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Guest Post: Minding the Hot Stove-Scouting Hisanori Takahashi

Today we have a guest post from Steve Sheridan from MLB Fantasy Prospects on Japanese pitcher Hisanori Takahashi. You can read more of Steve's work over at www.mlbfantasyprospects.com.

Last week, Bobbie Dittmeier of MLB.com broke the story on possible Japanese import, Hisanori Takahashi. The 34-year-old lefty has spent his entire 10-year career with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, or NPB, the highest level of baseball in Japan. While coming off one of his best seasons, Takahashi has been pretty inconsistent for most of his career (stats courtesy of JapaneseBallplayers.com):

Year ERA G IP SO
2000 3.18 24 135.2 102
2001 3.94 30 134.2 99
2002 3.09 24 163.1 145
2003 3.84 13 86.2 78
2004 5.44 16 91.0 61
2005 4.47 27 163.0 135
2006 4.94 35 62.0 51
2007 2.75 28 186.2 141
2008 4.13 23 122.0 94
2009 2.94 25 144.0 126



More after the jump:

Dittmeier reported what were probably the juiciest tidbits from the soon-to-be-former Yomiuri Giant’s press conference. The most interesting quote was the following:

"I decided I wanted to try out for the Majors three days ago," Takahashi said, according to sponichi.co.jp. "If I didn't have confidence in myself, I wouldn't have made the decision. I want to go to a team that needs me. I'd be extremely happy if I'm used as a starter."

MLBFP knows our readers are always looking for the inside track on any potential sleepers…especially starting pitchers. So yours truly dug deep and reached out to Brandon Siefken, who runs a site called Japan Baseball News, along with his partner, Bob Bavasi. If the Bavasi name sounds familiar, it should. The Bavasi family has strong ties to MLB:

  • E.J. Buzzie Bavasi (1915-2008) served as general manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, founding president and part-owner of the San Diego Padres, and general manager of the California Angels. 
  • Peter Bavasi was general manager of the San Diego Padres, founding president of the Toronto Blue Jays, and president of the Cleveland Indians.
  • Bill Bavasi is vice president of scouting, player development and international operations for the Cincinnati Reds and formerly executive vice president and general manager of both the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, where he spent 20 years, first as farm director and then as general manager.

Siefken has been a resident of Japan since 1991 and extensively follows Japanese amateur and pro baseball. He currently serves as a scout intern for a MLB team. His take on Takahashi was not inspiring:

Hisanori is a slight, undersized pitcher who had his best year in 2009. He is peaking right now. He does not overpower people…relies on more off-speed stuff and pitch selection to get his outs. He logs many innings, and can give up bad innings, but not terrible innings. I do not believe he would be dominant at the MLB level, but he could be a good middle reliever if he is not asked to go too many innings…could be very similar to Hideki Okajima, but with a more orthodox delivery.

Siefken’s opinion is very similar to a scouting report Rotoworld recently cited from Patrick Newman, founder of the blog, NPB Tracker:

Takahashi has said he wants to continue in a starting role after he crosses the Pacific, but putting everything together he seems better suited for the bullpen. That said, assuming his screwball doesn’t get lost in translation, I don’t see why he can’t be an effective reliever in the Okajima mold.

If you’re looking for more in-depth info on this potential Japanese import, I strongly urge you to read the rest of Newman’s recent blog post on Takahashi, linked-to above.

MLBFP’s take? A pitcher like Okajima isn’t going to hurt your roto-team’s ERA or sim-league squad's chances, but he’s not going to win you a championship, either. Hey, this guy could just as easily be the 2010 version of Koji Uehara. If a pitching-needy MLB team signs Takahashi with plans to use him as a starter, let some other owner in your league take the risk.