A former Japanese Pitching prospect for the Yominuri Giants, in 2009-2010 in the “Ni-Gun” (the minor league system in the NPB), Murata had a 112 kwERA -. Amazingly, despite the struggles, he was signed by the Cleveland Indians and put in the lower minors. Obviously since he will turn 28 during the season, time is basically running out on Murata being anything more than a minor league pitcher whose career seems to be close to over.
In 2012, he made 2 appearances in AAA, but spent most of the year in AA. Obviously he was old for the level, and his K/BB was basically league average, leading to a 4.02 SIERA. However, he did a great job of limiting homers and had a great 2.80 FIP. Of course, since he is a reliever and only threw 52 innings, it is hard to imagine that the home run rate has already stabilized. Over the last two years (110.2 innings), he has a .33 HR/9IP, which is very good, despite a low ground-ball rate (37.5 %). His ISO against (.104) and HR/FB % of 4.5 seem very artificially low, but this could be because he is old for the level. The lack of power against him, while still maintaining a slightly worse than average BABIP (.308) is a little weird, and I think best explained by small sample size.
The right-handed thrower is small, listed at 6-0 175. He brings his hands over his head in a very dramatic fashion and pauses before using a quick over the top arm action to get on top of the ball. He must have added this while in the Indians system (perhaps as a device that helps him get on top of the ball, because from video of him with the Giants in Japan, he didn’t put his arms above his head).
Murata’s pitches are fastball, curve, slider, and change. The slider is a soft slider that breaks sort of like a baby slider, without really any horizontal movement and some downward action, designed to be thrown in or near the strike zone. The fastball is not really impressive velocity wise, but he can throw it both high and low. The most common location seemed to be low and away from right-handers, or glove side and down. His changeup breaks arm side and breaks away from right-handers. His curveball is not the extremely slow curveball variety, but it is certainly not a hard curve.
Soptic was acquired by the Giants from the White Sox organization as they moved Conor Gillaspie to free up an extra 40 man roster spot. Known as a hard thrower, the 6-6 21 year old (will turn 22 in early April) right-hander was selected in the 3rd round in 2011 out of Community College and has been purely a reliever since being drafted with major walk problems. He has walked 15.1% of the hitters he has faced so far, 15.2 % in A-ball. Obviously this is untenable, but even without an overly impressive strikeout rate, he has done a great job of limiting hits so far, with a .568 OPS against in the minors so far. At least some of this is probably BABIP luck and small sample size, but there could be something there.
A lot of the problems with walks may be contained in his delivery. From what I have seen, there is a lot going on there, as when he raises his leg, he pulls it way into him, and actually briefly points the knee on the other side of third. He also has a slight hesitation before he brings his body towards the plate. While this may serve as some kind of deception device, he doesn’t really need it as a hard thrower. Instead, it is counterproductive, as it makes his delivery unnecessarily hard to repeat. He doesn’t take a large stride, again not really taking advantage of his size, and probably not helping him get a downward plane on the ball. His arm also doesn’t go with his body, dragging back, which may also lead to control problems. Soptic has been described as a project, and that seems very accurate, because the elite fastball seems to be there, but as of now, he has absolutely no command.