Who is the next Japanese major leaguer? ~Top players shining in Japanese professional baseball~

Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, … These names are the Japanese players who are currently active in the major leagues of the United States. In recent years, Japanese players have been crossing the sea one after another to challenge major leagues. Therefore, this time, I would like to introduce the top players in Japan who may play an active part in major leagues in the future.

Ohtani, Darvish and Tanaka
From the left, Ohtani, Darvish and Tanaka

1. Kodai Senga (Pitcher)

2. Yasuaki Yamasaki (Pitcher)

3. Tetsuto Yamada (Infielder)

4. Roki Sasaki (Pitcher)

1. Kodai Senga  ~Japan’s Strongest Ace with “Ghost Fork”~

He is the strongest starting pitcher in Japan. His strength is a fast ball that exceeds 100 miles and a fork ball that boasts an amazing drop. In particular, this fork ball is called the “ghost fork” because of its drop.

How to hold the "ghost fork" and an orthodox fork
In a normal fork, neither the index finger nor the middle finger is caught on the seam, but in the case of Senga, his index finger is aligned with the seam.

In addition to the fast ball and fork mentioned above, you can throw a two-seam fastball, a cut fastball, and a vertical slider to get rid of a missed swing. He holds the record for the highest strikeout rate in Japanese professional baseball (11.33). The strikeout rate is the average number of strikeouts, assuming that the pitcher has completed one match (9 innings). This value is one of the indicators for evaluating the pitcher’s ability, and if it is high, he is recognized as a pitcher with a high ability to put out batters by himself.

In addition, he was originally a trainer and he achieved the first no-hit no run for trainers in 2019. This achievement in every strikeout was the first time in Japanese professional baseball history.

Senga threw in the 2017 WBC
Senga threw in the 2017 WBC.

In fact, he is a pitcher that is valid all over the world. In the 2017 World Baseball Classic, he pitched in four games and recorded an ERA of 0.82, and the strikeout scored 16, the highest number of players who participated. As such an achievement was highly evaluated, he was the only Japanese player to be selected for the “All-Star Team”(award winners elected by the organizer from the participating players).


2017 All-World Baseball Classic team

2. Yasuaki Yamasaki ~Japan’s absolute stopper and SNS leader~

If the Japanese stood at the 9th mound, it would probably be him. His weapon is two-seam fastball with a large drop. The moving is no longer a split-finger fastball or a screwball. With only a two-seam and a four-seem fastball, he was entrusted as his team’s closer and saved 37 games from his first year. This is the largest record of the newcomer. He recorded many saves from the first year, and in 2019, the fifth year, he recorded his 150th career save at 26 years and 9 months, the youngest in history.

Yamasaki achieved 250 saves.

He is popular not only for his ability. When he goes up to the 9th mound, the fans stand up and cheer.It is the Yokohama Stadium’s specialty that they jump in time with his entrance music and shout out his name, “YA-SU-A-KI”. Besides, his Twitter account has 760,000 followers, the highest number among professional baseball players playing in Japan. He is already a player and public relations.

3. Tetsuto Yamada ~The strongest infielder with three beats~

He is a 5-tool player with a high level of hitting, running and defense. The 5-tool player is a player who excels at: 1. hitting for average, 2. hitting for power, 3. base running, 4. fielding, and 5. throwing. Although he is not very large, he can hit a home run by using the swing speed after focusing on the meat and capturing a ball accurately. In 2014, he set the highest number of hits for Japanese right-handers in the season (193 hits). In the following year 2015, he recorded a stolen base percentage of 89.5%, and for the first time in history he won both the home run king and the steal base king at the same time.

Yamada got 192 hits.
※The uniform number 23 is the one at that time. Currently number 1.

And the best thing is that we have achieved “Triple Three” three times. “Triple three” is to record at least .300 batting average, 30 home runs and 30 steals in the same season. No one has ever recorded this multiple times, and he has recorded it three times, making him a special player.

Yamada achieved "Triple Three" with Yuki Yanagita.
This year, Yamada and Yuki Yanagita achieved “Triple Three” and they were selected for the New Word/Buzzword Grand Prix.

Next, further enhancing the value of this batter is that he is an infielder (second baseman). It is an unprecedented case that a player who defends the center line, which has a heavy defensive burden, can leave such a good record.

4. Roki Sasaki ~dream of 105 miles~

Finally, pick up a player who isn’t yet realistic, but has dreams in the future. He is still a rookie, 18 years old. In third year of high school, he unofficially measured 101.4 miles (163km/h), surpassing 99.7 miles, which was the fastest record for high school students by Shohei Ohtani at the time. The current maximum speed of Japanese professional baseball is 102.9 miles (165km/h) by Ohtani. Sasaki is expected to reach 105.1 miles (170km/h) and rewrite this record in the future. The expectation appears in the uniform number 17.

Sasaki's uniform number is 17.