Japanese Future MLBers: #5 – Kei Igawa

Of the free agents that might be posted by NPB clubs this offseason, Kei Igawa is far from the sexiest; however, he might be the best bargain.

Kei Igawa, Hanshin Tigers LHSP Igawa, drafted out of high school by the Hanshin Tigers in 1998, is a 6’1″ left-handed starting pitcher who weighs about 210 pounds. He broke into the Tigers’ rotation in 2001 and put up a very nice season, although his won/loss record did not reflect that as the Tigers were bad. He’s been in the rotation ever since, excepting a brief demotion to the minors in 2005. 2008 [This used to be 2007, but has since been corrected. -SGR] is the final year of his contract with Hanshin; after the season ends, he becomes a free agent, and can sign with any team (NPB or MLB) he chooses. Therefore, Hanshin is likely to post him this season and earn a fee while they still can, much like MLB teams that trade impending free agents at the trading deadline every July.

Among the pitches in Igawa’s arsenal are a tailing fastball that sits in the high 80s and can be dialed up to the low 90s, a slider/slurve in the high 70s, and a diving change-up in the low 80s. His breaking ball is probably his most effective pitch.

Igawa’s delivery, unlike that of other Japanese pitchers like Hideo Nomo or Daisuke Matsuzaka, does not include a long pause during his windup. In the past, such pitchers’ novelty effect seems to wear off after a few trips around the league; maybe Igawa will be immune from this effect. He has a high 3/4 arm angle that he keeps mostly consistent from pitch to pitch. See the following YouTube video for game footage from this year:

Igawa does not profile to be the potential ace that his countryman Matsuzaka appears to be, but he looks like a perfect #3 starter – someone capable of a league-average ERA and 200 innings with consistency. Look for him to command a posting fee in the neighborhood of $5-$10 million, and an annual salary between $6m – $8m for a multi-year contract.

Igawa 2006 statistics:

 W  L   ERA  GP  GS CG ShO Hld  GF Sv     IP    H   R  ER  HR  BB   SO
13  9  3.11  28  28  7   2   0   0  0  200.0  174  77  69  17  46  184

Kei Igawa Career Statistics
Kei Igawa Biographical Data


10 Responses to “Japanese Future MLBers: #5 – Kei Igawa”

  1. yourblankfile Says:

    Wow. Good find… Maybe if the Red Sox can’t manage to land Matsuzaka, This guy would be a pretty solid 4th starter on the Sox and prolly a 2 or 3 starter on a few other clubs. Hmmm… And for 5-10 mill That will be peanuts compared to what Matsuzaka’s going to cost.

  2. Kyle S Says:

    I imagine the Red Sox will indeed look at him. Based on the limited quality of the US free agent pitching, there is certain to be lots of interest in the Japanese players. Hanshin should make the decision whether or not they will post Igawa in the coming weeks – it will be interesting to see what happens.

  3. kc Says:

    Igawa…I don’t see the Braves needing another Chuck James who costs about 1/10 of Igawa’s potential total costs…

  4. NPB Player News « Sturgeon General’s Report Says:

    […] So the impetus for this story is an article on Yahoo! Japan; I don’t read Japanese, so I’ll have to take the MLB Trade Rumors folks at their word. The Hanshin Tigers are making a pitch for Kuroda. However, if Kuroda signs with Hanshin, that probably makes Kei Igawa more likely to be posted. See below. […]

  5. Don Says:

    Would be a good #4 starter for the Cubs…and they can certainly use another lefty in their rotation.

  6. tj Says:

    Igawa, like most people with the experience they have had growing up in japan, will do his job at whatever level. That is all a team like New York will ask from him. 10-15 wins against hustling teams will be more than enough by itself for the Yankees with the regular season talent they have, but he could do even more if he can motivate himself to pitch for such a slimey organization. He won’t get the credit or attention for it in this country which should be taken notice of because of what the media does with the “non-special.” He has done it before with the Hanshin Tigers who can be fun to watch, so by moving to a team with the talent they have bought themselves, it’s all up to the Yankees to help him win. He has a chance to be the quiet leader. Yeah so what if he’s a geek lol he is good at getting teams out who think too much of themselves. He can hustle them all year long. And let the rest of the Yankees deal with their jobs. Maybe they can do it this year, though I really hate New York and think mlb in general is a huge sham. Everything is business and designed so I really won’t care about who wins or loses, I’ll be watching to cheer for certain people, and Igawa is definetely one of them.

  7. TJ blows goats Says:

    Your pathetic Anti-Yankees rant will not be tolerated. Your technological and cultural distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile. Oh btw, you blow goats!@#$%

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