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MLB | Jan 04

Which Team Will Snag the Talent That Is Shota Imanaga?

MLB Teams All Over the Country Are Desperate to Land Some of These Incredibly Skilled Japanese Players

Which Team Will Snag the Talent That Is Shota Imanaga?
Shota Imanaga #21 of Team Japan pitches in the first inning against Team USA | Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP

The Buzz Is Real 🐝

[Imanaga’s] capabilities position him as a valuable asset on the mound…

In the realm of Major League Baseball, the presence of Japanese pitchers has become increasingly influential. MLB news outlets have witnessed it! A vanguard of talent has been paving the way for new horizons in the sport, with the Dodgers at the forefront.

The spotlight has been shared by names like Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but there is another player quietly signaling his readiness to step into the big league: Shota Imanaga.

Imanaga’s potential move has stirred conversations among the baseball community, as the January 11 deadline of his posting window draws near. With his stats not as loudly proclaimed as his counterparts, Imanaga remains a figure of interest among MLB scouts. The buzz is real; teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Phillies, Mets, and Giants have all shown interest in signing him.

MLB rumors suggest that all these teams are concerned because the Dodgers, having made a monumental investment in Ohtani and Yamamoto, continue their pursuit of excellence by setting their sights on Imanaga as well.

Despite the lack of widespread media coverage, the consideration Imanaga is receiving within MLB cannot be understated. His skill set may not mirror Ohtani’s versatility, Yamamoto’s record, or Sasaki’s mystique, yet his capabilities position him as a valuable asset on the mound who can help teams win MLB games.

According to Anthony Franco of MLB Trade Rumors, “Imanaga may also benefit from the success Senga had in his first MLB campaign. The righty finished runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year balloting after posting a 2.98 ERA across 166 1/3 innings. That Senga looked like more than a mid-rotation starter in his first MLB season could give some clubs added confidence in projecting Imanaga’s ability to handle big league hitters with a fairly similar projection.”

Imanaga’s journey in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has been marked by notable achievements. With an ERA of 2.96 over eight seasons and a strikeout rate exceeding 26 percent, his prowess is evident. Highlights of his career include leading the Central League in strikeouts and throwing a no-hitter—a testament to his skill.

Not just a domestic sensation, Imanaga has also represented Japan on the international stage, including memorable performances in the World Baseball Classic. His ability to strike out top-tier batters from around the world further cements his status as an elite pitcher.

In the technical realm, Imanaga’s fastball may not set speed records, but its effectiveness is not to be underestimated. The “rising” action of his pitches aligns with a trend in MLB that values the ability to elevate fastballs. This attribute, combined with a deceptive low-80s slider that entices batters into a 40% whiff rate, places Imanaga among the ranks of MLB’s left-handed aces.

While the fastball and slider remain his predominant weapons, Imanaga’s pitch arsenal is broader than these two. His splitter, though not as frequently utilized, has shown potential, boasting a nearly 50% whiff rate. The adaptation of his pitching repertoire will likely be a collaborative effort with his future MLB team, optimizing his transition to the league’s competitive environment.

Imanaga’s move to MLB is anticipated with a blend of curiosity and excitement. His arrival may not be accompanied by the same fanfare as some of his contemporaries, but the substance of his track record speaks volumes. As the deadline approaches, the baseball world watches with keen interest to see where this talented pitcher will make his next mark.

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