Analyzing Shota Imanaga and how he would fit with the Blue Jays

Shota Imanaga
Shota Imanaga / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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Command and Control

Imanaga has excellent command and control of his arsenal. He has a long track record of strike throwing and should continue that in MLB. Similar to Yamamoto, Imanaga may have initial difficulty adjusting to the MLB ball and likely will see some command and control regression. His 1.4 BB/9 this year slots in as the same as Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka in their posting year and a tick better than Yamamoto's number. With some control regression it's safe to project him around a 2.2 BB/9 in MLB which is still a well above average mark. Imanaga's command will be of the utmost important as he looks to keep the ball in the ballpark. There may be some tweaks to his pitch usage and pitch shapes to help minimize his home run risk early on as he gets used to the new ball.

Consensus

Imanaga is a cut below Yamamoto both in talent and youth, but he's one of the better Japanese pitchers to come over in recent years. There's risk here in his extreme flyball profile but a good strikeout to walk rate is the baseline for any pitcher and Imanaga excels in that area. He has a dynamic and unique fastball, arguably two plus secondaries, and great command.
Fangraphs' ZiPS projections pin Imanaga at a 3.44 ERA for the 2024 season, an aggressive projection that highlights their faith in him. Like Yamamoto, there's some concern with how his small frame holds up. In spite of this, his track record of health and durability is as good as you'll see. His projected contract wouldn't prevent the Jays from making signings to upgrade their lineup and may free up avenues for them to explore trades. He could be a bargain and would continue the new tradition of East Asian pitchers in Toronto.