When discussing Japanese stars who are thought to have immense potential and could succeed in the Major Leagues, the conversation seems to begin and end with Shohei Otani. However, there’s an infielder who’s starting to make waves in Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central League.
Tetsuto Yamada is a second baseman for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Central League. He was the 2015 Central League MVP, leading the league in home runs, runs scored, doubles, and stolen bases. He is the first player in NPB history to lead the league in homers and stolen bases. In large part to his MVP season, the Swallows made it to the Japan Series against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
The Swallows lost in five games, but it would’ve been a sweep had Yamada not pulled one last magic act out of his hat. In Game 3, he hit three home runs in three consecutive at-bats. That performance lifted the team to an 8-4 victory, their only win of the Series.
Yamada, 24, has played since 2011, spending every year with the Swallows. He broke out in 2014, hitting 29 homers and 83 RBI. He followed that up with his MVP 2015 season. He was the lone bright spot in a 2016 Swallows team that went 64-78. Yamada hit 32 homers and 102 RBI while slashing .307/.620/.425. He accumulated 292 total bases.
Yamada may be the best position player to come out of Japan since Ichiro in 2001. He has a power stroke, which MLB teams are starting to look for. Combine that with his speed and you’ve got a one of a kind player. Yamada could be a superstar at a position where you can’t find many.
Only time will tell if he’ll become the next big Japanese import.
Photo Credit: The Japan Times