by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
With Fernando Rodney now in Minnesota the assumption was that the Arizona Diamondbacks would turn to Archie Bradley as their new closer. That easily could still be the case but he’s going to have some competition as the team has signed Yoshihisa Hirano from Japan, where he has been one of the better relievers over the past decade.
In 11 seasons the 33-year old (he’ll turn 34 before the start of the 2018 season) Hirano has compiled a 3.10 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, though he’s done it more with control (2.1 BB/9) than strikeouts (8.2 K/9). Prior to 2016 he had been flashing better strikeout stuff, with K/9 from 9.0 to 11.3 from 2010 through 2015. The past two seasons that number has been down:
- 2016 – 8.4
- 2017 – 7.4
That’s a bit of a concern, but looking at this tweet from Nick Piecoro is going to give a sense of short-term hope:
Scouts familiar with Hirano, who’ll be 34 in March, say he sits 90-94 mph with a plus split, good command, deception and experience pitching late in games. Strikeouts are down over the past two years, however.
If a lot of his success comes from his deception, the fact that most of the players in MLB will be unfamiliar with him should go a long way. It could allow him to have a tremendous first season, much like Seung Hwan Oh did in his first year in the Majors:
- 2016 – 11.64 K/9, 2.03 BB/9
- 2017 – 8.19 K/9, 2.28 BB/9
Not that it’s a perfect comparison, but in his final year in Japan Oh also had seen a dip in strikeouts (8.6 K/9) and had always shown strong control while pitching overseas (2.1 BB/9). That gives hope that Hirano can hit the ground running and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ultimately led the Diamondbacks in saves in ’18.
Does that mean he’s going to provide long-term value? Absolutely not, as he could start to struggle as the league learns about his stuff and adjusts. For one year, though, expect him to make an Oh-like impact.
Source – Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: