Now that the news is out that Masahiro Tanaka has signed a a massive seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees, it’s time to figure out where he should be drafted in Fantasy Baseball leagues.
It’s easy to buy into the hype and believe me Tanaka has a lot of it. Hype alone usually vaults a player up a couple of rounds higher than he should be taken.
Don’t make the mistake of drafting Tanaka in the second or third round based on the hype train.
First of all let’s look at the positives and you will see that there is a lot to like about Tanaka.
While we all know about the stories of his rubber arm, throwing 160 pitches in one game, I like to look at a pitchers build and mechanics. At at 6’2″ and 205 pounds, he has a very good size and weight for any starting pitcher. He doesn’t have the physical attributes of a Yu Darvish, but his body size is good enough to where he should hold up just fine throughout his first MLB season.
Why is that important?
Durability is key and I look at another Japanese pitcher in Daisuke Matsuzaka, who at 6’0″ and 185 pounds didn’t really have the physical attributes and had to rely more on deception. Tanaka won’t have that problem. He should hold up just fine.
Next is Tanaka’s stuff, which is very good, but also a bit concerning.
Yes, he posted an incredible 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA, and led the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japan Series title last year, but getting MLB hitters out could prove to be a bit more challenging.
He possesses a fastball that can touch 97 when he wants, however his scouting report indicates that despite the velocity, his fastball doesn’t have a great deal of movement, which is an immediate red flag to me. Tanaka may start off by throwing that heater right by MLB hitters, but if that fastball is straight a lot of times, he is going to get hit hard.
However Tanaka does possess a devastating split finger fastball, which is his out pitch and should result in a lot of strike outs right out of the gate. He also has a pretty decent slider so you have to like Tanaka’s arsenal of pitches.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking he is Darvish. He is likely more like fellow Yankees’ starter Hiroki Kuroda.
One scout openly said Tanaka is better than Darvish right now, but I simply can’t buy into that. Darvish has the frame and the best arsenal of any MLB pitcher right now. Most people peg Tanaka as a No. 2 starter right off the bat or even a high-end No. 3 starter.
There are some other concerns as well, most notably that his strikeout rate has gone from 9.6 per nine innings in 2011 to 7.8 in 2013. That’s not necessarily a good sign considering he is being thrown right into the American League East.
Tanaka posted a nice walk rate (1.4 BB/9) but his strikeout rate (7.8 K/9) would have ranked him only 84th in the majors last year. That puts him roughly equivalent to Chris Tillman, Matt Cain and James Shields.
I just don’t see him having a huge strike out season in his first go around in the majors.
However I do think he will win a lot of games.
With the Yankees revamped lineup Tanaka should get plenty of run support. I’m not crazy about the Yanks’ infield defense at the moment, but winning games shouldn’t be a problem.
Add all that up and I would have to put Tanaka in the Top 30 eligible starting pitchers to be drafted, but I likely won’t have him ranked higher than 25 at the moment and that might be generous.
As of right now I would say a good draft spot for Tanaka would be around the eighth or ninth round.
That certainly could increase with a good spring training.
But be careful.
Don’t buy into the hype train. It may just come back to bite you.