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Rintaro Sasaki Making Waves in the MLB Draft League

 Nick Martin - World Baseball Network  |    Jun 17th, 2024 4:00pm EDT

The 19-year-old Japanese phenom, Rintaro Sasaki, is making waves in the MLB Draft League after forgoing the Nippon Professional Baseball Draft in Japan to play collegiate baseball at Stanford. Sasaki, another highly touted Japanese prospect, set a new high school record in his home country with 140 home runs.  

Sasaki made his debut with the Trenton Thunder on June 11. He quickly made his presence felt, launching his first home run and adding three RBIs. Through five games with the Thunder, Sasaki is batting .235 with a .762 OPS.  


A candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in the NPB Draft, Sasaki’s decision to come to the US accelerates his path to the MLB. He will now be eligible for the draft in three years.  

The Trenton Thunder, formerly a Double-A affiliate for four MLB teams, including the New York Yankees until 2020, moved to the Draft League after the reorganization of the Minor Leagues in 2020. Sasaki joining the Thunder is not the first example of an international player who has made appearances for the ball club. 

Robinson Cano, from the Dominican Republic, played 123 games with the Thunder and batted .298 with the club. After his time in Trenton, Cano played seventeen seasons in the MLB, which saw Cano make eight all-star teams with a .301 BA, including 2,600 hits and over 300 home runs. Cano is now playing in the Mexican League at 41 years old.  

Domingo German, Aroldis Chapman, Eduardo Nunez, Melky Cabrera, and more are international players who have spent time in Trenton.   

The Thunder now serve as a showcase for collegiate players hoping to raise their draft stock.  

Sasaki, who attended the same high school as reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani, looks to continue the recent success Japanese players have seen in the MLB. Masataka Yoshida, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Shota Imanaga are a few Japanese players who hail from the NPB and have recently made their MLB debuts.  

As Sasaki prepares to suit up for Stanford University next season, his college career will be one to watch and a name MLB fans should expect to hear in the future.  

Photo Credit: Stanford Athletics

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Nick Martin - World Baseball Network