Yomiuri Giants slugger Kazuma Okamoto is a favorite to win the home run title this season. Major League Baseball is taking notice, but it won’t be easy for a while.
Okamoto, Yomiuri’s No. 4 hitter and a key member of Japan’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) team in March, leads the Central League in home runs this season. 41 homers through 17 days. That’s a commanding lead over last year’s home run leader, Yakult Swallows No. 4 hitter Munetaka Murakami (30). At this rate, he’s on pace to win the home run title this year. Okamoto’s pace is the fastest in the entire league, as the Pacific League’s home run leader is tied with 24 home runs by foreign hitters.
Okamoto is also fourth in the league in slugging percentage at .294 and second in RBIs with 93. He’s also the ninth player in league history to reach the 30-homer plateau for six straight years, and he’s having his best year yet, tying his “career high” this season.
Not surprisingly, major league teams are watching. Major League scouts have been checking out NPB’s top players this season, and Okamoto’s performance in the WBC has elevated his profile. Recently, there have been speculations that he could reach the major leagues through the posting system, but it’s not easy. Clubs would have to approve.
John Morosi, a major league reporter for MLB Network in the U.S., posted on his social media account on the 18th (KST), “The Yomiuri Giants will not post Okamoto this winter. Okamoto is not eligible for free agency until after the 2026 season. Unless we post him, he will not be able to reach the major leagues.”메이저놀이터
The Yomiuri organization has a reputation for not allowing its players to post about their journeys to the major leagues. The only Yomiuri player to be allowed to post was Shun Yamaguchi after the 2019 season ended. Yamaguchi signed with the Toronto Blue Jays after the 2019 season, and later with the San Francisco Giants before returning to Yomiuri during the 2021 season.
The odds of Yomiuri approving a post for Okamoto are close to zero, especially since he is currently the team’s key hitter and one of the best sluggers in the league. Yomiuri is still in fourth place in the league this season and has suffered humiliating losses, including dropping the championship-deciding game to rival Hanshin Tigers. The team’s performance has been unsatisfactory for several years now, and the addition of Okamoto will only add to their struggles.