Japanese phenom Roki Sasaki is a name to remember

21-year-old may be a future Seattle Mariner 



Roki Sasaki is one of Japan’s best players. In a couple of years, he could be a Seattle Mariner.

BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor

Roki Sasaki is a 21-year-old in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League and at his young age, is already the king of the league. In 2022, he pitched the single greatest performance in NPB and potentially baseball history and was on the fast track to the MLB. 

Every team should be fighting for the right to sign the righty when he is available, and most importantly, the Seattle Mariners should be at the top of the list for teams looking to sign for his services. 

First, the previously mentioned greatest pitching performance of all time. 

On April 10, 2022, Sasaki pitched the first perfect game in the NPB in the past 28 years. In that performance, he tallied 19 strikeouts, tied for the league’s record for a single game, according to CBS Sports

Not only were 19 total strikeouts tied for a league record, but he also had 13 straight strikeouts at a point in the game, a record in its own. The team he pitched the game against featured multiple former MLB players, so the hitters were no slouches. 

Game score, a metric that aims to quantify the best performances of all time and compares them to one another was another record that Sasaki broke. His 106-game score was the highest ever achieved in a professional nine-inning game. 

It is not a guarantee that Sasaki will ever be posted and be able to enter the ranks of the MLB. But, at the end of the day, he is still only 21 years old and improving. 

If he is posted, he should be a hot commodity that the Mariners pursue to bolster their rotation, even if that is still a half-decade away from happening. 

Sasaki has an unprecedented combination of velocity, vertical and horizontal movement with his fastball and a devastating splitter comparable to the likes of Shohei Ohtani. 

Overall, he has played in 31 games in the NPB, going 12-6 with a 2.01 ERA over 192.2 innings. He has 241 strikeouts to just 39 walks, an elite strikeout-to-walk ratio that will certainly translate to the MLB. 

His 0.882 career WHIP would have been the second-best in the entire league in 2022, behind the American League Cy Young and future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. 

Theoretically, he could enter the league at any point if he follows in the footsteps of Ohtani and requests to be posted before he would be traditionally eligible. If he chooses to wait it out to maximize his pay, it will be at least another four full seasons before he is eligible to be posted.

Even then, he will be just 25 years old and entering his prime, leading to his potential pay to be record-breaking if he plays at a similar level or even improves over the next few years. 

But why the Mariners?

As previously documented, the Mariners have had a knack for signing international athletes such as Ichiro Suzuki and Kazuhiro Sasaki, the Mariners are always “in” on those players. Even with Ohtani, they were on the short list of finalists when he was originally set to join the MLB. 

In four seasons, if and when the team signs Roki Sasaki, a rotation of him, Logan Gilbert, Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Robbie Ray will certainly be the best in the entire league. 

A best-case scenario would also see the team signing Ohtani following the 2023 season, the final on his current contract with the Los Angeles Angels. A duo of Ohtani and Roki Sasaki on the mound and Ohtani and Julio Rodríguez in the lineup would be lethal and a core that would be a World Series contender. 

Mariners fans should keep their eyes on the Japanese star and be hopeful that Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners can reach a deal with the young righty when he makes his way to the MLB.