Masataka Yoshida flashes potential in Red Sox spring training debut

Masataka Yoshida flashes potential in Red Sox spring training debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

If the Boston Red Sox want to be competitive in 2023, they'll need Masataka Yoshida to live up to his hefty contract.

The Red Sox took a lot of heat this offseason for handing the Japanese outfielder a five-year, $ 90 million deal; several MLB evaluators thought the contract was a significant overpay, while MLB executives, coaches and scouts tabbed Boston's addition of Yoshida as the worst free-agent signing of the offseason in a recent poll.

So, what did the Red Sox see in Yoshida that other teams didn't? Part of that was on display Friday afternoon at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.

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Yoshida made his spring training debut for Boston in an exhibition game against Northeastern and delivered a line drive sacrifice fly in his first at-bat to plate the Red Sox' second run.

The 29-year-old displayed impressive patience and power with two strikes, waiting on a fastball to drive it to the left-field warning track.

Yoshida detailed his plate approach to The Boston Globe's Alex Speier after the game.

Yoshida's greatest strength is his bat control, which helped him slash .335/.447/.551 with 21 home runs and 89 RBIs in 2022 for the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. But the 5-foot-8 outfielder also has impressive power for his size that caught the eye of Red Sox hitting coach Peter Fatse.

"He’s got a lot more juice than I thought," Fatse told The Boston Globe's Julian McWilliams. "Just doing a lot of the work on video, some of the reports came back seeing upwards of 70 raw power in batting practice. He’s got a lot of juice."

Yoshida's opposite-field power should play particularly well at Fenway Park with the Green Monster looming just 310 feet down the left field line. If he can hit for both power and average in 2023, that would go a long way toward the Red Sox surprising some people -- and Yoshida silencing a few critics.