The 5th World Baseball Classic (WBC) is attracting a lot of attention. The Samurai Japan team has lived up to its reputation as the “strongest ever” in the first round and quarterfinals, and the semifinals and finals on March 21 and 22 will inevitably be even more exciting, but it is not only the Japanese public that is watching with keen interest.
Nachi Tomonari, a sportswriter who is well versed in Major League Baseball, says that the Japanese public is also watching with keen interest.
We know he’s a 100-mph right-hander, we know his splitter is a tremendous weapon, and we know he won’t be coming to the majors anytime soon. Even so, his handing out candy to an opponent who hit him with a dead ball in the first round of the WBC as an apology was covered by most of the sports media in the U.S., and he is the subject of much interest over there.
Sasaki is expected to start in the semifinals. Sasaki is expected to pitch in the semi-finals, and those involved in the major leagues are looking forward to watching him pitch live.
Low-Ki is a pitcher of another dimension. He doesn’t have the stamina yet to be a full-year starter in the rotation, but in terms of performance in a single game, he’s probably one of the top 15 pitchers in the majors.
The evaluation of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is expected to pitch in the finals as the starter, is even higher: Major scouts who watched the first-round game against Australia were impressed with his new form, in which he steps out with his left foot on the ground instead of lifting it wide.
He said, “When you throw quick, it makes it harder for hitters to get the timing right and harder to hit. Of course, we have to see how he performs with this form over the course of the season, but there was no drop in his pitch velocity, and the accuracy of his breaking ball had not changed either. I was also looking at how well he could handle the pitches in this tournament, which are also used in the majors, and although there were a few loose pitches, he passed the test there as well.
Many believe that Yamamoto is likely to challenge for a major league contract this offseason through the posting system. How big of a contract is he expected to get? A major league scout continues, “Even in the majors, if his curveball is good enough, he could be a slider.
Even in the majors, there are variations in the accuracy of pitchers’ breaking pitches, such as a good curveball and a poor slider, or a good fork and a poor curveball, but Yamamoto has high accuracy on all types of pitches, including his curveball, cutter, and fork. He can also throw his straight pitches at above average velocities in the Majors. He has the ability to be one of the top three pitchers in the starting rotation. Some teams may have a negative perception of a good right-handed pitcher because he is not tall (178 cm) and has no angle on his pitches, but he is still young and if he continues to do well without injury, he will probably sign a seven- or eight-year contract worth $20 million a year.
At 132 yen to the dollar, that would mean a total of 13.2 billion yen over seven or eight years. Tomonari points out the possibility that the price could be even higher.
The FA market in the Majors this offseason is short of big-name starting pitchers. I think Yamamoto will be the centerpiece. He is already recognized as a great pitcher, but if he pitches well in the upcoming WBC, he will be able to erase concerns about major league pitching, and that could be a positive assessment. Depending on the situation, a total of $200 million is not out of the question.
Masahiro Tanaka’s contract with the Yankees in 2002 was worth $155 million over seven years, and it is likely that he will break that record. However, Sasaki, on the other hand, will get a contract that even that will not be enough, the aforementioned major league scout takes the story back.
He has a fastball that even starting pitchers in the majors can’t throw that well, and he has a fast fork. Now, if he can refine his curveball a little more and make it more consistent, there’s nothing to say. Yamamoto has also learned to throw a curveball, which has given him more range and extra power in his pitches. His slider still has room to grow, and if he is strong enough to stay in the rotation for a year by the time he passes the age 25 rule, and if he does not break down, his salary will be $30 million per year. His contract is still for 7 or 8 years.
In Japanese yen, that would mean an annual salary of 3.96 billion yen. The battle ahead will be even stronger, with a lineup of major leaguers, but both right-handers, the pride of the Japanese baseball world, will show their worth by pitching well to bring the Samurai Japan team to the top of the world.