Red Sox sign Masataka Yoshida

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All of those changes look aimed at reacting to getting busted inside. Were they frequently coming in hard to Masa?
 
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TimScribble

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Ian Browne from MLB had info in the MLB Red Sox beat email:

Yoshida, following some consultation with the coaching staff, opened up his batting stance. A slight adjustment led to him seeing the ball far better than he was earlier in the season. After all, it is pretty hard to hit what you aren’t seeing.

“I can pick out the balls that I should swing at, so I think that’s why I’m doing well,” said Yoshida. “I'm focused on my batting form, especially my stance. So, stance-wise, I'm stepping with my right foot back a little bit. Then, it makes me more comfortable to see the ball. I haven’t changed anything swing-wise.”

The stance adjustment came from the “hitting group,” as manager Alex Cora calls it, led by assistant hitting coach Luis Ortiz.

“With Luis especially, they talked about it, they made some adjustments,” Cora said. “You can see the hands, where they’re at right now, a little bit more relaxed. We’re learning who he is. He’s learning the group.”

“They talked about rolling over to second and what’s going to happen and why it happens with him,” said Cora. “I think that helped us in a sense, and just talking to those guys and learning a little bit about him, it was huge for us.”

Aside from the stance adjustments, Yoshida picked up another significant thing about pitching patterns in MLB compared to the NPB.

“I learned the pitchers in MLB prefer to use heaters up in the zone,” said Yoshida. “I figured that out.”
 

rodderick

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Ian Browne from MLB had info in the MLB Red Sox beat email:
Interesting to read he had to adjust to fastballs up in the zone as that's a relatively recent development in the majors that I guess hasn't made its way to Japan. Makes a lot of sense when I recall his swings early in the season and the slow rollers to second that almost looked like he was chopping down at the ball. Now everything is right on the button.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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There is something really baseball-beautiful about watching a guy demolish a bad pitch to the triangle for a HR in his first AB and then later in the game whack an outside fastball through the hole on the left side.

Masa is simply smashing the ball wherever it is, not trying to smash it where he wishes it was. And he is drawing walks.

The first adjustment has clearly gone in his favor, we’ll see what happens when the league adjusts back, but approach-wise the signs are very good.
 

BaseballJones

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His first 13 games: 58 PA, 8 r, 1 2b, 1 hr, 6 rbi, .167/.310/.250/.560, .167 babip - hits in 5 games, multiple hits in 3 games
His last 13 games: 57 PA, 10 r, 5 2b, 4 hr, 15 rbi, .431/.474/.765/1.238, .429 babip - hits in all 13 games, multiple hits in 8 games

Like night and day.
Now last 14 games: 62 PA, 13 r, 5 2b, 5 hr, 18 rbi, .446/.484/.804/1.288

Holy smokes the dude is on fire. And again, it's consistent. A 14 game hitting streak, with multiple hits in 9 of the 14 games. On base more than once in all but two of those games. Crazy.
 

simplicio

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He looks a lot like the best hitter in the ROY class. Trailing only Outman in WRC+ (158 to 163, on 100 points lower BABIP) and with a K rate 6% lower than anyone else.
 

oumbi

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Statistically it is likely that at least one of his ancestors of the ~2000 he would have between now and then would have been a samurai. Most of us on the board descend from Charlemagne and/or Ghengis Khan. Go back far enough...
And if we push things back far enough, aren't we all part of one original group or person dating back to Africa? And aren't so many of all tied to neanderthals as well? I suppose so. But I do not think we should all go around thinking our links to them or Charlemagne are meaningful today.
 

Yo La Tengo

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I agree that the hand positioning is a noticeable difference and it is hard to tell if that is just a set up adjustment (seems likely) or a change to his swing mechanics (which I think is unlikely). I think the potentially bigger change is the slightly open stance. As the ball is delivered, Yoshida steps in to even his feet. To my eye, one of his biggest challenges is avoiding having his front shoulder fly open too soon and have his weight pulling toward first too early. I'd call that pulling off the ball. Earlier in the year, a lot of those weak ground balls to the pitcher or 2B were on fastballs that he opened up on too soon. And, even when he is hitting well, his front shoulder opens early (the still from a video clip above is from his line drive down the 3rd base line last night on a well placed fastball right on the outside corner). Having the open stance and then closing as part of the pre-swing load can help with that front shoulder and weight/balance. That's my guess on the adjustment.
“I can pick out the balls that I should swing at, so I think that’s why I’m doing well,” said Yoshida. “I'm focused on my batting form, especially my stance. So, stance-wise, I'm stepping with my right foot back a little bit. Then, it makes me more comfortable to see the ball. I haven’t changed anything swing-wise.”

Looks like the foot is the factor and the change is with the set-up (stance) not the swing. I find it interesting that Yoshida is discussing seeing the ball better when he was not swinging at pitches out of the zone during his mini-slump. "Seeing the ball" is the equivalent catch-all to "tipping pitches"; easier to point to than the fact that your timing was off or your mechanics were messed up.

Whatever he's doing... keep doing it. This stretch of hitting has been such a joy to watch.
 

BaseballJones

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We do have to remember that he's a 29 year old pro. Dude has been around the block. And even though he's new to MLB, pretty clearly Japan has some pretty awesome pitching and he's got a ton of experience. This is no ordinary rookie. He's a seasoned pro. And he sure looks like it.
 

BigSoxFan

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We do have to remember that he's a 29 year old pro. Dude has been around the block. And even though he's new to MLB, pretty clearly Japan has some pretty awesome pitching and he's got a ton of experience. This is no ordinary rookie. He's a seasoned pro. And he sure looks like it.
The question I have is whether or not this is the peak or if he has another gear in him. Clearly, I’d gladly take this version but if that power stroke continues…well, that would be exciting.
 

simplicio

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Yeah, it doesn't feel fair or right that he's eligible for ROY, but since that award now comes with free draft picks attached, I'm rooting hard for him to take it.
 

BaseballJones

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The question I have is whether or not this is the peak or if he has another gear in him. Clearly, I’d gladly take this version but if that power stroke continues…well, that would be exciting.
He's not going to hit for more power than this. He's on pace for 36 homers over a 162-game season. He's never done that before, not even really close. I would expect all the numbers to drop and for him to settle in around .310 avg, and end up with about 20-25 homers, which would be more than any of us could have reasonably hoped for going into the season.
 

BigSoxFan

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He's not going to hit for more power than this. He's on pace for 36 homers over a 162-game season. He's never done that before, not even really close. I would expect all the numbers to drop and for him to settle in around .310 avg, and end up with about 20-25 homers, which would be more than any of us could have reasonably hoped for going into the season.
True but he’s hitting bombs to the triangle now. I think 30 HRs is within reach but agree that 20-25 is probably more likely, which is still very good.
 

nvalvo

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He's not going to hit for more power than this. He's on pace for 36 homers over a 162-game season. He's never done that before, not even really close. I would expect all the numbers to drop and for him to settle in around .310 avg, and end up with about 20-25 homers, which would be more than any of us could have reasonably hoped for going into the season.
He might. Some of those Pacific League parks are gigantic, and now he plays in the AL East, where several of the parks are very power friendly.

A lot of NPB parks (including the Kyocera dome, Orix’ home park) have the same symmetrical OF dimensions, with 400 ft to CF, 380 to the power alleys, and 330 down the lines. So that’s basically Fenway’s RF on both sides, a bit shallower in straightaway center, but very deep down the lines and to the alleys.
 

Rovin Romine

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True but he’s hitting bombs to the triangle now. I think 30 HRs is within reach but agree that 20-25 is probably more likely, which is still very good.
I don't know. His slugging has mostly been around .550 in Japan. His AB/HR number:

Age, AB, HR, AB/HR
22, 265, 11, 24
23, 242, 13, 18
24, 514, 26, 19.7
25, 521, 29, 17.9
26, 408, 14, 29.1
27, 393, 21, 18.7
28, 417, 21, 19.8
29, 104, 6, 23.3

Get him 550 ABs at a rate of 19, you're looking at 28 HRs. At a rate of 23, its 24 HRs.

The other major factor would be Fenway - adding or taking away HRs compared to the average Japanese stadium, or even his home park in Japan.
(Edit: scooped.)
 

simplicio

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He might. Some of those Pacific League parks are gigantic, and now he plays in the AL East, where several of the parks are very power friendly.

A lot of NPB parks (including the Kyocera dome, Orix’ home park) have the same symmetrical OF dimensions, with 400 ft to CF, 380 to the power alleys, and 330 down the lines. So that’s basically Fenway’s RF on both sides, a bit shallower in straightaway center, but very deep down the lines and to the alleys.
Also, really high walls. I couldn't find a height measurement but this is Kyocera dome. 64402
 

Rovin Romine

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Yeah, it doesn't feel fair or right that he's eligible for ROY, but since that award now comes with free draft picks attached, I'm rooting hard for him to take it.
Why isn't it fair? I mean, I used to feel that it shortchanged the kids coming up from the minors, but when you think about it that's a bit of an illusion. What if a club holds someone back for an extra development year? What if a club calls someone up early and they struggle in the first half? What if an indy-ball guy develops his game, signs with a club and comes in as a 28 year old?

ROY isn't there to vet "true talent level at age 24" or something. It's simply best new player to MLB, regardless of age or origin.
 

Max Power

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Why isn't it fair? I mean, I used to feel that it shortchanged the kids coming up from the minors, but when you think about it that's a bit of an illusion. What if a club holds someone back for an extra development year? What if a club calls someone up early and they struggle in the first half? What if an indy-ball guy develops his game, signs with a club and comes in as a 28 year old?

ROY isn't there to vet "true talent level at age 24" or something. It's simply best new player to MLB, regardless of age or origin.
It's literally called the "Jackie Robinson Award." He was a 28 year old rookie when he won the ROY award in 1947, having already played at the highest level in another league.
 

soxhop411

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The Athletic with another Masataka Yoshida article

When longtime major league outfielder Adam Jones arrived in Japan to play for the Orix Buffaloes in 2020, he noticed one player right away — a player everyone called Harper-san, who wore No. 34.

It wasn’t Bryce Harper himself, of course, but one of his biggest fans: current Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida.
Yoshida not only wore 34 in Japan for Harper, but named his French bulldog Harper and uses an Instagram handle (BH_Masataka34) with Harper’s initials and number. When Nippon Professional Baseball had a game where players wore nicknames on the backs of their jerseys, Yoshida, naturally, chose Harper as his nickname.

“He’d mimic Harper, in a way, using the whole field and how he goes about his offensive game,” Jones said. At one point, Jones reached out to Harper to have him send a signed jersey for Yoshida and his dog as a gift for his Orix teammate.
So it’s safe to say Yoshida has had this weekend in Philadelphia circled on his calendar since signing with the Red Sox in December.

The fact that Harper will be on the field for the first time at home this year after an accelerated recovery from offseason Tommy John surgery feels even more serendipitous for the Red Sox outfielder.

“I’m really honored to play against him,” Yoshida said through interpreter Keiichiro Wakabayashi. “Also I’ve heard that surgery usually takes a year to come back to play, but he’s come back to play much quicker than usual. I’ve experienced some injuries, so I know it’s a lot of work to come back, so that part I really respect.”

Yoshida is off to an impressive start in his rookie season, and his intense studying of Major League Baseball while playing in Nippon Professional Baseball for seven seasons has undoubtedly helped ease his transition to American baseball.

Yoshida is learning English and finding ways to communicate with his Red Sox teammates and coaches, but baseball talk is the universal language in the clubhouse. In the few months that manager Alex Cora has gotten to know Yoshida, he’s appreciated Yoshida’s intense passion for the game.

“He’s a baseball rat, he is,” Cora said. “He knows the game. He knows the players. It’s good baseball conversations with him, which I love. He knows a lot. He knows the pitchers. As far as homework, he understands what he needs to do to prepare for this.”

Cora was impressed that Yoshida already knew so much about so many of his Red Sox teammates, as well as others across the league, when he arrived in spring training.

“He knows the good ones and what they do,” Cora said. “For example Javy Báez, he told me, ‘Puerto Rico, good defender, pop, homers’. I bet he was locked in on this for a while, understanding he wanted to come here, so it’s refreshing to talk baseball with him.”

When the Red Sox were scouting Yoshida last season, they were afraid the Phillies would have the upper hand in signing Yoshida given his affinity for Harper. Not only did they not have Harper, but No. 34 in Boston was off the table for obvious reasons having to do with a certain Dominican slugger and Red Sox legend. But the Phillies didn’t pursue Yoshida as aggressively without the need for an outfield bat. At the time, the Red Sox’s signing of Yoshida so quickly after he posted in December was baffling for many across baseball.
Jones, a 14-year major-league veteran who played two seasons in Orix alongside Yoshida, was a source of knowledge for the Red Sox, as well as other teams who were scouting him. Jones’ description of Yoshida as a Japanese version of San Diego Padres outfielder Juan Soto reinforced the Red Sox’s internal opinions of the player. The Red Sox, like every other team, could not meet with Yoshida until he had posted, so all of their data and analysis came from external observations and conversations with people across NBP.
“When I finally met him, his attention to detail was real,” said Red Sox vice president of scouting development and integration Gus Quattlebaum, who spent weeks in Japan watching Yoshida last year. “He asked me if the ball snakes at Fenway in the outfield grass. I’ve never had someone ask me that. There was attention to detail and he would make observations on other hitters that stood out. Hitters came to him, he saw the game differently.”

All of that information gave the Red Sox conviction in signing Yoshida. Yet the slow start had some questioning the deal. Jones watched from afar and wasn’t concerned. He had a message relayed to his former teammate.

“I know his interpreter Kei really well and I texted him to tell Yoshida ‘you don’t need to swing so hard, they throw hard here, the ball will fly,’” Jones said. “Just stick to the ball and be quick enough and use the whole field. That’s what Juan Soto does. Juan Soto is not a power hitter, he uses the whole field, but hits the ball hard on the line and takes his walks. Yoshida will take his walks.”
https://theathletic.com/4490790/2023/05/05/masataka-yoshida-bryce-harper-meet/?source=emp_shared_article&access_token=223370&redirected=1

 

jayhoz

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To my eye the open stance is less about vision and more about balance and body position at contact. Here are 4 swings from Hoshida. First two are with the even stance and the second two are with the open stance. His front foot lands in the same spot either way, but in these examples (sss warning) it looks like the subtle weight transfer toward the plate keeps his body more upright and his hands more connected. He goes from his head moving away from the plate and pulling off the ball to a solid connected swing.

https://www.mlb.com/video/00ufmmu41qO2KNWXx356/reels/yoshida-then-and-now?partnerId=web_video-playback-page_video-share
 

moondog80

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Why isn't it fair? I mean, I used to feel that it shortchanged the kids coming up from the minors, but when you think about it that's a bit of an illusion. What if a club holds someone back for an extra development year? What if a club calls someone up early and they struggle in the first half? What if an indy-ball guy develops his game, signs with a club and comes in as a 28 year old?

ROY isn't there to vet "true talent level at age 24" or something. It's simply best new player to MLB, regardless of age or origin.
I don't see it as an age thing, but I do feel like the spirit of the award is for a guy who has never played in an MLB-quality league, not sure where Japan fits on the spectrum between AAA and MLB. Not a hill I'll die on though, especially since I believe the Sox would qualify for draft bonuses if he wins? Or was he not mentioned on the correct MLB top 100 prospect lists?
 

chrisfont9

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Also, really high walls. I couldn't find a height measurement but this is Kyocera dome. View attachment 64402
Gee it looks kind of nice in there. I've only been to Koshien a couple times from my Kyoto days, we never made it to a Buffaloes game.

Seems like all of the teams play at sea level there too. Does the ball carry anywhere or is it just like playing in Safeco Field/T-Mobile Park all season?
 

nighthob

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And if we push things back far enough, aren't we all part of one original group or person dating back to Africa? And aren't so many of all tied to neanderthals as well? I suppose so. But I do not think we should all go around thinking our links to them or Charlemagne are meaningful today.
There is an entire human sewer on this board for this bullshit. Please go there to complain about how terrible everyone is. Thanks. The rest of us are having our joy in watching Yoshi destroy MLB pitching interrupted.
 

Van Everyman

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The line about the Phillies not needing an outfielder made me realize that Yoshida is, in some ways, filling the role Schwarber would have had we retained him (and eventually moved on from JDM).

While I was among those who were a little bummed to see Schwarbombs in Philly instead of Boston last year—and the damage he did in the WBC this spring—I am beginning to think the Sox may have played this perfectly with Yoshida (who himself did ok in the WBC).
 

RG33

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SSS and all, but Masa is OPS-ing at .948 in his first 120 MLB at-bats.

He OPS-ed at .957 in his 7 years in the NPB.

So far, he seems to be what Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox scouting and development folks thought he was. Perhaps some of the snickering in the industry over his contract figures will begin to dissipate?
 

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Current top 3 odds for AL ROY on Draft Kings:

Masa: +225 (0.9 WAR, .948 OPS)
Jung: +350 (0.7 WAR, .866 OPS)
Volpe: +700 (0.8 WAR, .681 OPS)

Jung is going to put up sexy power numbers but the rest of his numbers aren't too impressive - he's Renfroeing right now. Most of Volpe's value is tied into his defense right now but I expect that bat to heat up at some point after his frigid start. Even with some regression, I think Masa has a great shot at ROY, if he stays healthy.
 

grimshaw

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This is also the first time I can recall a player liking Bryce Harper let alone idolizing him. Hopefully that's the last thing he can adjust to.
 

No Pepper

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Yeah, it doesn't feel fair or right that he's eligible for ROY, but since that award now comes with free draft picks attached, I'm rooting hard for him to take it.
Yoshida isn't eligible for the PPI bonus, he didn't make two of the three main prospect top 100 lists. It seems a little harsh that one rookie could generate a bonus for his team but another can't, but the idea behind the PPI incentive was to keep pre-arb players from being stashed in the minors in order to hold back the arb/FA clock and I doubt anyone thinks the Red Sox needed to be incentivized not to start Yoshida in Worcester on opening day.
 

simplicio

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Oh that's good to know, I didn't realize there was a prospect lists requirement. Looks like our hopes are resting on Casas then. Maybe Masa can teach him to hit again.
 

jon abbey

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But if Yoshida wins Rookie of the Year, it would keep NY and BAL and HOU and the rest of the AL from possibly getting that pick/extra draft money, so definitely a tangible benefit.