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Friday, July 12, 2024

‘Perfect’ Phenom Roki Sasaki Could Be MLB’s Next Expensive Import

  • He has thrown 17 consecutive perfect innings for the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
  • He hasn’t allowed a baserunner in an NPB-record 52 straight plate appearances.
Kyodo News

​​Roki Sasaki is Mr. Perfect and could soon be the most talked-about — and expensive — Japanese import in baseball.

On April 10, the 20-year-old phenom threw the first perfect game in Nippon Professional Baseball since 1994 — then followed it up with eight more perfect innings on Sunday for the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Sasaki has a 101 mph fastball, hasn’t allowed a baserunner in an NPB-record 52 straight plate appearances, and has 56 strikeouts in 31 innings.

The question now is whether the second-year pitcher will move to MLB — and when, and for how much.

  • NPB players can’t reach MLB free agency until they have nine years of professional experience or are posted by their respective teams — by the latter, more common route, MLB teams must pay the NPB team for the rights to the player.
  • Due to MLB’s international free agent rules, players younger than 25 are subject to the international bonus pool system. 
  • The money an international player can earn once reaching MLB can vary dramatically depending on the age-25 divide.

At 23, Shohei Ohtani took a rookie-scale deal, and, in 2021, signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Angels to avoid arbitration. L.A. paid a $20 million posting fee to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

At 27, Seiya Suzuki inked a five-year, $85 million deal with the Cubs, who paid the Hiroshima Toyo Carp a $14.6 million release fee.

Yu Darvish set the posting fee record when the Rangers paid the Fighters $51.7 million in 2011. Since then, however, a $20 million cap has been set for posting fees. 

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