Shohei Ohtani told Roki Sasaki during the World Baseball Classic that he would know when he would be ready to head stateside. Based on his results, that time has already come.
He made that all the more apparent on Thursday. Sasaki had already been dominant during the World Baseball Classic and did not miss a beat during his first start for the Chiba Lotte Marines. He allowed just one hit over six shutout innings, striking out 11 batters without issuing a walk. His fastball sat at 99 MPH and topped out at 102 MPH. It is safe to say he is already in midseason form.
Roki Sasaki will be a force in the majors
His outing on Thursday continues what has been an incredible start to his Nippon Professional Baseball career. It was also his 32nd start of his career, or approximately a full major league season’s worth of outings. In that time, he has a 2.04 ERA and a 0.86 WHiP over his 198.2 innings, striking out 252 batters with 39 walks. Opponents are hitting just .186 against him. Not only does he have a perfect game to his credit, but he followed that with eight perfect innings before being lifted from the outing. And he’s just 21 years old.
Sasaki is more than just his stats. The fastball is going to attract plenty of attention due to its velocity, but it is his second best offering. His splitter has become a plus-plus offering, diving out of the zone while also having excellent lateral movement. His slider is not as consistent yet, but it seems to be a matter of time before that also develops into a plus offering. He also throws the rare curve, a low 80s pitch that is mainly used to give a different look.
What does this mean for Sasaki’s future? He is easily the best pitching prospect in the world right now, someone that could be at the top of affiliated prospect chart if he was stateside. It also means that his dream of pitching stateside could be closer than one would think. If Sasaki is going to come stateside when he is ready, instead of his projected arrival date of the 2026-27 offseason, that time could come soon. Maybe even as soon as this coming offseason or the 2024-25 market.
Roki Sasaki is ready for Major League Baseball right now. The only question is when he will think he is ready to make the leap.