The Kansas City Royals organization signed Kaito Yuki, a 16-year-old pitcher from Japan, to a minor league contract Sunday, ESPN reports.
Yuki, who just completed his final year of junior high school, will reportedly receive a $322,000 signing bonus. He said he opted to forego a high school career to play pro ball as soon as possible.
“I wanted to play in the United States as soon as possible, rather than playing high school ball at Koshien Stadium (Japan’s national championship),” Yuki said. “My goal is to do well in the majors. Not everybody is given that chance, so I want to do my best. I’m anxious, but I am more excited now,.”
Listed at 6-2, 170 pounds with a fastball that’s been clocked at 87-88 mph, Yuki is scheduled to take part in the Royals’ fall instructional league in September and October, with the aim of making his professional debut in the minors next year. Scouts project that after a five-year time period in which Yuki bulks up his physique, he should be on schedule to get called up to the major leagues.
“The first thing is for him to be patient and build up his body, and then if he stays on course, in five years get an invite to major league spring training,” said Hiroyuki Oya, a Royals international scout.
For now, Yuki has reportedly been studying English and is set to arrive at the team’s spring training complex in Arizona in August, where he’ll begin familiarizing himself with the local culture and language.