Masahiro Tanaka is known as the best pitcher in Japan since Yu Darvish left. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Toronto Blue Jays scouting Masahiro Tanaka


The Toronto Blue Jays appear to be getting serious about the upcoming Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes.

According to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, the Blue Jays sent two representatives, assistant GM Andrew Tinnish and pro scout Danny Evans across the Pacific in August to scout Tanaka.

Baseball-Reference.com lists Tanaka, 24, as 6’2 and 205 lbs. He appears to be thick enough to handle the durability requirement of being a MLB starter but has already thrown 1275 innings in seven seasons in the Japan Pacific League, where they aren’t exactly known for coddling pitchers. In 2011, Tanaka started 27 games for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and finished 14 of them. But you can’t really blame them for leaving him in – his WHIP was 0.875 and SO/9 was 9.6 that season.

Tanaka pitched in four games (one start) for Japan during the World Baseball Classic and struck out 12 of the 31 batters he faced. I don’t want to read too much into Japan League stats but his SO/BB rate was almost 9 to 1 in 2011 and 2012, which is insanely good.

Elliott writes that Tanaka isn’t considered to be as talented as Darvish but I don’t really take that as a knock since Yu is one of the best pitchers in the game today. The one thing that most people notice about Darvish is his ability to throw several different effective pitches, so I wanted to find some sort of scouting report on Masahiro Tanaka.

Thank the heavens for YouTube. As you might expect it was not a problem to find video footage of Tanaka. I found this pretty awesome video that features a whole lot of pitches. It is a bit old since it was posted in January 2012 but is too good not to share.

The video shows his fastball in the range of 150-151 km/h, which converts to about 93-94 MPH. Next he throws a mean looking splitter, which clocks in around 87 MPH . He shows off a curve ball in the low-80′s and a pretty nasty slider. I also think I saw a two-seam fastball in there at around 90 MPH.

I also am a big fan of his windup, which just pretty much looks awesome, but I’m also impressed how he has the ability to tone down his leg kick and possibly shorten his stride out of the stretch.

The posting system is a transfer agreement between Japanese baseball and MLB. From my understanding of the process, when a player from Japan is posted there is a silent auction where teams bid for the exclusive rights to negotiate with the player for 30 days. If they can come to terms on a contract within that time, the Japanese team will receive the transfer fee bid as compensation. It’s how Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka entered MLB.

Last winter there was talk of the posting system changing to a more traditional open-auction system to avoid the potential fiscal disasters of transfer fees that were north of $50 million in the cases of Darvish and Matsuzaka. As far as I know at this time nothing has officially changed.

Whether or not the Blue Jays will heavily pursue Tanaka remains to be seen. But he could fill a hole for the club if his dominance does carry over to MLB and develops into a top-end arm. It should be an interesting story to follow this winter, especially since the Jays were ultimately outbid by the Texas Rangers in the last elite Japanese pitcher sweepstakes.

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  • Pingston

    I’m all in as I was for Darvish. Hope the Blue Jays are this time, too. Given the draft pick costs of free agent signings, this is a solid way to go. It’s only money. And he looks worth a gamble. Toronto won’t be only bidder, so get ready to spend. Need a game-changer. 20+ wins a year foundation.. Go $55 mill for the rights then sign him long-term. Muni can translate for him.

  • Rick Yu

    Do you have any idea of where he’ll fit in an MLB rotation? If he’s projected as a top-of-the-rotation starter then the jays should bid/sign him. Otherwise, we have plenty of innings-eater on our team.

    • http://jaysjournal.com/ Michael Wray

      I believe the expectation is that he would be a top-end starter. The consensus seems to be that he’s not as good as Darvish but better than Dice-K. There’s always the risk that he could end up like Matsuzaka though, which would be a disaster. It’s always risky spending this type of money on International talent but with the Jays apparently trying to win in the next 2 years and an incredibly weak FA pool looming he might be their best shot to improve the rotation.

  • Justin Jay

    All his pitches have movement. I don’t know if I saw a splitter as much as I saw a tight curve. But his other pitches are very good. I didn’t see any change-up but his speeds all vary so much, I guess he doesn’t need one. I’m extremely impressed at how offbalance hitters look when they see the curveball. Only thing that makes me nervous is Japan’s liberal strike zone. Yu’s the only one that seems to have adjusted well right away out of all the Japanese starters I’ve seen.

    • http://jaysjournal.com/ Michael Wray

      If you pause the video about 8 seconds in they slow down the video and you can almost see his index finger right over the top of the baseball, that’s why I thought it was a splitter. That pitch is is around 141 km/h (87 MPH) in the video, with his curve being around 130 km/h (80 MPH). I’m pretty sure they are different pitches but I’m not 100% sure. Filthy regardless.

      • Justin Jay

        Geezus, I can’t even tell if that’s a splitter or slider. They’re the same speed. Did you see the 131 km/hr CRV… then the next slide it was a 119 km/hr CRV? He changes speeds on his friggen curveball?!? That’s SICK

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