Tetsuya Yamaguchi

Date: 05/18/16
Position: LHP
Age: 32
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 190
B/T: L/L
Acquisition Period: Ikuse Draft (training player) pick, 2005 NPB Draft (Yomiuri Giants)
School: Yokohama Commercial H.S.

NPB Prospect Profile

Yamaguchi began his professional career in 2002 as a skinny left-hander in the Pioneer League with the Arizona Diamondbacks rookie league affiliate. Yamaguchi went undrafted in the 2001 NPB draft and signed with the D-Backs shortly after graduating from high school. He was relatively unimpressive across three seasons in rookie ball, going 7-13 and giving up 205 hits over 170 innings. He did strikeout 152, but with each of them coming in rookie ball, it represents a bit of a dubious honor. He was released after the 2004 season, and wound up back in Japan, sitting out almost the entire 2005 season after being passed over in tryouts with both the Yokohama Baystars and the Rakuten Eagles. He ultimately signing a minor league deal with the Yomiuri Giants and spent 2006 in the Ni-gun (minor leagues) before being called up part way through the 2007 campaign.

When he showed up on the Giants roster, he showed up to the tune of a 2.16 ERA across 593 innings, allowing 486 hits and striking out 480 from 2007 through his first 16 appearances so far in 2016, pitching mostly in an eighth-inning role. He has been arguably the best set-up man in Japan over that span. He sits 89-to-92 mph with the fastball that gets some late sink to the arm side, and he has excellent feel with the variations on his slurve; his 3/4 arm angle and crossfire delivery add some deception, and he will dial up some late bite for a put-away pitch. While this profile is surely something big league clubs would be interested in (see Boone Logan (LHP, Rockies) and his three-year, $16.5 million deal in ’14; and Javier Lopez (LHP, Giants), three-year, $13 million deal in ’14), the chances of Yamaguchi leaving the Giants are a mystery.

The Giants are arguably the most popular team in Japan and have the finances to prove it; while he may not get the same average annual value from a major league club, he should get offered something close if his numbers stay on track. He wouldn’t be the first Giants player to leave via free agency (that would be Hideki Matsui, in 2003 to the Yankees), but the trend has been that Giants free agents stick around. He has struggled a bit early this year, surrendering 20 hits and two bombs in 14.1 IP, but he’s also K’d nine and only walked one so expect him to fall in line.