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Players to be Posted: Kohei Arihara

The Yankees were kings of the international free agent market for much of the 1990’s and 2000’s through finding great players out of Japan and Cuba. This offseason, 3 players from Nippon Professional Baseball are expected to be posted. Today let’s look at Ace Pitcher Kohei Arihara.

 


(Image From: CubbiesCrib)
(Image From: CubbiesCrib)


(Image From: CubbiesCrib)


The History of Kohei Arihara:

Coming out of Waseda University (A Tokyo Big 6 School), Arihara was a very effective pitcher and seen as one of the best going into the 2014 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Draft. Due to the format of the NPB Draft multiple teams are allowed to draft a player, and when this happens a lottery for negotiation rights occurs between the selecting teams. Arihara was selected by each of the Hanshin Tigers, Yokohama BayStars, and the Hokkiado Nippon-Ham Fighters, to which the Nippon-Ham Fighters ultimately won his negotiation rights and signed him.

Since his draft, Arihara has been with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters for his whole 6 year career. In his rookie year in 2015 he took home the Pacific League Rookie of the Year award, has made two All-Star Games in 2016 and 2019, was considered for the Eiji Sawamura Award in 2019 (which was not given out that year for the first time since 2000), and recieved MVP honors twice with a 13th-place result in 2016 and a 10th-place result in 2019. Arihara coming off of his Rookie of the Year had a great second season in 2016, seemingly avoiding the traditional “sophomore slump” year, but then followed it up with two average years in 2017 and 2018. He bested his 2016 performance again in 2019 and in 2020 found himself a bit better than his career averages across the board.

Standing at 6’2” and 211 pounds, the 28 year-old Arihara commands an arsenal of 7 (!?) pitches. This includes both a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball which sit in the low-90’s, a splitter that sits in the high-80s, a low-80s slider traditionally thrown to right-handed hitters, and a cutter, 70’s changeup, and curveball that he throws against left-handed hitters. He has pretty good control across the board with each of these pitches, and likes to play on both sides of the plate. His ability to craft different sequences for what side of the plate a batter is on would is a specialty of his which is emphasized by his many pitches to choose from.

 


Image from: JapaneseBaseballCards
Image from: JapaneseBaseballCards


Image from: JapaneseBaseballCards


The Stats of Kohei Arihara:

Over his NPB career from 2015-2020, Kohei Arihara has pitched in 129 games while recording 60 wins and 50 losses (.545 WP%). He has thrown 836.0 innings, which comes out to about 6.1 innings per game played. He has a career ERA of 3.74, WHIP of 1.209, and RA9 of 4.03. Combine that with 626 strikeouts to 194 walks and you get a K/9 of 6.7, a BB/9 of 2.1, and a K/BB of 3.23. While these numbers don’t look particularly great, Arihara does bring some hope from these past two seasons.

In 2019, Arihara pitched in 24 games (starting all of them), to a 15-8 record (.652 WP%), pitched in 164.1 innings (almost 7 innings per start), had an ERA of 2.46, a 0.919 WHIP, 161 strikeouts, and 40 walks.

While the 2020 season may not be the best for analyzing MLB talent, the NPB did have close to a normal length season featuring 120 games instead of the normal 143. This past season, Arihara pitched in 20 games (starting all of them), to a 8-9 record (.471 WP%), pitched 132.2 innings (about 6.2 innings per start), had a 3.46.97 ERA, a 1.168 WHIP, 106 strikeouts, and 30 walks.

One big concern has been Arihara’s HR/9 rate, which has been as high as 1.1 (2017) and 1.2 (2018). While his career average is a 1.0, in both 2019 (0.8) and 2020 (0.7) he has been able to keep the ball in the park more often.

 


Image From: Japan Times
Image From: Japan Times


Image From: Japan Times


Should the Yankees Be Interested?

Unlike Tomoyuki Sugano who we discussed about yesterday, Arihara is set to come to the MLB at a good time in his development and age. Entering his age-29 season, he is projected to be a back-end rotation arm slotting in around the 4th or 5th spot. Some other sites project a swingman role as a long-reliever/spot-starter as well. Most of this rests with his command as he won’t overpower hitters and is going to be at the mercy of BABIP.

So far, MLB teams have shown an interest in Arihara with the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, and New York Mets all seeming to have taken a look. Both teams are trying to solidify a rotation going into 2021 and Arihara would serve as a likely dependable arm. However, his track record is much more scattered than what a team would truly want from a pitcher changing from the more pitcher-friendly NPB.

For me, as much as I’d like the Yankees to always be involved on the international market, I think Arihara deserves a look but no serious consideration. For a projected back-end rotation piece, he’s going to cost more than a Jordan Montgomery (Projected Arbitration at $2 Million), Domingo German (league minimum), Deivi Garcia (league minimum), Clarke Schmidt (league minimum), Michael King (league miniumum)…you get the idea. The Yankees have enough internal options to fill that low-stress 5th man role, and many of those arms I listed have shown periods of success in the MLB and/or are highly rated prospects. I’d pass on Arihara and if he doesn’t sign in the MLB this season and he can repeat his past two seasons of success in Japan again, I’d take another harder look.

 

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Article By: Ethan Semendinger

Date Published: December 1st, 2020

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