Note: Despite being a Boston Red Sox fan, I will try and keep this article as unbiased as possible. Feel free to let me know how I did in the comments.
Masahiro Tanaka - 2014 Fantasy Baseball Impact
Well, I guess Brian Cashman forgot what a luxury tax is. Yesterday, Masahiro Tanaka officially joined Major League Baseball, ending his posting process after signing with the New York Yankees for 7 years and $155 million. After going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in his last season in the Japanese Nippon Professional League, the 25 year old has been grabbing headlines with his inevitable move to America. Now a part of the Bronx Bombers, he is sure to be just as sought after in fantasy baseball leagues on draft day in 2014.
While worth taking a chance on, one should not assume that once Tanaka is in the MLB his success from Japan will be mirrored. Considering he has never pitched in the majors before, Tanaka will not be a lock as an ace. With no sure fire evidence of what to expect, let's go through the positives and negatives of drafting Masahiro Tanaka for your team.
First off, he is a proven winner, and has the stats to back up his hype. His Japanese career stats include a 99-35 record in 172 Starts with 336 earned runs, a 1,238/275 K/BB rate and a 1.11 WHIP. He also does not crack under pressure, going 6-0 in the playoffs in 2013, leading his team to the Japan Series Championship. So while he hasn't exactly faced Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout, he has dominated everyone that has come in front of him, and that is all he could do.
Tanaka also has the added benefit of teammates that can help him through this process. In 2000, current Yankee Ichiro Suzuki was posted and signed by the Seattle Mariners. Since then, he has enjoyed 13 years of success in the majors. For Hiroki Kuroda, he also migrated from Japan in 2007 and been a solid middle of the rotation starter since. While both players might be towards the end of their careers, both will have at least one season to help Tanaka ease into the process and expectations of not only playing Major League Baseball, but on the most successful team in history.
Tanaka doesn't have everything going for him though. One of the biggest things hitting some of MLB's most successful pitchers today is arm fatigue. The elite pitchers in the game today are asked to do so much, as they get older, sometimes even during their peak years, production starts to decline. While Tanaka is only 25 years old, he has been pitching professionally since he was 18 and has racked up 1,315 innings on his arm. To put that into consideration, Justin Verlander, who was virtually untouchable the past few years, actually looked human in 2o13. Verlander currently has pitched 1,772 innings in the majors.
Of all people to give insightful information, what are the odds it would be Kevin Millar on MLB Network's Intentional Talk? While watching the show to hear the details of Tanaka's signing, Millar shared that in Japan, the ball is slightly lighter and smaller than in America. Now I am not a pitcher, but when you get used to throwing a ball of a certain size for as long as he has, even the slightest change could affect his offspeed pitchers, including his Split Finger pitches.
While I could write from now until Opening Day about what could happen with Tanaka on the Yankees, we will have to wait until he pitches and shows what he can do on baseball's biggest stage. Knowing how big his hype is heading into fantasy baseball season, odds are he will be drafted earlier than he should. I would give him a 5th or 6th round selection in a standard league, but beware that he will likely be selected before then.
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