Japanese Pitchers To Watch: Kobayashi & Sawamura

In his latest post at NPB Tracker, Patrick Newman fills us in on two Japanese pitchers who could find their way into MLB before long. 

Hiroyuki Kobayashi, the soon-to-be 32-year-old closer for the Chiba Lotte Marines, has already qualified for international free agency, and is reportedly ready to jump across the pond. Newman says that this isn't the first time Kobayashi has hinted at making the move either, and speculates that the Giants could be a fit. In 12 innings this year, he's struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and three walks. 

The 20-year-old Hirokazu Sawamura is the better prospect of the two, reportedly hitting 97 with his fastball. The Giants and Mets have had scouts in attendance during his recent starts for Chuo University, and one opined that it would "be a waste for him to stay in Japan." A quote from February suggests that Sawamura is leaning towards staying in Japan, but the lure of a payday similar to Junichi Tazawa's could be tough to pass up. 


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18 Comments on "Japanese Pitchers To Watch: Kobayashi & Sawamura"


BravesRed
5 years 2 months ago

The thing that sucks about some Japanese pitchers is that they can’t stay in games that long. Tazawa only averaged about 5 innings in the minors in 2009.

5 years 2 months ago

I think that was by design. The Red Sox didn’t want to push him too hard.

5 years 2 months ago

And in the end, he ended up needing elbow surgery anyways. Still, a nice investment by Boston.

And it’s worth noting that Tazawa turned down more money from Texas to go to Boston.

Guest
5 years 2 months ago

I think that stems from the MLB teams wanting to not overwork them. Japanese players pitch a lot of innings in Japan. The last game I was at in Tokyo the opposing pitcher continued into the 10th until he gave up the walk off home run, they lost 1-0.
I know for example Dice-K had a couple of seasons in Japan where he pitched around 240 innings and the Japanese League (npb) plays less games than MLB; 140 per season.

bigpat
5 years 2 months ago

Yeah, I’ve yet to see a japanese starter with good stamina, aside from Colby Lewis. Kawakami and Daisuke have trouble making it 6 innings as well. Most of them seem like they can settle in as pretty good bullpen guys, though.

5 years 2 months ago

Probably has something to do with the transition to the five-man rotation. Most of these Japanese guys were never asked to pitch more than once a week.

Although Hideo Nomo showed some pretty solid durability, with four 200+ inning seasons, seven 190+ inning seasons, and at least 150 innings pitched in every season from 1995 through 2003.

Although there certainly has been a pattern lately, with guys like Matsuzaka, Kawakami, Hiroki Kuroda, and Koji Uehara, of Japanese pitchers not showing the ability to be 200-inning workhorses.

East Coast Bias
5 years 2 months ago

I just want Darvish in pinstripes!

And isn’t Kobayashi the hot dog eating guy?

bomberj11
5 years 2 months ago

That’s why it sounded so familiar.

BravesRed
5 years 2 months ago

Takeru Kobayashi is the hot dog guy, same last name though.

55saveslives
5 years 2 months ago

I’m glad the Giants are scouting the lands…but can we get a bat??????

bomberj11
5 years 2 months ago

Please sign Kobayashi, Red Sox… we need another trusted arm in the pen.

Zack23
5 years 2 months ago

“reportedly hitting 97 with his fastball”

Didnt they report the same thing about Tazawa last year too? Yet he averaged 89 mph (per fangraphs) during his time in the majors last year.

BravesRed
5 years 2 months ago

I think they had him averaging about 89/90/91 in Japan.

5 years 2 months ago

I don’t ever recall Tazawa being clocked in the high-90’s..

danwatson19
5 years 2 months ago

Hmm…Kobayashi, a 32 year old closer for Chibba Lotte wants to come to the MLB..

Deja Vu?

5 years 2 months ago

trade kyle kendrick for kobayashi!!!!!

Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Haha, you sir just made my day.

Guest
5 years 2 months ago

I’ve seen Kobayashi pitch on one of my trips to Japan, he’s a good player but even with extensive scouting you can never predict whether they’ll work out in MLB.
Players such as Okajima who were far from the cream of the crop in Japan have become very effective in the US, yet others like Dice-K have had their fair share of troubles.
Though I’d like to see Dice-K pitch in the National League, see if he can dominant over there.