News from Japan

The Orix Buffaloes just signed Chris Marerro for a reported $400,000.  San Francisco Giants fans should remember Marrero, as he made the major league team out of Spring Training.  However, a 5 for 38 start got him sent down to AAA Sacramento, where he didn’t hit much better.

It’s obviously a wise move by Marrero.  He turns 29 in July, and this spring was probably has last real chance to establish himself as an MLB player.  Even if he washes out in Japan’s NPB, I don’t see how it will impact his likely future minor league career here.

The other big news out of Japan is that possible (probable?) future MLB pitcher Takahiro Norimoto became the second pitcher in NPB history to strike out ten or more batters in six straight starts.  The first pitcher to do it was Hideo Nomo back in 1991.  That’s certainly good company to keep.

What stands in the way of future MLB success for Norimoto is the fact that he’s a small right-hander (he’s still listed at 5’10” and 180 lbs) who has been worked mighty hard in his four-plus year NPB career.

On the subject of NPB pitching prospects who have been overworked, it looks like the Hanshin Tigers have succeeded in blowing out Shintaro Fujinami‘s arm.  At the end of last season, I ranked Fujinami as NPB’s best pitching prospect for MLB purposes after Shohei Otani, which is saying something, but I said then (and not for the first time) that I was greatly concerned about the Hanshin Tigers leaving him in for 150+ pitch starts (he topped the 150 pitch mark in starts in each of 2015 and 2016).

Fujinami’s 2016 performance was beginning to show the strain, the signs are unmistakable this season.  After seven starts, he has an ERA of 2.66 with a run average below 3.40, but he hasn’t pitched nearly that well.  He’s allowed a whopping 33 walks in 40.2 inning pitched while striking out only 21.

The Hanshin Tigers have sent Fujinami down to the team’s minor league club for a “tune-up” start on June 3rd.  Given Fujinami’s past performance, he doesn’t need to work out his issues in the minor leagues — he needs a long rest.  When a young pitcher of Fujinami’s proven talent level suddenly can throw strikes and his strikeout rate plummets, it usually means an arm injury is well on its way.

For those of you who haven’t heard, Shohei Otani still isn’t back from the hamstring injury he suffered running the bases only eight games into the 2017 NPB season.  The injury has raised a lot of questions both here and in Japan about whether Otani’s desire to be a two-way player opens him up to twice as many opportunities to hurt himself.

I don’t think the Nippon Ham Fighters will prevent a player of his talents from both hitting and pitching, if that is what he wants to do.  However, Otani is almost certainly going to have to accept less money than he’d otherwise get to find a team willing to let him do both in MLB.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball Abroad, San Francisco Giants

One Comment on “News from Japan”

  1. Burly Says:

    Takahiro Norimoto has extended his streak of 10 or more strikeouts to eight games. His manager is considering giving him a ten day rest before his next start.


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