Roki Sasaki shows why he’s a name to remember

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Nippon Professional Baseball has become a viable proving ground for players looking to reach the majors. Between Japanese players looking to step up to the next level and players looking to take the next step in their development, NPB has become a breeding ground for many talents.

Roki Sasaki had already received a lot of attention from major league teams. There was a time when it looked like he might consider a move to the States, avoiding the NPB altogether, to learn his craft in a major league organization. Instead, he applied for the NPB draft and was selected by the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Roki Sasaki proves the hype is real

Most of that attention came from his impressive fastball. Despite being in high school, his fastball sat in his upper 90s, even hitting 101 MPH during a friendly for Japan’s U-18 national team. This speed is sure to catch everyone’s attention, no matter where the player is from.

He showed last season that he was much more than just hype. Sasaki made his NPB debut aged just 19 but managed to dominate. He posted an excellent 2.27 ERA and a 1.058 WHiP in his 63.1 innings, beating 68 batters with just 16 walks. While there were concerns about Sasaki’s command when he was originally drafted, these are beginning to fade.

The hype train may just be getting started. Sasaki recently participated in a spring exhibition match and could reach 101.3 MPH with his fastball. That speed would be impressive for a starter at any point in the season, but the fact that he was able to throw so hard at his age in mid-February makes it all the more incredible.

It will be years before Sasaki can come to the US. Players have nine years to invest before qualifying for international free agency in Japan, and the Marines may not be ready to post him until that time gets much closer. That doesn’t mean MLB fans should ignore Sasaki until then, though.

Roki Sasaki may not be making the majors any time soon. However, with his high-octane fastball and potential, he’s a name to remember.

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