Check-in on Roki Sasaki and Munetaka Murakami, NPB’s Brightest Young Stars

Munitaka Murakami
Yukihito Taguchi USA Today Sports

There aren’t many topics that baseball teams agree on, except not to pay a lot of money to junior leaguers. The only thing 29 teams share is a massive amount of regret they didn’t convince Shuhei Ohtani to come and join they The franchise after the end of the 2017 season (well, 28 teams since the Orioles oddly Refusal to make an offer on philosophical grounds, but I bet the current front office wouldn’t work the same way!) In any case, the major league teams and regular fans coveted the biggest stars in NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), and a small but steady stream of talent is coming into the US and Canada from abroad. So I wanted to take a look at two Japanese players who might not be next one NPB stars who come to MLB due to the fluctuations of the serving system are the most exciting young players in the league at the moment: Tokyo Yakult Swallows third baseman Munetaka Murakami, and Chiba Lotte Marines righty Roki Sasaki.

It would be hard to overstate how dominant Murakami is at 22, but I will do my best to do so. Called for a cup of coffee at the age of 18 in 2018, he quickly became one of Japan’s top hitters, hitting 36 circuit racers at age 19 and subtracting OPS numbers at 1.012 and .974 in the next two years. Like MLB, NPB is in a relatively low offensive environment these days, although the underlying causes are unlikely to be the same. The Central League – pretty much the last bastion if you want to see bowlers hit – scores just 3.64 points per game, its lowest since 2015. That didn’t stop Murakami from finding other gear in 2022, but enough gears The extra seems to have emptied a bike shop.

Murakami, who is 52, is not only at the top of the rankings. he is he is arrangement. Only one player in Japan, Hotaka Yamakawa, has half the total points (38). Only two players are within 300 of his 1.229 OPS: Yamakawa (.988) and Masataka Yoshida (.952), while using their generous board appearance requirement (250 PA). In recent weeks, Murakami also set an NPB record by hitting his home turf. Five consecutive appearances of the board.

NPB 2022 OPS Leaders

player age Palestinian Authority HR BA OBP SLG OPS
Munitaka Murakami 22 529 52 .339 .473 .756 1.229
Hotaka Yamakawa 30 460 38 .271 .383 .606 .988
Masataka Yoshida 28 438 14 .322 .441 .511 .952
shoujo maki 24 470 23 .284 .349 .523 .872
What is Nakata 33 310 18 .290 .356 .515 .871
Yoshihiro Maru 33 541 24 .276 .374 .493 .867
Hiroaki Shimauchi 32 525 14 .309 .388 .479 .867
Keita Sano 27 471 18 .314 .361 .503 .864
Yusuke Aoyama 27 453 23 .272 .363 .497 .860
Go Matsumoto 28 397 3 .352 .400 .442 .842
Kinsuke Kondoh 28 330 6 .295 .401 .433 .834
Adam Walker 30 373 20 .276 .308 .518 .827
Toshiro Miyazaki 33 403 10 .305 .372 .454 .827
Takashi Ogino 36 313 5 .310 .377 .443 .819
Hideto Asamura 31 544 24 .253 .362 .444 .807
Tetsuto Yamada 29 472 22 .245 .335 .469 .804
terawaki sato 23 546 18 .263 .324 .468 .793
Yasutaka Shiomi 29 491 13 .274 .349 .444 .793
Naftali Soto 33 349 14 .257 .335 .457 .792
Ryoma Nishikawa 27 360 9 .299 .344 .446 .791
Ryan McBroom 30 464 15th .270 .353 .436 .790
Kazuma Okamoto 26 523 25 .250 .331 .453 .783
Kita Nakagawa 26 398 4 .300 .333 .441 .774
Yuki Yanagita 33 404 16 .268 .334 .439 .773
Shoujo Sakura 24 536 13 .289 .349 .419 .768

This kind of home domination is rare, and Aaron Judge He might be the first hitter in nearly a century to outpace the runners-up by as wide as Murakami’s current one. OPS dominance to this degree is rare, even using the same liberal appearance of the 250 board as the official board 3.1 appearance for each team game, with Babe Ruth And the Barry Bonds Matching the current Murakami edge.

MLB Home Run Leader Domination

After translating Murakami’s 2020 and 21 into relatively normal triple slashes (.273/.355/.574 with a 45 Homer. This isn’t his baseline, but makes a perfectly hot ZiPS drop:

ZIPS Show – Munetaka Murakami

year BA OBP SLG AB s h 2 b 3 b HR RBI BB So SB OPS + Dr war
2023 .268 .353 .493 574 100 154 25 1 34 120 72 144 13 127 -1 4.0
2024 .271 .362 .509 558 101 151 26 1 35 122 76 146 13 133 -1 4.4
2025 .269 .363 .513 557 102 150 26 1 36 123 78 148 12 135 -1 4.6
2026 .268 .364 .517 553 103 148 25 1 37 124 80 150 12 136 -1 4.6
2027 .265 .363 .517 547 102 145 25 1 37 124 81 152 12 136 -1 4.6
2028 .262 .362 .513 534 100 140 24 1 36 121 80 148 11 135 -2 4.3
2029 .261 .360 .500 518 95 135 23 1 33 113 77 139 11 131 -2 3.8
2030 .261 .359 .494 502 91 131 22 1 31 108 73 127 11 129 -3 3.4

As an offensive player, the best ZIPS companies in Murakami are Harland CliftAnd the Robin VenturaAnd the Aramis RamirezAnd the Evan LongoriaAnd the Ken Keltner, among other things. I imagine most MLB teams would be happy to sign any of these players – I mean, in theory; Ventura is 55 years old, and Clift just celebrated his 110th birthday.

Sasaki is achieving similar success this year in his first full season in the Premier League. He didn’t turn 21 as of November, but he dominates the hitters in Japan so much that he’s healthy Jacob Degrom He does here. A well-built pitcher of 6-foot-3 and about 200 pounds, Sasaki hit 162 hitters in 118 1/3 innings for 20 walks, which is good for a 2.05 ERA. Only Yoshinobu Yamamoto, another player who might come to MLB at some point, had more hits (172), but needed another 45 rounds to get that extra 10 whiff.

Back in April, Sasaki delivered a perfect game, a first in the NPB major since 1994, hitting 19 hitters all the way. And then he could have done it repeatedly, throwing eight full runs into the next game and hitting 14 before being pulled in the ninth. I imagine that pulling the bowler out in the ninth game to try a perfect second in a row could lead to an actual revolution here! Here is a fun video of all 19 of his accomplishments.

Oh, did I mention that Sasaki can hit 102 mph with his Fastball? It throws an occasional curve or slider, but the usual accompaniment is, depending on your opinion, either a rolling splitter or a hard fork ball (in fact, these pitches are on a spectrum more to each other than completely different pitches). It even has an already powerful nickname: “The Beast of the Reiwa Era,” referring to the name of the current era in Japan since the coronation of a new emperor in 2019. (Seungwan ohThe Final Boss, is still my favorite in this regard.)

Overall, ZiPS translates Sasaki’s 2022 quality easily into MLB, with an ERA/FIP around 3.00 and over halftime per round. Projection is not so far Optimistic, but that’s largely because he’s still a very young player without much experience, which adds to the uncertainty no matter how good you are.

ZiPS Show – Roki Sasaki

year W The era J p IP h ER HR BB So era + war
2023 10 6 3.49 27 27 160.0 141 62 18 34 168 125 3.6
2024 11 6 3.39 28 28 164.7 142 62 18 34 176 129 3.9
2025 10 6 3.34 27 27 159.0 135 59 18 32 172 131 3.9
2026 10 6 3.35 25 25 147.7 126 55 16 30 160 130 3.6
2027 9 5 3.32 24 24 143.7 121 53 16 29 159 131 3.5
2028 9 5 3.32 23 23 138.3 115 51 16 28 155 132 3.4
2029 9 5 3.28 22 22 131.7 108 48 15th 26 149 133 3.3

In the United States, Sasaki would easily be the best baseball player. As with Murakami, if he expresses a desire to play here sooner than his free agency, and his franchise is open to the idea, then all 30 teams should have a keen interest in spending a significant amount of money to get his services.

It will likely be several years until there is a chance of seeing Murakami or Sasaki in the majors. But our loss is Japan’s gain, and any serious baseball fan should keep track of the exploits of these two NPB players.

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