3 Japanese stars Dodgers can pursue in addition to Roki Sasaki

The Dodgers aren't nearly done yet.

World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan
World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan / Eric Espada/GettyImages
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Hiroto Takahashi, SP

Takahashi, only 21, might be one of the most exciting up-and-coming pitchers in NPB. He opened his career with a rocky start with the Chunichi Dragons in 2021 at 18, but has since found his feet, pitching 266 2/3 innings over the past two seasons for a 2.53 ERA with 212 strikeouts. He also pitched for Japan in the WBC at only 20 years old, pitching three innings over three games, including one in the final, when he got Mike Trout swinging on a full-count splitter. It was one of five strikeouts across his appearances; he also gave up three hits, only one of which turned into a run.

In his last start of 2023, he pitched six innings, only gave up one hit and one run, two walks, and struck out eight, mowing through batters with a diverse pitch mix that includes a forkball that looks just as impossible to hit as the one Kodai Senga introduced to the majors in 2023. He also threw a complete game shutout in 2023, giving up only five hits and two walks, and striking out nine batters on the way.

Takahashi has been spotted wearing Padres gear, which Yu Darvish reportedly gifted to all of the players on Team Japan during the WBC, but he has also been seen with Yamamoto since his signing with the Dodgers in December. The Dodgers clearly rely heavily on their star power to net them even more stars, and they could employ Yamamoto in the same way Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman were used to recruit him. If Takahashi can keep excelling in NPB until he's old enough to be posted, expect Darvish's Padres-loving heart to be broken once again.