Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka

35-Year-Old PitcherP
 Free Agent  Foreign
2024 Fantasy Outlook
There was no outlook written for Masahiro Tanaka in 2024. Check out the latest news below for more on his current fantasy value.
RANKS
$Signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees in January of 2014. Contract includes player options for 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Makes return to Japan official
PFree Agent  F
January 28, 2021
Tanaka announced Thursday via his personal Twitter account that he agreed to a contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball. According to the Kyodo News, Tanaka's contract is a two-year, $17.2 million deal that includes additional incentives.
ANALYSIS
As anticipated, Tanaka will return to his native country after he couldn't find a deal to his liking in MLB after becoming a free agent this winter. Tanaka's move to Japan officially ends a seven-year run with the Yankees, with whom he went 78-46 with a 3.74 ERA and 8.4 K/9 across 174 outings while picking up two All-Star nods along the way. Given that he'll be 34 years old by the time his deal with the Golden Eagles expires, it's more likely than not that his time in North America is over.
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Recent RotoWire Articles Featuring Masahiro Tanaka See More
MLB: Jeff Zimmerman on Pitcher Inflation in the NFBC Main Event
March 16, 2022
Jeff Zimmerman examines starting pitcher inflation in the NFBC Main Event in recent years. Expect to see it again in 2022, especially with the early injuries to Chris Sale, Zack Wheeler and others.
MLB Barometer: Olympic Preview Edition
July 26, 2021
Erik Halterman offers up a special edition of his column, featuring a break down of Olympic baseball, while also listing this week’s risers and fallers, starting with Juan Soto.
Fantasy Baseball Injury Report: Is Surgery in Glasnow's Future?
June 22, 2021
Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow is out for the foreseeable future after suffering a partial tear of his UCL as well as a flexor strain in his throwing elbow.
Rounding Third: Lindy Stats
March 27, 2021
Tony Gonsolin became a target for Jeff Erickson in his leagues after taking a look at a metric suggested by former NFBC Main Event overall champ Lindy Hinkelman in a podcast last summer.
MLB Barometer: February Risers & Fallers
March 1, 2021
Erik Halterman looks at players rising and falling in ADP this draft season, including Eugenio Suarez, whose climbing draft stock looks accurate.
Past Fantasy Outlooks
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Tanaka will return home to Japan in 2021 after a highly commendable seven-year run with the Yankees, having signed back with the Rakuten Golden Eagles on a two-year deal. He was concussed by a liner during his summer build-up but didn't wind up missing too much time in 2020, going on to make 10 starts. His 3.56 ERA during those starts represented his best mark since 2016, though his underlying numbers didn't represent much of a change from prior seasons. He saw a small uptick in his fastball velocity, matching his career high at 92.2 mph. While Tanaka hasn't been an ace for a few years, he hasn't shown many signs of serious decline as he heads into his age-32 season, so who knows, perhaps he will test the MLB waters again down the road.
Tanaka had an interesting season, to say the least. In 18 games against sub-.500 teams, he won seven games with a 3.71 ERA, but in 14 games against teams over .500, he won just four games and had a 5.50 ERA. One might think that Tanaka was impacted by the new baseball in 2019, but his home-run rate was actually slightly lower than it was in 2018. The bigger issue with Tanaka is that he is losing the swing and miss to his game. His strikeout rate has now dropped in three consecutive seasons, from 26% to 20%, and it has to do with the combination of his fastball and splitter. The fastball velocity has declined the past three seasons, but he is still using the pitch at similar levels. The splitter is also being used at the same levels, but it is losing its effectiveness relative to the decline in Tanaka's fastball. The slider is an elite pitch, and it's all he has left as the chasm between the name value and real value continues to widen.
While his strikeout and walk rates remain strong, the home runs have become a glaring issue. Tanaka has given up a whopping 60 long balls over the past two seasons. He trimmed his HR/9 slightly in 2018, but his 1.44 mark was still poor, and his opponents' hard-hit rate jumped to 37.3% (from 31.4%). Nine of the 25 homers Tanaka served up in 2018 came in just 33 innings during his third time through opposing orders -- he had a 7.91 ERA the third time through, compared to a 2.70 ERA the first time through and a 2.52 ERA the second time through. He endured a similar times-through-the-order penalty in 2017, and given the quality of the Yankees' bullpen, it would make sense if they finally implemented a more strict restriction on Tanaka moving forward. We may be looking at 170 or so innings even if he stays healthy for the full season. Thankfully, five-and-dive pitchers on the Yankees can still rack up a good number of wins.
Tanaka was expected to anchor the Yankees' rotation last season in advance of a big payday in free agency, but he instead opted into his contract with the team for 2018 after the bottom completely fell out in the first half. The 29-year-old's season-long numbers never completely recovered from an especially wretched May, saddling Tanaka with his worst ERA in four MLB seasons. A lack of command was the main issue, as Tanaka served up 35 homers and was frequently hit hard when he did keep the ball in the yard. Fortunately, Tanaka regained velocity and unlocked the swing-and-miss stuff he lost while pitching through elbow injuries the last two seasons, generating a 15.1-percent swinging-strike rate that ranked third among qualified starters. That bodes well for Tanaka's chances of returning to peak form for the balance of 2018, especially since he seemed to turn a corner in the second half of last season. Following the All-Star break, Tanaka submitted a 3.77 ERA while holding hitters to a .229/.267/.405 line.
Tanaka has perpetually been on injury watch since electing to forgo Tommy John surgery in 2014 and pitching through a partially torn UCL, and although he was shut down for the final week of the season with a slight forearm strain, the team's ace made it through 199.2 innings and 31 starts in 2016. He ranked third in the American League among qualified starters in ERA (3.07), fifth in WHIP (1.08), and was fourth in K/BB (4.6). The Japanese import showed some personal improvement keeping the ball in the yard - a problem that plagued him in 2015 - and posted a career-best 14 wins. There were some aspects of his game that left something to be desired, as he struck out batters at a career-low rate and walked them at a career-high clip, but the season mostly trended in the right direction. The injury specter will continue to hang over him, but as long as he's healthy, Tanaka figures to have another productive campaign in 2017.
There were major concerns around Tanaka entering 2015 and while he didn’t make it through unscathed (late-Apr. DL stint for forearm strain cost him a month-plus), he was upright and pitching well for three quarters of the season. He didn’t need the Tommy John surgery that many believe is inevitable so a lot of the same concerns will linger again this year. Tanaka did have his right elbow scoped for bone spurs in October, but the partial tear remains. His performance was a few ticks worse in the spots one would expect: fewer strikeouts, more home runs. Otherwise, he was the same very good pitcher we saw in 2014. Sometimes it’s lazy to just take the average of two seasons as a guideline for expectations, but it works here. Both of Tanaka’s seasons have included great fundamental skills, a bit of a home run issue, and a substantial DL stint. Prospective owners should plan for more of the same until we see something different.
Tanaka came in with exorbitant expectations and actually found a way to outdo them, taking the league by storm with a 2.10 ERA in his first 16 starts. His next two starts were uncharacteristically poor outings and eventually resulted in elbow inflammation that sidelined him for the next two and a half months. He somehow avoided what felt like an inevitable trip under the knife and returned for a pair of late-September starts, though the second of them was a shellacking in Boston. Now with a potential Tommy John surgery hanging over his head, Tanaka will again be one of the most polarizing players at the draft table, albeit for markedly different reasons this time around. Drafting him sight unseen will require a significant discount, but even seeing him in spring training won’t alleviate the worry surrounding him in 2015. Tread cautiously. The payoff is high, but the price won’t always be lowered enough to take the risk.
Tanaka, the top pitcher in Japan last season, agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract to play for the Yankees in 2014. When Tanaka signed his 2013 contract with Rakuten in the Japanese Pacific League, he expressed his desire to move to MLB prior to qualifying for free agency. He went on to have a legendary 2013 season, going 24-0 and leading the Rakuten to its first NPB championship. His video game numbers (24-0, 1.27 ERA and 183:32 K:BB in 212 IP) in 2013 are well documented, but what might get overlooked is that those numbers aren't really out of the ordinary for Tanaka. In 2012 he missed a few starts with some muscle strains, but he still managed a 1.87 ERA in 173 IP, with 169 strikeouts against just 19 walks. Tanaka passes the eyeball tests as well. He is a sturdy 6-2, 200, and features three pitches that project as above average: a fastball that runs from 90-96 mph, a sharp splitter at 85-90 mph and a sweeping slider. His only concerns are his workload in Japan -- Tanaka threw 160 pitches in Game 6 of the Japan Series before closing the clincher -- and a strikeout rate that has dropped in each of the last three seasons, from 9.6 K/9 in 2011 to 7.8 in 2013, but those aspects appear minor given his body of work. While Tanaka's new home park isn't the best environment for a pitcher, it hasn't limited fellow Japanese native Hiroki Kuroda from having two strong season in the Bronx. All signs point to Tanaka also making a strong transition to MLB.
Tanaka may be the best pitcher in Japan after going 10-4 with a 1.87 ERA and 169:19 K:BB ratio in 172 innings last season. He told his team he wants to play in MLB and the Rakuten Eagles could post him after the 2013 season. He'll be just 24 years old next season, so he could be a major impact player in MLB and worth adding in keeper leagues where allowed.
Tanaka may be Japanese baseball's best young prospect. The 21 year-old got off to a roaring 7-0 start to the 2009 season, and eventually finished at 15-6 with a 2.33 ERA. Tanaka has always had an electric arm, and learned how to dominate with it this season. Still, we may not see him come to the U.S. until at least 2016.
More Fantasy News
Could end up overseas
PFree Agent  F
January 25, 2021
Tanaka is in contract negotiations with his former Nippon Professional League team, the Rakuten Eagles, Pete Caldera of NorthJersey.com reports.
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Hurt by long ball in Game 3
PNew York Yankees  F
October 7, 2020
Tanaka took the loss during Game 3 of the ALDS against the Rays on Wednesday after surrendering five runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and one walk over four innings.
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Starting Game 3 of ALDS
PNew York Yankees  F
October 5, 2020
Tanaka will start Game 3 of the ALDS against the Rays on Wednesday, Pete Caldera of NorthJersey.com reports.
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Poor showing in Game 2
PNew York Yankees  F
October 1, 2020
Tanaka was knocked around in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Round against Cleveland, allowing six runs on five hits in four innings, striking out three and walking three.
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Struggles early in loss
PNew York Yankees  F
September 23, 2020
Tanaka allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks across four innings during the Yankees' 14-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday. He struck out three.
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