Baseball: Stanford-bound slugger Sasaki MLB 1st-round talent: coach

The Stanford University baseball team has obtained an MLB draft first-round talent in Japanese teenage slugger Rintaro Sasaki, head coach David Esquer said Thursday.

The 18-year-old, left-handed hitting first baseman has made waves in Japan by opting to play college baseball in the United States instead of entering Nippon Professional Baseball's draft.

He will graduate in March from Iwate Prefecture's Hanamaki Higashi High School, where he has been coached by his father Hiroshi, who previously mentored Los Angeles Dodgers two-way star Shohei Ohtani and Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi at the school.

Sasaki decided to head to the United States straight out of high school after getting advice from Ohtani and Kikuchi.

"I think his ability is first-round capable," Esquer said in an online interview. "Our job is to help him improve every year and reach his potential."

Stanford has won NCAA College World Series titles twice, in 1987 and 1988. The 184-centimeter, 112-kilogram Sasaki will attend the university on a scholarship.

He will enroll at Stanford for the spring quarter in April before joining the Cardinals program for the 2025 season.

"We've seen Rintaro exclusively on video and film and had access to a lot of tape," Esquer said. "It's unquestionable, his ability to hit and be a middle-of-the-order bat and play right away."

Esquer has high hopes for the Cardinals once Sasaki joins the team.

"We hope to win a national championship while he is here," he said.

© Kyodo News