More Promising Young Japanese Pitchers
In addition to Shohei Otani, whom I discussed yesterday, there are a number of other young or youngish NPB pitchers worth mentioning about whom I haven’t written anything recently and who might well pitch in MLB one day in the future.
1. Shintaro Fujinami (Hanshin Tigers). Only 20 years old this year, Fujinami is a 6’6″, 187 right-hander. He went 10-6 with a 2.75 ERA last year and good ratios last year as a rookie. He has a 3.09 ERA with 76 Ks in 75.2 innings pitched so far this season, but he’s been wilder this season than last.
He’s still extremely promising, but not quite as much as Otani. You might say that at this moment Fujinami is to Otani as Kenta Maeda is to Masahiro Tanaka. Also, the Hanshin Tigers are not a team that routinely posts its players, meaning we may not see Fujinami in the majors until 2022.
2. Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri Giants). A 24 year old right-hander standing 6’1″ and weighing 198 lbs, Sugano is currently the best pitcher in NPB’s Central League this season, leading the league in ERA (1.59), tied for the league lead in wins (8) and near the top in the other major categories. Sugano doesn’t rank as high as Fujinami because the former is four years younger and both are in their second NPB seasons.
We may never see Sugano in the majors no matter how he develops. The Yomiuri Giants have never posted a player, so Sugano would be at least 32 before he becomes a true free agent. Also, the Giants have the money to lock him up long-term to keep him from testing his skills in MLB.
3. Naoyuki Uwasawa (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters). Another 20 year old right-hander who’s an NPB rookie this season, he’s presently listed as 6’2″ and 194 pounds, which sounds promising for his tender age. He presently has a 3.41 ERA with 55 Ks in 63.1 innings pitched. Definitely a youngster to file away for future reference.
4. Takahiro Norimoto (Rakuten Golden Eagles). A small right-hander (5’10”, 178 lbs), Norimoto went 15-8 as a 22 year old rookie last year, helping Tanaka and the Eagles win the Japan Series. This year he’s currently 7-4 with a 2.52 ERA and 84 Ks and only 17 BBs in 93 innings pitched. His small size hurts him as a future major league prospect.
5. Yuki Nishi (Orix Buffaloes). Another small, 23 year old right-hander (5’11”, 176 lbs), Nishi currently leads NPB’s Pacific League with a 1.66 ERA in spite of getting bombed in his last start. Nishi appears to be an extreme ground ball and control pitcher with only 30 HRs allowed in 542.1 career innings pitched and only eight walks allowed in 87 IP this season. He’s only struck out 59 batters this year, but his K/BB ratio is obviously terrific and his strikeout rate was pretty good last year (137 in 166 IP). Nishi’s numbers and his size suggest to me the kind of pitcher who may blow out his arm before he’s got enough NPB service to get posted.
6. Yudi Ono (Chunichi Dragons). A 25 year old lefty listed as 6’0″ and 172 lbs, Ono is in his second season as a regular NPB starter. He currently has 2.71 ERA with 50 Ks in 69.1 IP so far this season. He’ll probably never make it to MLB, but you never know.