Every year, some Japanese player or players steps toward moving to the major leagues. Here’s my rundown on the latest crop. Additional insight for subscribers, including career injury-activation reports, can be found at Inside Pitch.
What you’ll find inside:
Some background on each player, and analysis where I have it. I have more detailed information on pitchers, and starting in 2022, am adding comments based on my record of each pitch thrown in Japan this season.
Some parts are easy, like how often a pitcher throws a given pitch, and how often it compares to other similar pitches thrown by others in terms of swings and misses, and getting called strikes.
My value rating is fielding independent, and measures not only the pitches put in play but the effect of counts — giving up a home run on an 0-2 count grades worse than giving up one on 3-0 — and the impact of that pitch on counts getting better or worse.
The average run value of every pitch thrown in Japan in 2022 was .0275, if you want to know the average.
Japanese players likely to move to the majors…
Possibles for MLB in 2022
As of this update, two players will definitely be seeking work in MLB for next year:
- Kodai Senga, RHP — Free agent *updated Nov. 1, 2022
- Shintaro Fujinami, RHP — Posted
The next wave, 2022 and beyond
- Ayumu Ishikawa, RHP — opted not to go in 2020 *-updated
- Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP
- Masataka Yoshida, OF
- Yuki Yanagita, CF — signed 7-year extension in Dec. 2019
- Ryosuke Kikuchi, 2B — Returned to Hiroshima Carp on 4-year extension
A word about playing in Japan
There is a tendency to dismiss some ballplayers because of size and velocity because smaller players are less likely to succeed in the majors and pitchers with more velocity come with an asterisk that says they could be good if they harness their talent and learn better fundamentals.
But because Japan has traditionally seen the game in a different context, with players raised and trained in a different kind of tradition, the game has a different spin to it.
While some things, such as Japan’s emphasis on middle distance running as the basis for all sports training can be counterproductive, very basic things, such as insistence on fundamentals and the extreme importance of being a good teammate add value to the majority of Japanese players that are easily overlooked when measuring physical attributes and skills.
Because Japanese players have been schooled — or brainwashed if one prefers — into hitting the ball up the middle and going the other way, it is with few exceptions impossible to shift against them.