Adam Jones was honored last weekend at Camden Yards, after he formally retired as a member of the Orioles. Jones earned 5 All-Star choices and gained gold within the World Baseball Traditional throughout his 11 years in Baltimore.
Jones, 38, additionally has distinctive insights on the worldwide sport from the 2 seasons he spent with the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Skilled Baseball. Jones predicted accurately that Masataka Yoshida, his former Buffaloes teammate, would have a formidable rookie season with the Purple Sox.
Jones is equally satisfied that Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto is poised for fast Main League stardom, as soon as he’s posted for MLB golf equipment throughout the upcoming offseason.
“I like me some Yamamoto,” Jones informed me just lately.
Yamamoto is 14-6 with a league-best 1.32 ERA in 150 innings this yr. Jones supplied reward for the right-hander’s professionalism and work ethic, along with his numerous repertoire of pitches. Yamamoto’s athleticism on the mound has been in comparison with Marcus Stroman, the Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star.
“His dimension will likely be challenged,” Jones mentioned of the 5-foot-10 Yamamoto, “however he’s obtained the soundness and needs to be nice.”
Yamamoto, who turned 25 in August, has gained Pacific League MVP honors in every of the final two seasons; he may make it three straight, particularly after throwing the second no-hitter of his profession earlier this month.
Yankees basic supervisor Brian Cashman was among the many MLB executives and expertise evaluators in attendance for the no-hitter. The Purple Sox, Dodgers and Cardinals are also among the many groups anticipated to pursue Yamamoto this offseason. Due to Yamamoto’s elite pitchability, one scout projected that that his contract worth will surpass the five-year, $75 million deal Kodai Senga signed with the New York Mets final winter.
Some expertise evaluators imagine Yamamoto’s first-year efficiency in MLB may rival that of Yu Darvish‘s rookie season with the Rangers in 2012, when the right-hander went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 29 begins. Jones mentioned Yamamoto assaults the strike zone with three to 4 plus pitches and throws them “with conviction.”
“MLB has lineups which are stacked and highly effective,” Jones mentioned, “however Senga has navigated by MLB, and I believe Yamamoto will do the identical.”
Yamamoto is the highest-profile NPB participant anticipated to maneuver to MLB this offseason. MLB scouts have watched Yomiuri Giants slugger Kazuma Okamoto in latest months, however the Giants have determined to not put up him this yr.
Okamoto, 27 till subsequent June, leads NPB with 41 residence runs this season, after teaming with Yamamoto, Yoshida and Shohei Ohtani on Japan’s World Baseball Classic champions in March. Okamoto isn’t anticipated to develop into a world free agent till after 2026, however he may request that the Giants put up him after the ’24 season.
Listed below are a number of extra NPB names to observe because the offseason approaches.
Shōta Imanaga, LHP, Yokohama DeNA BayStars
Age on Opening Day 2024: 30
Imanaga’s identify is acquainted to American followers, as he began towards Group USA within the World Baseball Traditional gold medal sport. Imanaga was credited with the victory after permitting one earned run in two innings.
Whereas Imanaga permitted a house run to the scorching-hot Trea Turner, he additionally confirmed the baseball world why he’s such a extremely regarded starter. He struck out Paul Goldschmidt with a devastating splitter and caught Cedric Mullins taking a look at a 94-mph fastball on the surface nook.
On the FOX Sports activities broadcast that evening, Ken Rosenthal reported that U.S. gamers observed similarities between Imanaga and Braves star Max Fried, due partly to the southpaw’s effectiveness towards right-handed batters.
The BayStars plan to post Imanaga this offseason, and Main League groups typically view him as a No. 2 or 3 starter. Yakyu Cosmopolitan (@yakyucosmo) reported final week that 10 groups scouted Imanaga’s most up-to-date begin: the Yankees, Purple Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, Phillies, Cubs, Reds, D-backs, Giants and Padres.
Yuki Matsui, LHP, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
Age on Opening Day 2024: 28
One of many prime relievers in Japan, Matsui has the benefit of full worldwide free company; because of this, he’s hooked up to neither a posting price nor MLB Draft choose compensation. Matsui, 27, may be very more likely to discover choices in North America, and lots of within the business imagine he’d choose to signal with a Main League staff.
MLB golf equipment usually discuss assembling bullpens that function numerous blends of arm angles and pitch arrays. Matsui will assist in that regard. He stands 5-foot-9 and throws a splitter, slider and 4-seam fastball with good carry. (At 16 years outdated, Matsui famously relied on his slider to strike out 22 batters in a highschool match sport.)
Matsui’s repertoire profiles properly when evaluated by pitch metrics, which supplies larger confidence in his potential to transition to MLB. He’s sustaining a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.7 this season, an enchancment over his 2022 numbers. Matsui profiles as a seventh-inning reliever, and probably higher, in a Main League bullpen subsequent yr.
Naoyuki Uwasawa, RHP, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Age on Opening Day 2024: 30
MLB followers are acquainted with the Fighters, as the unique membership of Darvish and Ohtani. The Fighters are often called a player-friendly group that sometimes honors the posting requests of star gamers; Uwasawa is the most recent instance, though he’s not as achieved as Darvish or Ohtani.
Uwasawa, who has skilled at Driveline within the U.S., is considered as a possible back-end starter or lengthy reliever within the Main Leagues. He depends on breaking pitches, as a result of his fastball velocity doesn’t stand out. This season, he has struck out 6.6 batters per 9 innings, comparatively low by the requirements of MLB starters. However Uwasawa might generate the next swing-and-miss charge in MLB — at the least initially — as a result of he throws an efficient forkball that’s much less generally seen by hitters in North America.
Okōna Takahashi, RHP, Saitama Seibu Lions
Age on Opening Day 2024: 27
MLB evaluators have been monitoring Takahashi this yr, although it’s not but clear if the Lions will put up him. Former Mets infielder Kazuo Matsui is now managing the Lions, and it’s believed that he desires to determine a successful tradition earlier than Takahashi strikes on to MLB; at current, the Lions are subsequent to final within the Pacific League.
Whereas Takahashi has pitched as a starter for Seibu, some MLB evaluators imagine he profiles greatest as a reliever in the long run. He depends totally on a fastball and splitter, along with his four-seamer climbing as excessive as 98 mph. One phrase of warning: Takahashi’s stroll charge is barely increased this yr (2.7 per 9 IP) than it was in 2022.
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
Age on Opening Day 2024: 35
As with Yuki Matsui, Tanaka will develop into a world free agent when his Golden Eagles contract expires on the finish of this season. Some within the business imagine he’d think about a return to Main League Baseball, however he’s not having fun with the identical degree of success in NPB that preceded his transfer to the New York Yankees earlier than the 2014 season.
In 2013, Tanaka’s ERA with Rakuten was 1.27. Now it’s 5.09, together with a 7-10 report. Tanaka went 78-46 with a 3.74 ERA over seven seasons with the Yankees. His 991 strikeouts within the Majors are third all time amongst Japanese-born pitchers; solely Darvish and Hideo Nomo have surpassed the 1,000-strikeout mark.