Japanese star infielder Munetaka Murakami signs three-year deal with Yakult Swallows, per Jon Morosi. The Nippon Professional Baseball product seems destined for a career in the U.S., and his contract has a stipulation that he will be posted as a free agent after the 2025 season. Murakami is only 22 years old but has still taken NPB by storm and has won back-to-back MVP awards.
Murakami has the nickname “Babe Ruth of Higo” because he hit 52 home runs in high school. He was drafted in the 2017 NPB Draft by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and experienced a breakout for the Japanese national baseball team in 2019 when they faced Mexico in exhibition games. Murakami played so well that he then returned to the Swallows and became the youngest player ever to start an opening game at 19. He won the Central League’s Rookie of the Year and was named an All-Star that season.
Murakami hasn’t slowed down since. He won the MVP award for the Central League in both 2021 and 2022 and is considered one of the best players in the NPB. The 6 ft. 2 lefty bat projects as a corner infielder whenever he does come to the U.S. but profiles as a typical first baseman.
He only played six games in the 2018 season, but through five seasons, he has played in 553 games and is a career .281 hitter with 160 home runs with 430 RBI. To win his second consecutive MVP award, Murakami hit 56 home runs with 134 RBI in only 141 games. His average could take a dip when he comes to the U.S., but his light-tower power should remain. He hit his 56th home run on the final day of the season to clinch the Triple Crown leading the NPB in average, home runs and RBI. Murakami was the first triple crown winner in the NPB since 2004, when Nobuhiko Matsunaka completed the feat.