At this point in the off-season, you may have heard of Kodai Senga, the Nippon Professional Baseball star who met MLB teams. The right-handed fireball player met with the Mets, which makes sense given his reported interest in scouting a role with a mass-market team, the team’s need to start playing and Billy Eppler’s experience scouting in Japan.
As an assistant general manager with the Yankees, Eppler was influential in bringing Masahiro Tanaka to New York. He polled Tanaka extensively and developed a strong bond with him. As the Los Angeles Angels’ general manager, he signed Shohei Ohtani.
Senja mode is interesting. He will turn 30 in January and has earned enough service time to be considered a free agent, he has no posting date. The numbers jump off the page: In 11 seasons with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, he posted a 2.59 ERA and last season he went 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA. He threw in the high 90s and some reports say he reached triple figures. He threw 144 innings, his largest workload since 2019.
His forkball, which is his version of the spacer, makes bats swing. This avalanche of ninja pitching He goes into more detail and shows the fist he uses to throw this devastating avalanche.
But he doesn’t seem to have an expanded repertoire. He works mostly with fastball and forkball. North American frontline starters need a combination of three or four pitches.
Some talent evaluators questioned his fastball, too. The NPB strike zone is much smaller than the major league and hitters are not elite in Japan. At 6-0 with a 3/4 delivery, the plane is reduced to about 5-9. Singa will have to learn to lift a fastball.
There are also some mechanical concerns when it comes to shooters in Japan and Senga was not immune from injuries. His condition heading into the 2021 Tokyo Olympics was in doubt due to an ankle injury, and he has dealt with shoulder and elbow issues as well.
However, these are typical concerns for shooters coming from abroad. The bigger question is whether or not it makes sense for the Mets, or if it makes more sense than someone like Carlos Rodon, who would require sacrificing a couple of draft picks and international bonus money. Senga’s contract forecast is somewhere in the four-year range, $60-75 million. Much of this will depend on Jacob deGrom, but let’s say, by default, deGrom chooses to sign elsewhere. If the Mets can get a Senga at the lower end of that salary range and get someone like Rodon or Verlander, the rotation would look something like this:
- Max Scherzer
- Justin Verlander
- Carlos Carrasco
- Kodai Singa
- Joey Lucchesi (left) or David Peterson (left)
That’s not bad. This is a very strong alternation, but there are a lot of questions in this group. But then again, there are many questions about DeGrom these days, too. It’s always a gamble.
Epler’s reconnaissance and understanding of Japanese pitchers is useful in this situation whether or not the Mets sign him. Maybe he sees something that others don’t and convinces him the club needs to look elsewhere to fill the gaps in the rotation, or maybe he sees him as the next U-Darvish.
Right now, the Mets are doing their due diligence by meeting one of the most interesting players available this offseason.