The Yankees aren’t always the most active team when it comes to signing players from the Nippon Baseball League, but when they have, it’s usually turned out extremely well.
Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka were postseason heroes and beloved Yankees that were a massive part of many postseason runs. While the Yankees passed on Masataka Yoshida and Kodai Senga this past offseason, they may look toward the future with superstar slugger Munetaka Murakami, who’s going to be posted after the 2025 season. He holds the NPB record for HRs hit by a Japanese-born player with 56 in 2022, and he could be the next great player to make the transition from the NPB to MLB.
In an interview on Japanese Television, Murakami discussed wanting to play for a west coast team but specifically mentioned interest in the Yankees. While that doesn’t mean he’s 100% going to play for the Yankees, it does mean he finds the Yankees as an appealing destination when he hits the open market. While we’re still three seasons away from his posting, this could be massive for the Bronx Bombers.
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Future Superstar for the Yankees?
Murakami is one of the best power hitters in the world, as he’s blasted 30 or more HRs in 3 of his last 4 seasons, with the only exception being 2020, where he only played 120 games and still hit 28. Last year he slugged a whopping .711 with a .458 OBP with a BB% of nearly 20%. He’s a selective hitter who can absolutely crush the baseball, and with his left-handed swing, he’d be perfect for the Bronx. As a flyball-centric bat, Murakami should feast with a shorter RF even as he adjusts to MLB pitching.
The Yankees have a deal with Anthony Rizzo that can have him around from 2023-2025 if they pick up his option, and that leaves the 1B job open for Murakami right when he’s posted. Whether that was intentional or not remains to be seen, but the lanes for them to acquire Murakami are there. He’d also only be entering his age 26 season when he debuts in MLB for the 2026 season, so he’s a player you could give 6-7 years to and feel confident they wouldn’t age too quickly.
The Yankees clearly love having that left-handed power bat at 1B, and Murakami can continue that trend after Rizzo’s tenure in pinstripes is over. We still have three more years of data to collect on Murakami before we an reach any reasonable conclusion on what to project from him, but so far, he’s on pace to become one of the greatest players in NPB history. His power-heavy approach with good plate discipline could transition into him being a slugger like Kyle Schwarber, a perennial 30-40 HR threat with a wRC+ ranging between 125-130.
He won’t have to worry about extreme shifts either, as those would have been long gone by then, so he can pull the ball to his heart’s desire. It’s important for the Yankees to continue to have power bats in that lineup to surround the young pieces they already have coming up the farm system. We’re looking ahead here, but with the Yankees signing Murakami down the road, their lineup could look like this.
- Anthony Volpe SS
- Aaron Judge RF
- Munetaka Murakami 1B
- Giancarlo Stanton DH
- Spencer Jones LF
- Jasson Dominguez CF
- Austin Wells C
- Oswaldo Cabrera 3B
- Oswald Peraza 2B
While it’s obviously unrealistic to assume all of your guys pan out, the amount of high-level young talent the Yankees have could end up saving them a lot of money down the road and give them opportunities to sign big-ticket-free agents like Murakami. He’s a 22-year-old with an OPS north of 1.100 in his most recent season in the NPB, who knows what the ceiling is for this guy? It’s a youth movement in the Bronx, and perhaps Murakami is a part of that one day in 2026.