Over the last decade, there have been some very successful baseball players to come from Japan with big fantasy baseball impacts. Players like OF Ichiro Suzuki, OF Hideki Matsui, SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, and SP Hiroki Kuroda have all come to the MLB to put up very respectable numbers.
The most recent example would be Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish. Darvish signed a $60 million contract to stay in Texas for six years, and it proved to be well deserved. Darvish finished his first season with a 16-9 record, 3.90 ERA, and 221 strikeouts in 191.1 innings of work.
Fantasy owners always want to get their hands on the next great thing. Well, the next great prospect to come from the island is starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
The fireballer, known as Ma-Kun in Japan, has been untouchable in the Nippon Professional Baseball. Tanaka went 19-5 with a 1.27 ERA in 2011. He also fanned 241 batters in 226.1 innings of work. His WHIP was 0.875 and his ERA was an absurd 1.27.
In 2012, he was just as dominant, posting a 10-4 record. He got through 173 innings of work and racked up a respectable 169 strikeouts. His WHIP was 1.035 and his ERA was 1.87.
Tanaka has a four-seam fastball that tops at 98 mph. He mixes it in with a mid-80s slider that dances around the strike zone. He has fanned 410 batters in his last two seasons in Japan, and has the potential to be an amazing strikeout pitcher in the majors one day.
During the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Tanaka, much like Darvish, got to show off his stuff in front of the entire world. His only struggles in the tournament were against the Brazilian team, against whom he threw two innings, allowing four hits and one earned run.
However, Tanaka settled in nicely through the rest of the tournament. He shockingly struck out six Cuban hitters in two innings of relief work, and also struck out two batters in one inning of scoreless work in Japan’s 10-6 win over the Netherlands.
Needless to say, he caught the attention of a couple major league scouts.
Tanka has made it clear that he would love to pitch in America and right now, he is the number one fantasy prospect in Japan. Ma-Kun will pitch in America sooner rather than later, so stash him away in dynasty leagues now before he becomes a household name.