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Where Information Sparks Brilliance
HomeSportsJapanese HS phenom set to play NCAA baseball

Japanese HS phenom set to play NCAA baseball

Rintaro Sasaki, the Japanese high school career home run record holder, did not submit his application for the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) draft and has stated his intention to go to an American college to play baseball.

Sasaki is the consensus top prospect among graduating Japanese high school players and was the presumed favorite to be picked first in the upcoming NPB draft, until he made this decision.

The 6-foot, 250-pound first baseman attends Hanamaki-Higashi High School, playing for his father, Hiroshi. Shohei Ohtani also played at that high school.

There is no precedent for a top Japanese high school prospect coming to an American college and entering the Major League Baseball draft. Although Sasaki’s leaning and scheduled recruiting visits are unclear, industry chatter and a Japanese report have pegged Vanderbilt as an early leader.

From a scouting perspective, Sasaki has 70-grade raw power, which would translate to 30-plus home runs annually in the majors. He has largely faced mid-80’s velocity in Japan, where he has belted a record 140 career homers in high school play, so there is uncertainty about exactly how good he would perform immediately against the best amateur pitchers in the U.S.

Given that uncertainty, scouting consensus is that Sasaki currently is roughly a third-round draft prospect.

It would be complicated for Sasaki to strike an NIL deal while on American soil. Most foreign student-athletes are on an F-1 student visa, which prohibits students from off-campus employment unless it is part of their academic program of study.

Some college athletes, like former Kentucky basketball star Oscar Tshiebwe fulfill their NIL deals while out of the country, like during his team’s tournament in the Bahamas. The NCAA’s NIL policy advises student-athletes to consult their school’s officials for guidance on “maintaining their immigration status and tax implications.”

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