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Kansas City Royals Sign 16-Year-Old Pitcher Kaito Yuki, The Youngest Ever Player From Japan

By Fitzgerald Cecilio
on Jul 10, 2018 07:23 AM EDT
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The Kansas City Royals have added a 16-year-old right-handed Japanese pitcher to their pool of hurlers, signing him to a professional contract out of junior high school.

The Royals made the announcement on Monday, saying pitcher Kaito Yuki opted to sign a professional deal with the team rather than attend high school. Yuki, who recently completed his junior high school season, is 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds.

Yuki, who was born May 12, 2002, is considered as the first Japanese junior high school player to sign a deal with a major league club. Yuki's minor league deal with the Royals includes a $322,500 signing bonus.

"I wanted to play in the United States as soon as possible," says Yuki, who signed the deal in his hometown of Osaka. Yuki added that he opted to play professional ball rather than play high school ball at the iconic Koshien Stadium.

"We are excited to add Kaito Yuki to our Organization," says Rene Francisco, Royals Vice President/Assistant General Manager of Major League and International Operations.

In the franchise's history, the Royals have signed four Japanese players, including pitchers Hideo Nomo, Mac Suzuki, and Yasubiko Yubuta, and outfielder Nori Aoki, who joined the squad via trade with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Yuki To Begin Professional Career Next Year

According to Francisco, the team looks forward to seeing Yuki get started in professional baseball next year. The team expects Yuki to come to the United States soon to begin acclimatizing himself to the culture and language.

Once his paperwork is completed, Yuki is expected to arrive to the team's spring training complex in Surprise, Arizona in August. Yuki will begin his professional career in the Royals' instructional league in September and October with the hope of making his professional debut by 2019.

Francisco lauded the team's Pacific Rim coordinator Phil Dale and its Japanese scout, Hiro Oya, for identifying and signing Yuki, who boasts of fastball of up to 88 miles per hour. Yuki is also developing his breaking pitch.

According to Oya, Yuki must first build up his body and further develop his game. Then, in five years, Yuki could get an invite in major league spring training.

Yuki Is Being Compared To Yu Darvish

Yuki had baseball scouts buzzing when he represented Japan in a youth tournament in the United States.

Some scouts compared Yuki to Chicago Cubs right-handed starter Yu Darvish. A report by a Japanese newspaper said Yuki is the second coming of Darvish.

Aside from Yuki, the Royals have signed 19 other international prospects during the 2018 signing period that began on July 2.

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