Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/14/14

In a recent article discussing the latest crop of international talent, valued commenter “Nate” offered a great, concise preview of soon-to-be international free agent Kyuji Fujikawa, presently playing in Nippon Professional Baseball league:

Kyuji Fujikawa – Closer for the Hanshin Tigers. Closest thing Japan has had lately to a Mariano Rivera type. He’s 32, but will be a full free agent, so won’t require a posting fee. Expensive teams that forgot to buy a bullpen should look at him *cough* Angels *cough*.

And Nate is many times over right; not only does one of Japan’s best relievers appear ready for a jump across the river, but he also has every chance to be an elite reliever in the US.

Take a look at his numbers in Japan:

The sir is legit. And he could make for a talented addition to a number of teams in 2013.

Since 2002, Fujikawa has been an elite reliever for a lately underwhelming Hanshin team. As the graph notes above in ERA and FIP terms, Fujikawa has well exceeded the league average over recent seasons. He will be 32 entering the 2013 MLB season, and if even a portion of his numbers translate across the see, he will be a phenomenal pickup for an interested team:

Year Age Tm G SV IP Fujikawa ERA Fujikawa FIP ERA- FIP- 2007 26 Hanshin 71 46 83 1.63 1.43 42 35 2008 27 Hanshin 63 38 67.2 0.67 1.63 18 41 2009 28 Hanshin 49 25 57.2 1.25 1.95 35 49 2010 29 Hanshin 58 28 62.2 2.01 3.26 49 75 2011 30 Hanshin 56 41 51 1.24 1.40 41 39 2012 31 Hanshin 46 22 45.2 1.38 1.97 48 55

NOTE: The NPB FIP- used here is not park-adjusted.

Some have projected he will get a contract along the lines of two years, $8 to $10 million, which is not discounted per se, but could develop into a bargain.

In 2012, four NPB pitchers made the jump to the MLB — Yu Darvish, Wei-Yin Chen, Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Wada. They were not exactly a glowing advertisement for NPB pitchers.

Wada has spent most of the season recovering from TJ surgery; Darvish cannot seem to beat a team twice in a row; Iwakuma has some occasionally scary numbers as he has split time between the rotation and bullpen; and Chen — who has been perhaps the best value so far in the 2012 season — appears pretty close to an average pitcher.

Here is a look at the stats for these players before and after their Pacific leaps:

Player Age Tm League IP ERA HR% BB% K% FIP FIP- 2012 MLB FIP- 2012 MLB xFIP- Yu Darvish 24 NPN PL 232.0 1.44 0.76% 5% 42% 1.64 49 79 88 Tsuyoshi Wada 30 FKA PL 184.2 1.51 1.06% 6% 25% 2.59 77 – – Wei-Yin Chen 25 CNI CL 164.2 2.68 1.37% 5% 14% 3.42 96 103 104 Hisashi Iwakuma 30 TOH PL 119.0 2.42 0.91% 3% 14% 2.95 87 115 94

Darvish went from unstoppable in Japan to (merely) above average in Texas. The other two pitchers moved closer to 5 to 10 points or so in FIP or xFIP.

Fujikawa will presumably lose some degree of effectiveness in the MLB, but even scouts suspect he can still occupy late-inning relief roles in the US:

“Closer, maybe. Maybe a quality set-up man,” the scout from the NL team said. “I’m concerned about him pitching up in the zone all of the time. In the U.S., if you start throwing high, they’ll wait for that high pitch, and the hitters in America have more power than the Japanese. So he better start pitching low.”

Again, let us bow to the prescience of Nate. The Angels, despite being one of the better clubs in the American League, have the 8th worst bullpen in the majors with a 4.03 FIP. In the coming offseason, the Angels, White Sox, Cardinals and maybe even the Red Sox — depending on how close they feel they are to contention — could all be candidates for bullpen upgrades. Plus, teams like the Yankees — who always play a role in free agents — and the Orioles — who have demonstrated a penchant for East Asian free agents — could also make a play for Fujikawa.

And if he indeed goes for $10 million or less, he might be able to help rewrite the reputation for Japanese pitchers.

You can find more of Fujikawa’s stats at his impressive Wikipedia page.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Discussions to bring NFL team to L.A. are progressing

Report: Chris Mullin expected to take St. John's job

Michigan State beats Louisville, punches Final Four ticket

Ex-NHL player viciously attacks opponent before game

Rick Barnes a possibility for Tennessee coaching job?


Report: NFL looking into Bill Belichick's camera ideas

Saints CB Brian Dixon arrested in Miami

CC Sabathia goes off about spring training stats

Kentucky remains unbeaten after thrilling win over ND

Alabama DT arrested on domestic violence charges again

John Calipari blasted for postgame interview

Adam Morrison trolled fan who made JJ Redick comment

Jim Harbaugh finished fourth in student government election

WATCH: Notre Dame gets warm reception upon return home

WATCH: Kris Letang hospitalized after hit

Aaron Rodgers, sports writer get into it over on-court access

Sam Dekker's hot shooting sends Wisconsin to Final Four

Jim McElwain complains about Florida roster

Mark Few: I put Coach K up there with John Wooden

WATCH: Enes Kanter embraces boos in return to Utah

Mariners prospect dies from boat accident injuries

T.J. Ford sends heartfelt tweet about Rick Barnes

Bruins coach suits up as backup goalie

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Chris Mullin to take St. John's job

Report: NFL looking into more cameras

CC Sabathia goes off about spring stats

John Fox: Cutler will have to earn job

Texas eyeing Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall?

WATCH: Brady jumps off cliff in Costa Rica

WATCH: 2 Chainz beats Nique in HORSE

Elite Eight preview and predictions: Notre Dame vs. Kentucky

Elite Eight preview and predictions: Arizona vs. Wisconsin

NFL owners chose cost over game integrity

Be careful how loudly you cheer on Mo'ne Davis' olive branch

James Harden and the collective consciousness

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.