlights)
2.) Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2B, Tetsuto Yamada, Japan– Standing tall at 180cm and currently at 76kg, in these past 2 years (2014-2015), Yamada has become one of the most feared hitters at just the age of 23 years old… At just the span of 2 years, Yamada has hit 67 homeruns in that alone (29 homeruns in 2014 and 38 homeruns this past 2015 season). 2/3 years left for him to be eligible for posting.
(Tetsuto Yamada’s historic 3 homeruns in Game 3 of the 2015 Japan Series)
3.) Hanshin Tigers SP, Shintaro Fujinami, Japan– Sometimes swapping the ace title with Randy Messenger, listed at 198 cm, Fujinami is the tallest Japanese starting pitcher playing in the NPB today at the age of just 21 years old. This past 2015 season, Fujinami posted an ERA of 2.40 with 221 strikeouts in 199 innings pitched. He is Otani’s rival since highschool, and even today. Like Otani, 3/4 left for him to be eligible for posting.
(A quick peek at Fujinami’s highlight against team Europe last March)
4.) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles SP, Takahiro Norimoto, Japan– Since losing Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees via posting system, Norimoto has been the staff ace of Rakuten. In these past 2 years in the NPB playing in the Pacific League… in 396.4 innings pitched, he posted 419 strikeouts in that span. In this past 2015 NPB season, he posted an ERA of 2.91 and 215 strikeouts in 194.2 inning pitched while having 10 wins and 11 losses. (The Rakuten’s Eagles offense this season really sucked big time, very low run support). 3/4 years left for him to be eligible.
(Norimoto’s highlights this past season, all strikeouts)
5.) Yokohama DENA Baystars Closer, Yasuaki Yamasaki, Japan– In his first year playing in the NPB, he posted an ERA of 1.92 with 66 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched while having 37 saves this past NPB season. He also won the Central Rookie of the Year award by setting a new record by a rookie with 37 saves while playing for the Yokohama DENA Baystars. He’s of Filipino descent coming from his mother. One of the many reasons why I’ll watch him again this upcoming NPB season. 5/6 years left to be eligible.
(Yasuaki Yamasaki’s save highlights this past 2015 NPB season)
Special mentions are here below, my top 5:
1.) Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Sho Nakata, 1B/DH/OF– Slugger type of player.
2.) Waseda Jitsugyo Gakuen (highschool), Kotaro Kiyomiya, 1st baseman/Designated hitter– Played there in the LLWS in the US sometime ago. Hits for power.
3.) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tomohiro Anraku, Starting pitcher– Power pitcher.
(Anraku’s Koshien highschool years)
4.) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Rui Louis Okoye, Outfielder– Speedy outfielder, a well known base-stealer… Hits for average.
5.) Samsung Lions, Koo Ja-wook, Infielder/Outfielder– Player that hits for average, also a solid defender. Can play 3rd base, 1st base, centerfield and rightfield. From South Korea.
(The future is indeed looking bright.)