2009 produced the weakest NPB free agency class we’ve seen in quite some time. In the end, only Japanese veterans made the leap over the Pacific, and both landed with the Mets. So let’s take a look at how Ryota Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi have done so far with the Amazin’s.
Igarashi joined the Mets on a two-year, $3m MLB deal. Long known as one of Japan’s premier power pitchers, he doesn’t quite have the same velocity that he used to, but was still working in the mid-90’s last season. The story of Igarashi’s spring was that the Mets had him tinker with a slider, which was never in his repertoire in Japan. He’s reportedly gone back to his fastball/forkball arsenal and getting game-ready with those two pitches. For fantasy owners, Igarashi is probably a little bit of a risk. He’ll get K’s in middle relief, but he won’t get any save opportunities with K-Rod around, and will struggle if his command deserts him.
Takahashi signed a minor league deal with the Mets late in the offseason, and joined camp after pitchers and catchers had reported. He’s had a much better spring than Igarashi, surrendering only four hits and no earned runs in 8.1 innings of work and drawing positive reviews from his coaching staff. I’m a little surprised, though I’ve always seen his screwball as a plus pitch, and it’s spring training so a grain of salt must be applied. Another grain of salt is that Jon Niese is reportedly closing in on the 5th starter job, which would squeeze Takahashi to either the bullpen or 3A. My biggest concern with Takahashi has always been stamina, so this may be for the best. I’d suggest that fantasy owners consider him as a spot starter or innings-eating reliever, depending on what role he winds up in.