Rintaro Sasaki, the celebrated Japanese high school baseball player who holds the career home run record, has sent shockwaves through the baseball world by forgoing his application for the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) draft. Instead, he has expressed his intention to enroll in an American college to pursue his baseball dreams.
Sasaki, a towering 6-foot, 250-pound first baseman, has been the talk of Japanese baseball due to his incredible talent. Attending Hanamaki-Higashi High School, where even Shohei Ohtani honed his skills, Sasaki was considered the clear favorite to be the top pick in the upcoming NPB draft.
However, the young slugger decided to take a path less traveled by top Japanese high school prospects. He aims to follow his dreams of playing in Major League Baseball (MLB) and become the first high school standout from Japan to attend an American college with aspirations of entering the MLB draft.
Sasaki’s decision is unprecedented, and it has intrigued scouts and baseball enthusiasts alike. Known for his jaw-dropping 70-grade raw power, which could translate into 30 or more home runs annually in the majors, Sasaki faces challenges in transitioning to American baseball. In Japan, he has primarily faced pitchers throwing mid-80s velocity, raising questions about how he will perform against top amateur pitchers in the U.S.
From a scouting perspective, Sasaki is currently seen as a roughly third-round draft prospect due to the uncertainties surrounding his transition.
Moreover, Sasaki’s plans to strike a Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deal while on American soil could be complex. Most foreign student-athletes in the U.S. are on F-1 student visas, which generally prohibit off-campus employment unless it is part of their academic program. While some college athletes, like former Kentucky basketball star Oscar Tshiebwe, have fulfilled NIL deals while outside the country, the situation remains intricate.
Sasaki’s bold move has left fans and experts eager to witness his journey in American collegiate baseball, as he attempts to make history and pave the way for future Japanese talents pursuing MLB dreams through American college programs.
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