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What to know about NPB starting pitcher Kodai Senga, who’s expected to sign with MLB team this offseason

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The Major League Baseball offseason is in full swing, and the hot plate should continue to heat up as we get closer to the start of winter meetings (Sunday, Dec. 4). CBS Sports has already sliced ​​up the off-season markets by ranking the top 50 free agents this year, as well as highlighting the top 20 potential trade candidates.

One of the most intriguing free agent pitchers available, in our estimation, is right-hander Kodai Senga, ranked 23rd on our Top 50 list. Senga is expected to cross the Pacific, spending the first 11 seasons of his career with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Nippon’s Japanese professional baseball league.

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You might be wondering what makes Senga so enticing and where might he end up? For answers to these questions and more, continue to leisurely scroll down the page as we deal with Senga, his game, and his potential suitors.

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1. How is Senga doing in Japan?

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Very good, as you would expect from someone who is moving to the United States.

To date, in 275 career games, Senga has amassed a 2.42 ERA and a 2.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He is a three-time All-Star and a five-time champion. He also won the gold medal with the Japanese team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which of course took place in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senga has been particularly strong in 2022, during which he started 23 times and posted a 1.89 ERA and a 3.18 strike-to-walk ratio. His 148 innings represented his biggest workload since the 2019 campaign.

2. What serves does Senga serve?

Senga has a wide arsenal, but raters who spoke to CBS Sports often singled out three of his serves: his mid-90s fastball, his forkball (sometimes called a splitter), and his twist ball. These are also the three fields that ball tracking data shows are most likely to perform well against MLB hitters.

Senga’s fastball speed averaged 96 mph last season, and he can increase it in the zone. Nicknamed the “Ghost Fork”, his fork is a monstrous pitch that caused a whiff in over 50 percent of punches against it. (The fork ball also had a chase frequency north of 40 percent, suggesting it is an effective lure below the zone.) Senga throws two types of smash balls: a harder slider/cutter and a softer bend. The latter ranks better on paper, although he will likely continue to throw both in the majors.

At the risk of oversimplification, Senga’s success in major tournaments can be boiled down to his ability to get his fastball up the stairs before burying his forkball.

3. Is there anything notable about Senga’s mechanics?

First of all, let’s define “famous” as aesthetically or in terms of performance.

The Senga does not include a wrist wrap, a popular tic among Japanese pitchers that scouts fear puts strain on the elbow and can lead to poor control and handling. He’s not exactly out of the woods for that matter. During surgery, Senga sees his back elbow rise close to the back of his shoulder, which can have similar negative effects. You only live once anyway, and a superficial analysis like this doesn’t always reflect what’s really happening on the field.

Another interesting note about Senga’s serve is that he throws three-quarters from the arm slot. This, combined with his short stature (listed as 6 feet), creates a throw height of 5 feet 9 inches and a flat flat at the top of the strike zone. The natural lift of his fastball should be amplified on the lift due to this component.

4. Will Senga be subject to a “posting” system?

Nope. Unlike last winter, when Seiya Suzuki had 30 days to negotiate with the team (Chicago Cubs), while his NPB club received compensation in accordance with his contract, Senge is a 29-year-old player with enough work experience to be a true free player. agent. This means that it is not covered by the posting system or any other nonsense that comes with it.

5. What teams are interested in Senga?

Almost every contender and pseudo-contender. According to various sources, we are talking about the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and others. . The New York Mets have, in fact, already met him, according to Athletic. It is likely, if not entirely likely, that even more teams than we know have signed up for his camp.

Does Senga have a preferred destination? His agent Joel Wolf hinted that he might have some options to narrow the field. “Senga is very open-minded and would love to play in a big market with a team that wants to try and win right now.” Wolfe told NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s very interested in being in a big market.”

There is no reason to doubt Wolfe’s claims here. Of course, this does not necessarily reduce the herd, as most of the teams mentioned above are located in a large media market and have plans to fight next season. So we’ll have to wait and see which team comes out of this winter with an intriguing veteran starter.


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