Randy Messenger

Date: 06/01/16
Position: RHP
Age: 34
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 250
B/T: R/R
Acquisition Period: Signed as international free agent, 2010 (Hanshin Tigers)
School: Sparks H.S. (Nevada)

NPB Prospect Profile

Since taking up with the Hanshin Tigers in 2010, Messenger has not only made a successful transition from reliever to starter, but has established himself as the leader of the Hanshin staff and one of the better starting pitchers in the league. He features a power fastball (92-to-96 mph) with a cutter, and 12-to-6 shaped curveball, and a splitter – all of which are average to plus offerings.

He makes the most of his towering frame to get excellent angle, driving the ball on a downhill plane that plays up his already-power stuff, and helping compensate for his sometimes erratic command in the zone. Messenger has always thrown very hard, but has not always known where it was going. Upon arriving in Japan, he started attacking in the strike zone more (perhaps due in part to greater confidence of avoiding the HR ball vs. the small-ball oriented NPB lineups; discussed in more detail here).

As a result, he has found the consistency that eluded him in the U.S., and he has racked up a 65-57 record through 1099 1/3 innings so far in Japan with a career SO/9 of 8.2 and a career BB/9 of 2.9. He struck out a career high 226 in 2014 and followed that up with a 196 strikeouts last year, while managing to limit his BB/9 to 3.0 in 2014 and 2.8 in 2015 (career-best mark of 2.6 BB/9 in 2013).

While he is off his career pace so far in 2016 (3.3 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9), he threw eight innings of six hit, two run ball in a 2-1 loss to the rival Yomiuri Giants. What’s more notable, though, were the seven K’s, which now give him 1000 for his career in Japan making him only the fourth foreign pitcher in NPB history to do so. Messenger has already passed on a couple opportunities to return to the big leagues during the offseasons of 2011-13, instead signing a multi-year deal valued at about $15 million in November of 2013), but his contract is up this offseason, so a return is possible.

That said, if he rights the ship and finishes the season closer to his career numbers then I imagine Hanshin will make a strong push to keep him; but even if they do not, he almost certainly stands to command a higher average annual value with another club in Japan than he would in the United States. He is turning 35 in August, and I expect Messenger to fall into the second or third tier of free agent starting pitching options during the upcoming MLB offseason. His representation will likely play up the possibility of a return to the U.S. in hopes of driving up the rate for NPB clubs, however I imagine he will ultimately re-sign in Japan and build on what has already been a historic run for a U.S. player.