Connor’s Corner: Masataka Yoshida


Writer’s Note: This article was written as recently as the Boston Red Sox’s Monday night road game against the Baltimore Orioles.  

Hello and welcome back to Connor’s Corner, a column where I discuss a standout performance in professional sports and that player’s journey from high school to the professional level. Following an exciting week of MLB action, one player in particular has been mashing the baseball, leading comebacks and giving his squad a fighting chance despite many counting them out. That player is none other than Red Sox Left Fielder Masataka Yoshida. 

Last Sunday was the rubber match between the Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers. In that contest, Boston found themselves down 5-3 heading into the eighth inning. That deficit was short-lived thanks to a nine-run explosion led by Yoshida. The 29-year-old had an inning to remember, hitting two home runs including a grand slam that sealed the road team’s 12-5 victory. On top of the two bombs, the Japan native hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning to give Boston the first run of the contest. 

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has taken heat for many front office decisions this past offseason, such as failing to re-sign Xander Bogaerts and dealing what some in the league see as an “overpay” for Yoshida. ESPN reporter Kiley McDaniel spoke to one MLB executive who said, “We thought he was worth less than half of what they paid.” 

Boston paid a pretty penny for Yoshida, paying him $90 million over five seasons, not including the $15.375 million posting fee they already paid the Orix Buffaloes of the NPB. Yoshida was excellent during his Japan career, hitting .326/.419/.538, including 135 HR in 3,251 plate appearances, only striking out 307 times. This past season was the best one yet for the young slugger, who hit .335/.447.561, 21 HR, 80 BB in 508 plate appearances and won the Nippon Series, the World Series equivalent in Japan. While some argue that Yoshida is off to a slow start this season, his talent is undeniable. The fact the team invested these funds shows that they believe in the two-time batting champ to lead this young Red Sox team. 

Yoshida has seen highs and lows this season, with Sunday being the peak. The left fielder has met expectations so far, hitting .265, 15 RBI, 3 HR and a .789 OPS; what isn’t included in these statistics is his star-studded performance in the World Baseball Classic. The Japan star went 9-for-22 from the dish, including two home runs and 13 RBI in a seven-game span that included Japan’s third WBC title. Yoshida played so well in this run that he was recognized in the Baseball Hall of Fame, with the bat and helmet that he used in the tournament being put on display. His performance in this tournament is a warning to other teams, as Yoshida has no problem hitting the world’s best pitchers. Yoshida was runner-up for MVP of the tournament behind teammate and two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. 

With players like Ohtani and Yoshida, one can no longer deny the talent in the NPB, and because of this, we may see more players from Japan come to the MLB. Another player to watch is Munetaka Murakami, who hit .318/.458/.711 with 56 home runs this past season. He will be posted in 2025, at which time MLB clubs can pay the team’s fee to gain the rights to sign Murakami. Of course, there are other leagues out there than just the NPB, and the WBC was evident of that fact. Yoshida is one of the few players this season to come from Japan, and MLB clubs will monitor his success to see whether they take a crack at other players or not. 

The WBC was a great thing for baseball seeing as it is essentially free exposure for players in leagues around the world, and the MLB needs to do a better job of promoting it. After all, Nicaragua pitcher Duque Hebbert signed a deal with the Detroit Tigers an hour after his impressive performance in the WBC. For Red Sox fans, the WBC gave them a sneak peek at what they can expect in Yoshida. A significant question for Yoshida is whether his power in Japan will translate well into Beantown. After all, he is undoubtedly near his prime at 29 years old, if not in it already. 

Whether Boston overpaid or not has yet to be decided. The Red Sox have been dormant in recent years, and they haven’t gotten off to the hottest start, currently 12-12, which is last in the AL East. It is certainly early, and the city of Boston hopes to become the city of champions. The Bruins and Celtics are fighting for their respective championships and the Red Sox are close to emulating the other Boston franchises. With Chris Sale coming off the IL and gaining experience in the MLB again, Rafael Devers playing at an All-Star level and the Red Sox acquiring a formidable force in Yoshida, this team will keep baseball fans on their toes for years to come. 

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