Every year, some Japanese player or players steps toward moving to the major leagues. Here’s my rundown on the latest crop. Additional insight for subscribers, including career injury-activation reports, can be found at Inside Pitch.
Japanese players likely to move to the majors…
Possibles for MLB in 2021
As of this update, three players have publicly said they seeking work in MLB this winter: outfielder Haruki Nishikawa, and starting pitchers Kohei Arihara and Ayumu Ishikawa.
- Tomoyuki Sugano, RHP — expressed desire to play in MLB *-updated
- Haruki Nishikawa, CF — reportedly will be posted *-updated
- Kohei Arihara, RHP — reportedly will be posted *-updated
- Hirokazu Sawamura, RHP — MLB team(s) showing interest *-updated
The next wave, 2022 and beyond
- Ayumu Ishikawa, RHP — opted not to go in 2020 *-updated
- Seiya Suzuki, RF — Young, strong with 5 tools but playing it cool
- Kodai Senga, RHP — expressed desire to be posted
- Yuki Yanagita, CF — signed 7-year extension in Dec. 2019
- Ryosuke Kikuchi, 2B — Returned to Hiroshima Carp on 4-year extension
A word about playing in Japan
There is a tendency to dismiss some ballplayers because of size and velocity because smaller players are less likely to succeed in the majors and pitchers with more velocity come with an asterisk that says they could be good if they harness their talent and learn better fundamentals.
But because Japan has traditionally seen the game in a different context, with players raised and trained in a different kind of tradition, the game has a different spin to it.
While some things, such as Japan’s emphasis on middle distance running as the basis for all sports training can be counterproductive, very basic things, such as insistence on fundamentals and the extreme importance of being a good teammate add value to the majority of Japanese players that are easily overlooked when measuring physical attributes and skills.
Because Japanese players have been schooled — or brainwashed if one prefers — into hitting the ball up the middle and going the other way, it is with few exceptions impossible to shift against them.