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‘Evil Empire’ NYY eyes Korea-Japan’s best…’Age rivals’ Lee Jung-hoo & Yamamoto eat at ML?

What are the chances of Lee Jeong-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes) and Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Oryx Buffaloes), who have been called ‘peers’ and ‘rivals’ and have faced off against each other in international tournaments, playing together in the Major Leagues, as they continue to be linked to the New York Yankees?

At the end of this season, there are three players who will be challenging for the major leagues through the posting system. Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes), considered the “best hitter in the KBO,” Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes), and Shota Imanaga (Yokohama DeNA Basestars), the “number one left-hander” in Nippon Professional Baseball, are expected to join the major leagues after the 2023 season.

Lee Jung-hoo is arguably the best hitter in the KBO. The first overall pick of the Nexen (now Kiwoom) Heroes in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, he hasn’t missed a season since, and in 142 games last year, he hit .349 with 23 home runs, 113 RBIs, 85 runs scored and a .996 slugging percentage, winning five batting titles and the regular-season MVP honors, and in 883 career games, he has a .340 slugging percentage with 65 home runs, 515 RBIs, 581 runs scored and a .898 OPS.

Lee was diagnosed with an extensor ligament injury in his left ankle in July against the Sajik Lotte Giants. The ligament is a damaged membrane that surrounds the tendons in the ankle, and he was forced to undergo surgery, which could have meant a season-ending injury at a crucial time for his major league career. However, it is not expected to be a major setback for Lee.

After the end of last season, Lee told Kiwoom that he wanted to play in the major leagues, and the organization agreed. Lee then teamed up with Scott Boras, aka the Devil’s Agent, to “prepare” him for the major leagues. Although there will be a hiatus due to surgery, there is a good chance that he will wear a big league uniform, as his stats so far prove. 온라인바카라

Yamamoto and Imanaga’s paths to the major leagues are also clear. Yamamoto, in particular, raised his profile by recording the 100th no-hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball history in front of major league scouts from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Toronto Blue Jays, including New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

Imana also struck out 11 batters in eight innings against the Junichi Dragons in front of 27 scouts from 11 major league clubs, including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and San Diego Padres, and recorded his 1,000th career strikeout, the eighth-fastest in Nippon Professional Baseball history.

With Lee, Yamamoto, and Imanaga all likely to make it to the major leagues, it’s becoming increasingly likely that Lee and Yamamoto will play in the same uniform. If they do end up together, there’s a strong possibility that the team will be the New York Yankees, aka the Evil Empire. This would make for an interesting story.

Lee and Yamamoto, both born in 1998, first faced each other in the 2019 WBSC Premier 12. Lee struck out Yamamoto for the “only” time in the tournament, which sparked a “two-hit” rivalry as Lee was determined to win the next time they met. The two met at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where Yamamoto struck twice to put his Premier12 disappointment behind him.

Currently, Lee and Yamamoto appear to be on the Yankees’ radar. This is evidenced by Cashman’s recent trip to Japan to watch Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels) pitch in 2017, six years after he was on the verge of breaking into the major leagues. The Yankees are the closest team to signing Yamamoto, according to local media reports. “If Cashman flies to another continent and sees the player, he’s going to be in the mix when he’s on the market,” The Athletic reported.

The same is true for Lee. Ever since the story broke in the U.S., the local media has been linking him to the Yankees. On March 13, the Yankees were mentioned once again. “South Korean star Lee Jung-hoo is expected to be posted this offseason,” The Athletic reported. The 25-year-old was named the KBO League MVP last year and had an OPS of 0.863 in 85 games this year before suffering an ankle injury.” “If the Yankees want to add a hitter with good contact, Lee would be an attractive option,” the article continued.

It will be interesting to see if South Korea’s best hitter and Japan’s best pitcher, Yamamoto, will be in Yankees uniforms side by side when free agency opens at the end of this season.

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