Image credit: (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam)
Rintaro Sasaki will forgo the Nippon Professional Baseball Draft and attend college in the United States according to numerous reports out of Japan, confirming weeks of speculation the 17-year-old Japanese slugger would head stateside.
A 6-foot, 250-pound behemoth, Sasaki dominated at the high school level in Japan as he slashed an eye-popping .413/.514/.808. Sasaki also hit a Japanese high school record 140 home runs and was thought to be in the mix to be selected first overall in the upcoming NPB Draft. He attends Hanamaki-Higashi High School and plays for his father, Hiroshi Sasaki.
Shohei Ohtani also starred for Hanamaki-Higashi (while being coached by the elder Sasaki) before signing with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
The younger Sasaki’s calling card is his thunderous raw power which comfortably grades out as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. While his power is his premier tool, Sasaki also has a knack for consistently finding the barrel and has a great feel to hit. He has plenty of bat speed as well as big time “buggy whip” in his hands. Sasaki has also shown an advanced approach and has walked twice as many times as he has struck out. Defensively, Sasaki is limited to first base and he fields the position well.
By coming to the U.S. for college, Sasaki would not be subject to MLB’s international amateur rules (which limit teams to a fixed bonus pool) but instead would be eligible for the MLB draft.
It’s a path that White Sox 11th-round pick Rikuu Nishida has just blazed. After graduating from high school in Japan, Nishida spent two years at Mt. Hood (Ore.) JC before transferring to Oregon. He was drafted and signed by the White Sox in 2023.
Sasaki is uncommitted for now, but he will not be headed to junior college, as he is considered a surprise top recruiting target for Division I schools. An interesting wrinkle to Sasaki’s recruitment is that since he is an international player, he cannot receive an NIL deal.