Angels Sign Japanese Right-Hander Hiroyuki Kobayashi
The Angels today announced the signing of Japanese right-hander Hiroyuki Kobayashi to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Kobayashi flew under my radar and that of most other commentators as a possible major league signing out of Japan because Kobayashi didn’t pitch in NPB’s top league last year.
Instead, he pitched for the Hanshin Tigers’ farm club, mostly out of the bullpen and apparently spot starting. He wasn’t bad there, but with a 3.44 ERA in a minor league, he wasn’t impressive either.
Kobayashi was a good pitcher as recently as 2010, when he recorded 29 saves and a 2.21 ERA as the Lotte Marine’s closer. His 2011 numbers look good (3.00 ERA and more Ks than innings pitched), but given that new baseballs were introduced that year which killed hitting in NPB and that Kobayashi was pitching in relief, he was a big disappointment to the Hanshin Tigers, who has signed him to a big free agent contract.
Kobayashi turns 35 in June, and he’s obviously well past his prime. However, he knows how to pitch and he throws strikes, so there’s at least a possibility he’ll pitch well in 2013, since no one in MLB is familiar with his stuff. Still, it will be a surprise if he helps the Angels much.