The Globe Baseball Classic has unfolded as a greatest-case circumstance for the Red Sox and Masataka Yoshida.
The outfielder has been a force for Japan, hitting .400 and main the tournament with ten RBIs, main Red Sox fans to hope that he’s the steal the front workplace envisioned when it gave him $ 90 million extra than the subsequent five years.
We’ve presently noted the challenges of having a 5-foot-eight power hitter who bats left-handed in Fenway Park (Brock Holt holds the franchise record for house runs in a season at seven), but there is however an additional aspect functioning against Yoshida as nicely: the transition from Japan.
Only two Japanese players have reached 20 house runs in a season — Hideki Matsui (seven occasions) and Shohei Ohtani (three occasions). Otherwise, history is littered with hitters who arrived with the assure of power, only to short circuit.
Japanese hitters regularly struggle with the bigger parks, longer seasons, and enhanced velocity of the main leagues, but the Red Sox consider the 29-year-old Yoshida will be the exception, thanks to his sophisticated technique, above-standard bat speed, and all-fields power. Though identified mostly for his plate discipline and low strikeout totals, Yoshida set a profession greater with 29 house runs in 2019.
There have been other people like him, even so. Maintain in thoughts Kosuke Fukudome? He signed with the Cubs for four years and $ 48 million in 2008 at roughly the precise similar stage of his profession with the expectation that he’d provide thump to Chicago’s lineup.
In his final three total seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, Fukudome blasted 34, 28, and 31 homers, even even though he was greatest identified for functioning counts and reaching base (sound familiar?). He then opened his main league profession with a bang, doubling on his pretty initial pitch and blasting a game-tying three-run homer off All-Star closer Eric Gagne.
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Though he made the All-Star group, his hot commence did not final. Pitchers immediately found they could place on him out with inside fastballs and he in no way recovered. He retired with out ever hitting significantly extra than 13 house runs in a season.
Or how about catcher Kenji Johjima? He smacked at least 31 homers three occasions in Japan, with a greater of 36 in just 116 games in 2004. The Mariners, who had presently struck gold with Ichiro Suzuki, signed him for three years and $ 16.5 million at age 30 in 2006 and he played really nicely, with 18 homers as a rookie. He dipped to 14 homers a year later, and by 2010 he had chosen to opt out of his contract and return to Japan.
Further lately, the Cubs won final year’s bidding for Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki with a five-year, $ 85 million contract, beating out the Red Sox, amongst other people. Suzuki had also exhibited considerable power in Japan, with three 30-homer seasons, such as 38 in his final year with Hiroshima.
Like Fukudome and Johjima, Suzuki delivered a torrid April, such as a two-homer game just four days into the season. But injuries slowed him thereafter, and he completed with pedestrian numbers, hitting .262 with 14 homers. He told reporters this spring that the greatest adjustment was facing routinely greater velocity, a alter that Yoshida need to navigate as nicely.
Suzuki at least completed sturdy, hitting .282 with an .847 OPS in September. He entered spring instruction determined to boost, but will open the season on the injured list with a strained oblique that forced him to withdraw from the WBC. He is far from a lost bring about, but he’ll want to be a lot higher to justify Chicago’s investment.
These are three examples, but they are not alone. Tad Iguchi (White Sox), Kaz Matsui (Mets), and Akinori Iwamura (Rays) also hit at least 30 homers in Japan with out ever reaching 20 in the main leagues. Matsui and Iwamura in no way even hit ten.
The Red Sox scouted Yoshida extensively and have goal to consider he’ll be the exception. Teammates and coaches have raved about the higher top quality of his batting practices, and he’s putting on a show at the WBC.
It is worth remembering, even so, that history is functioning against him.