Three pitchers the Blue Jays should target as minor league depth

As the adage goes, “You can’t have too much pitching.”

Samurai Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 4
Samurai Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 4 / Atsushi Tomura/GettyImages
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Shintaro Fujinami

While a 7.18 ERA across 79 innings as an MLB rookie in 2023 doesn’t scream depth, both Oakland and Baltimore saw something in 29-year old Shintaro Fujinami’s 4-seam fastball that averaged 98.4 mph. Coupled with a 92.8 mph split finger and 88.2 mph cutter, there are certainly some raw tools there to work with. He struck out a slightly above-MLB average 23.2% of the batters he faced in 2023 against a poor walk rate of 12.6%.

Over 10 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers, Fujinami did enjoy success in Nippon Professional Baseball, with a 3.41 ERA over 994.1 innings. He went first overall in the NPB draft in 2012, the same year Shohei Ohtani was drafted after him only because scouts thought Ohtani might go directly to MLB.

If he can harness his control and get closer to what Statcast sees as an expected ERA of 4.80, he’s certainly an intriguing pitcher. FanGraphs projects that he’ll get that strikeout rate above 25% in 2024, with a walk rate below 11%, and sees that driving an ERA of 4.05 over 65 innings as a reliever.