Yesterday, the Yankees made a seemingly small roster move by transferring Brad Meyers from the 40-man roster to the 60-day disabled list, replacing him with right handed relief pitcher Ryota Igarashi. The 33 year old former NPB reliever came to the MLB in 2010 with the Mets, who handed him a two year $3 million dollar contract. After a seemingly miserable debut season with the Mets, he was sent down, only to come back up in 2011 with some improved peripherals. His 2012 has thus far been a short fling with the Blue Jays, which has brought his major league career numbers up to a 6.17 ERA, 6.17 BB/9, .341 BABIP, but a very strong 8.87 K/9.
With the success of the Yankees organization in creating and molding seemingly innocent arms into top-notch bullpen threats, Igarashi fits the mold perfectly as the next Cory Wade, Boone Logan, or Clay Rapada type of acquisition. As it stands, the Japanese born pitcher has seen an inflated ERA in both his 2010 and 2011 season with a much stronger FIP. Comparatively, his 6.17 ERA is significantly higher than a career 4.42 FIP and 4.69 xFIP, and a .341 BABIP with a low 67.2% left on base rate only adds to the perception that he’s pitched better than his number specify. Igarashi’s 8.87 career K/9 indicates the quality stuff Igarashi throws, a four-seam fastball sitting in the mid-90′s, a mid 80′s splitter, a mid 80′s slider, and an 80 mph forkball (curveball).
The biggest problem for the reliever has been command issues. With a 6.17 career BB/9, Igarashi has suffered keeping MLB hitters off the bases, but walks weren’t a huge issue for him in the NPB, and he’s likewise posted a 2.25 BB/9 through his minor league career. Obviously the competition isn’t up to par with the type of patient hitters in the major leagues, but the success he’s had in his recent minor league stints has been startling. As his walk rates have decreased over the last two years in the Met’s and Blue Jay’s Triple-A affiliates, his strikeout numbers have increased, and his hit have remained low. Through 21.0 innings in the hitter oriented PCL in 2012, he’s posted a 1.29 ERA, a 4.3 H/9, 1.3 BB/9, and 12.0 K/9 in 21.0 IP.
While Igarashi looks like a Quad-A relief pitcher from most stats, there are somethings to like about the right handed pitcher. The Yankees have a knack for scouting and developing these types of pitchers into quality major league arms, but with a 33 year old to work on, they’ll be trying to teach an old dog new tricks. If any organization can translate a relievers success from other leagues into the majors, it’s certainly the Yankees.
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