The Globe Baseball Classic has unfolded as a ideal-case situation for the Red Sox and Masataka Yoshida.
The outfielder has been a force for Japan, hitting .400 and major the tournament with ten RBIs, major Red Sox fans to hope that he’s the steal the front workplace envisioned when it gave him $ 90 million more than the subsequent 5 years.
We’ve currently noted the challenges of getting a five-foot-eight energy hitter who bats left-handed in Fenway Park (Brock Holt holds the franchise record for household runs in a season at seven), but there is a further element operating against Yoshida as nicely: the transition from Japan.
Only two Japanese players have reached 20 household runs in a season — Hideki Matsui (seven occasions) and Shohei Ohtani (3 occasions). Otherwise, history is littered with hitters who arrived with the guarantee of energy, only to brief circuit.
Japanese hitters normally struggle with the larger parks, longer seasons, and elevated velocity of the large leagues, but the Red Sox think the 29-year-old Yoshida will be the exception, thanks to his sophisticated method, above-typical bat speed, and all-fields energy. Although recognized mostly for his plate discipline and low strikeout totals, Yoshida set a profession higher with 29 household runs in 2019.
There have been other individuals like him, even so. Bear in mind Kosuke Fukudome? He signed with the Cubs for 4 years and $ 48 million in 2008 at roughly the similar stage of his profession with the expectation that he’d supply thump to Chicago’s lineup.
In his final 3 complete seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, Fukudome blasted 34, 28, and 31 homers, even though he was ideal recognized for operating counts and reaching base (sound familiar?). He then opened his large league profession with a bang, doubling on his initial pitch and blasting a game-tying 3-run homer off All-Star closer Eric Gagne.
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Although he created the All-Star group, his hot commence did not final. Pitchers quickly discovered they could put on him out with inside fastballs and he by no means recovered. He retired with no ever hitting much more than 13 household runs in a season.
Or how about catcher Kenji Johjima? He smacked at least 31 homers 3 occasions in Japan, with a higher of 36 in just 116 games in 2004. The Mariners, who had currently struck gold with Ichiro Suzuki, signed him for 3 years and $ 16.five million at age 30 in 2006 and he played quite nicely, with 18 homers as a rookie. He dipped to 14 homers a year later, and by 2010 he had selected to opt out of his contract and return to Japan.
Far more not too long ago, the Cubs won final year’s bidding for Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki with a 5-year, $ 85 million contract, beating out the Red Sox, amongst other individuals. Suzuki had also exhibited considerable energy in Japan, with 3 30-homer seasons, which includes 38 in his final year with Hiroshima.
Like Fukudome and Johjima, Suzuki delivered a torrid April, which includes a two-homer game just 4 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 regularly higher velocity, a transform that Yoshida need to navigate as nicely.
Suzuki at least completed sturdy, hitting .282 with an .847 OPS in September. He entered spring education determined to enhance, 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 will need to be a lot far better to justify Chicago’s investment.
These are 3 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 no ever reaching 20 in the large leagues. Matsui and Iwamura by no means even hit ten.
The Red Sox scouted Yoshida extensively and have cause to think he’ll be the exception. Teammates and coaches have raved about the high quality of his batting practices, and he’s placing on a show at the WBC.
It really is worth remembering, even so, that history is operating against him.