How Masataka Yoshida Can Take Gigantic Leap In Second Red Sox Season

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Masataka Yoshida made the leap from NPB to MLB, getting acclimated after signing a five-year, $90 million deal with the Boston Red Sox last offseason.

With the debut campaign under Yoshida’s belt and behind him, the 30-year-old can look forward to building off the 2023 experience. Yoshida proved to be exactly what the Red Sox envisioned after scouting the Japanese standout — a disciplined hitter who can work at-bats and play a corner outfield spot. At points throughout Yoshida’s rookie campaign, the left-handed hitter seemed unfazed by the trail of adapting to MLB baseball.

Yoshida finished 2023 hitting .289/.338/.445 with 15 home runs, 33 doubles and 72 RBIs. It wasn’t enough to squeeze into a competitive American League Rookie of the Year race with Red Sox teammate Triston Casas — who finished third in the voting — or Baltimore Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson, who won the award with 30 first-place votes.

Nevertheless, like the Red Sox, Yoshida isn’t looking back but moving forward with plenty of opportunity for growth as a relied-upon everyday starter. Whether that’ll come as a designated hitter or outfielder as Yoshida’s expected to inherit a hybrid-like role, there are several ways to step forward.

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First and foremost, Yoshida can use 2024 as a 162-game window to focus primarily on hitting. That’ll be the strongest asset he enters the year with as with Justin Turner gone, Boston will need a reliable designated hitting bat in the lineup. Yoshida already can patiently work at-bats and wear pitchers out, drawing 34 walks in total last season. He can also hit for average, batting .306 in 67 games played at Fenway Park, however, the power department can be turned up a notch, especially for Boston’s benefit.

“The main thing I kind of focus on is trying to hit hard,” Yoshida told reporters through a translator at JetBlue Park at spring training, per team-provided video. “Outcome I can’t really control, but the process of it, I have control over that. So, that’s something that I want to focus on this year offensively.”

The Red Sox ranked 18th in MLB with 182 home runs. Adam Duvall was Boston’s only outfielder to hit 20-plus home runs and third baseman Rafael Devers was the only one to drive in 100 RBIs. It’s evident that a boost in power and overall offensive production is essential and in Yoshida’s case, as a designated hitter, that’s the primary role.

Boston elected to stick with most of its 2023 roster heading into 2024. The front office added Tyler O’Neil and Vaughn Grissom, who are expected to take over in their own outfield and infield roles respectively, but the lineup didn’t drastically change from the offseason.

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At times when skipper Alex Cora will need Yoshida to pick up a glove and patrol the outfield, being prepared for those instances will also be ideal. Yoshida was an overall reliable everyday outfielder, but at times, it was clear improvements and polishing could elevate his defensive game.

Yoshida recorded a .977 fielding percentage, committing three errors in 133 defensive chances in left field. That’s solid, but Yoshida could also expand on his defensive range and arm to leave runners on the base path thinking twice before targeting extra bases.

If all comes together, Yoshida’s leap could best be represented in an All-Star appearance at Globe Life Field in Texas.

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