Fairness to Uwasawa

In a story I wrote about Yoshinobu Yamamoto and his three compatriots attempting to land pitching gigs in MLB this winter, I fear I may have done a disservice to Naoyuki Uwasawa.

In Nashville this month, I had the unexpected pleasure of a visit from agent Mike Seal, who is representing Uwasawa in his contract talks. Seal, who I know as a straight shooter who is well thought of by MLB executives, had been disappointed to read a quote I got from an MLB scout based in Asia, who thought that Uwasawa so desired to play in MLB that he would even a sign a split minor-major contract.

“He’ll get a competitive major league contract,” Seal said. “There’s no way he’s signing just to sign.”

On Sunday, the scout responded by saying that the pitcher had mentioned a split contract himself.

Sometimes players need to listen to their agents, unless of course the agent is Scott Boras and what he’s advising you to do has more to do with his agenda than the player’s.

As Seal knows well, having represented Ryosuke Kikuchi, there have been position players who for one reason or another have turned around and gone back to Japan rather than take what the market offered them. I hoped to convey that even though Uwasawa is not at the absolute top of teams’ wish lists, he would be able to find work.

Seal said Uwasawa had a good fastball. In 2022, batters swung and missed at it 19 percent of the time, the best among starting pitchers in a league with Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who got whiffs 18 percent of the time. Of course, that isn’t the whole story on his fastball, or Uwasawa, but he does have good command, and pitchers who can locate their fastball and throw a few good secondary pitches, can get a ton of strikeouts in MLB these days against batters who are trying to put every pitch in the seats.

My take is that while his pitches are above average in Japan and close to MLB average, he does have a ton of them, giving him lots to work with as he adjusts to what works and doesn’t. The desperation for starting pitching in MLB is probably going to drive teams to him, and according to Seal, Uwasawa is a gregarious hard worker who speaks English well and is eager to learn, which will be key, because players shifting from one brand of baseball to another often have to make lots of adjustments before competing and once it starts.

I wish him the best.

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