Philadelphia Phillies fans are quickly becoming fans of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix Buffaloes. The Osaka based club is home to outfielder Masataka Yoshida, Japan’s next big export to the United States.
The 29-year old slugger is the hottest name to come out of Japanese baseball since Shohei Ohtani in 2017. Yoshida, a self-professed Bryce Harper superfan, has asked Orix to be posted, or made available to the highest bidding MLB team. The move is likely to be confirmed in the next week or so according to MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi
The addition of Yoshida to the free agent class throws a massive wrinkle into an already interesting hot stove season.
But who is Japan’s next big star, how are the Phillies connected, and does it make sense?
Who is Masataka Yoshida?
Yoshida was drafted by Orix in 2015 and made his NPB Pacific League debut during the 2016 season. A seven year professional player, Yoshida has slashed .327/.421/.539 with 133 HR, 467 RBI, 161 2B, 7 3B, 21 SB, with a .960 OPS. He’s a four-time All-Star, two-time batting Champion, and led the Buffaloes to the 2022 Japan Series Championship. Yoshida also helped lead Japan to a 2020 Olympic gold medal in baseball.
The slugger recently gained viral fame with his walk-off home run to tie the Japan Series at two games each. Orix would go on to win the title, their first in 26-seasons.
Defensively, Yoshida is considered to be a liability. Scouts believe that he would be limited –very limited according to some– to left field and is better suited to be a designated hitter. Yoshida has a below average arm and does not play a very good outfield. There is some belief that Yoshida’s defense can improve with more coaching at the MLB level.
Why the Phillies?
Well, the picture says it all!
Yoshida, like most of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, is a Bryce Harper fan. The slugger starts his social media accounts with “BH”, named his dog Harper, and has posed –with Harper the Dog– in Bryce Harper Phillies gear. At one point, Yoshida wore the #34 as a way to honor Harper.
It would reportedly be a dream come true for Yoshida to play with his idol and the Phillies.
Yoshida’s eventual landing in the Major Leagues isn’t set in stone. Orix will have to post his rights –NPB gives MLB teams the right to negotiate– and a likely contract figure. This will determine the dollars and cents of the deal. How much it will cost a team to negotiate and how much they will have to pay for the Yoshida’s services.
His desire to reportedly play for the Phillies and with Harper is a fun story, but would Yoshida fit with the way the Phillies are currently constructed?
That’s tough to answer but it doesn’t seem like he would fit without some major reshuffling by the organization.
The Phillies have at least four players –Harper, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins– who are or would be better off in the designated hitter role. They could slide Castellanos or Schwarber to the DH slot but that’s assuming Harper is ready to play the field next season. Perhaps the Phillies would simply throw caution to the wind and play Yoshida in left field despite his defensive liabilities.
However that scenario seems unlikely, especially for a team that just lost the World Series in part to poor defensive play.
For now, Phillies fans should focus stateside and the potential for a major free agent haul.