Still More NPB Prospect You Should Know

The third of the series. Parts one and two of the trilogy are available on vhs.

Hisashi Iwakuma (RHP, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, 29) – I consider Iwakuma, by some measures, to be the second best MLB pitching prospect currently active in NPB. Tall and stringy at 6’3, 170 lbs, Iwakuma is a fairly standard fastball/slider/forkball righty. He can reach 95-95 mph with his fastball, but mostly works around 90-91. None of his three main pitches strike me as outstanding, but he commands them all well and can be dominant when he’s keeping the ball down in the zone. The fun fact about Iwakuma is that early in his career, he used a “two stage” delivery, in which he brought his front leg up, then back down without touching the dirt, the up again before finishing his delivery. You can check it out in this 2002 clip of Iwakuma facing Ichiro in an MLB-NPB All-Star game. Two stage deliveries were banned in NPB a couple years ago, so he and others, notably Ken Takahashi and Daisuke Miura, had to rework their mechanics. This and other factors caused Iwakuma to spend a few years in the wilderness, which I chronicled at my main haunt after last year’s WBC. Iwakuma is signed through next season, and assuming his remains in good health, will be eligible to move cross-Pacific after next season.

Tsuyoshi Wada (LHP, SoftBank Hawks, 29) – Wada is another guy who could come over after the 2011 season. Wada reminds me of Dallas Braden (or rather, Braden reminds me of Wada), with his arsenal of a 86-87 mph fastball, a good circle change, and a solid slider. To use a cliche, Wada knows how to pitch. He’s had a strikeout rate in the 7-8 for most of his career despite a fastball that’s average even in NPB. I found game footage of Wada’s August 25th start against Orix. He didn’t have his best stuff, but it’s enough to give you an idea of what he throws.

Chihiro Kaneko (RHP, Orix Buffaloes, 27) – Wada’s opponent on the 25th was Chihiro Kaneko, who I think is the most underrated pitcher in Japan. Kaneko thoroughly outclassed Wada on the 25th, striking out 12 and walking none while allowing two earned runs over an 8-inning, 97 pitch performance. He did surrender a triple to Munenori Kawasaki, whom we discussed earlier. Kaneko has excellent command of a good fastball that sits around 91-93 mph. He augments the fastball with a battery of breaking pitches, most notably a slider and a changeup, witch both sit in the low 80′s, and a sub-70 mph curveball which I would like to see him throw more often. Kaneko is in his fourth full season so he’s a ways away from free agency, but he’s definitely one to watch.

That’s it for me on prospect mini-profiles for a little while. If you have any more guys you want to see, let me know and I’ll pick ‘em up in the next round.




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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at npbtracker.com, and on Twitter @npbtracker.

6 Responses to “Still More NPB Prospect You Should Know”

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  1. dancariaz says:

    @Patrick: what do you think about Shun Tono (a personal fave) and Shinnosuke Abe (both from the Giants)? Abe for sure is too old to be a prospect but I’d like to see him in the MLB.

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    • I like them both. Tohno has sub-par fastball velocity but a very good slider. I’ve become a much bigger fan of Abe this year. He’s signed through 2012 or so, so he’s not an MLB prospect, but I think he’d hit at the MLB level. I don’t know where he’d play though. He’s never had Johjima’s defensive reputation and he’s spent his whole career at catcher, so a move to a different position would be tough.

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  2. yukinova says:

    Hi. I love your work.
    Have you done a profile on Yoshinori Sato of Yakult?

    He’s probably years away from MLB but a 21year old throwing 100MPH fastballs has to be pretty interesting.

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    • Thanks for the kind words.

      I haven’t written a profile on Yoshinori, but he’s an interesting pitcher. He’s got a great arm, and it seems like he’s learned to pitch this year.

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  3. longgandhi says:

    What are your thoughts about Toshiya Sugiuchi?

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