A pair of pitchers in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball are drawing interest from MLB clubs. Yokohama DeNa Baystars reliever Spencer Patton has caught the attention of a few teams, reports Robert Murray of Fansided; so too has Chunichi Dragons starter Yudai Ohno, per a report from Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Patton seems the more likely of the two to make the jump to the United States this winter, as Morosi cautions it’s “unlikely” Ohno will go to MLB in 2021.
That might simply reflect the players’ respective contractual statuses. Patton is scheduled to be a free agent at the conclusion of the NPB season this month. Ohno, on the other hand, would need to be posted by the Dragons to be eligible to join an MLB club. It’s unclear if Ohno’s unlikelihood of heading to the U.S. is an indication the Dragons wouldn’t be willing to make him available or if the 32-year-old is simply content in his current situation.
It would be hard to fault the Dragons for not wanting to post Ohno, if that is indeed the stumbling block. The left-hander is seen as the favorite to win the 2020 Sawamura Award, Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young, Morosi notes. It’s easy to understand why. Ohno has pitched to a league-best 1.82 ERA over 148.2 innings this season. He has backed that up with a stellar combination of 148 strikeouts (8.96 K/9) and 23 walks (1.39 BB/9).
That marks a career season for Ohno, but he’s put together a decade-long run as one of the better arms in NPB. Over 10 seasons, Ohno has compiled a 3.14 ERA at Japan’s highest level. Will Hoefer of Sports Info Solutions wrote a full report on Ohno last year, noting that he typically works in the low-90’s with a decent splitter and slider and might fit best in long relief. The southpaw will be eligible for free agency in 2021 if he isn’t posted this offseason.
Patton, also 32, logged 54.2 innings of 6.26 ERA ball in parts of three MLB seasons with the Rangers and Cubs before heading overseas. The right-hander has been much better in NPB, compiling a 3.49 ERA across 201 innings over the past four seasons. Patton has backed that up with a strong 10.7 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9. He’s issued a few more walks this year than he has in years past, contributing to a slightly-elevated 4.28 ERA. Nevertheless, Patton has been much better down the stretch after a difficult start to the season, Murray notes, and is now “eyeing a return” to the U.S.