Another week, another NPB pitcher is set to be posted. And again, it is not the eagerly anticipated news that Yoshinobu Yamamoto will be available for MLB teams. Instead, Naoyuki Uwasawa is the next NPB starter looking to make a move stateside.
Uwasawa has been a solid pitcher in Japan, a run that continued this year. He posted a 2.96 ERA and a 1.135 WHiP over his 170 innings, striking out 124 batters with 41 walks. It continued a trend where Uwasawa has been a steady part of the Nippon Ham Fighters rotation.
Naoyuki Uwasawa not assured of major league opportunity
Based on his production, Uwasawa should attract major league interest. He may not be a top of the rotation arm, but he would be someone that could fit well as a fourth or fifth starter. His experience in Japan, coupled with his ability to eat innings, should make him a respectable option. He could be a very cost effective piece for a team looking to save a few million but still have a dependable arm.
The problem is that his stuff may not be major league caliber. His fastball averages just under 91 MPH. He also features a cutter, forkball, and two seamer that all sit between the mid 80s to the upper 80s in velocity. Uwasawa also throws a slider, changeup, and knuckle curve, showing a knack for spotting those pitches as needed. His arsenal and lack of velocity have led to Kohei Arihara comparisons, although Arihara had better command. Considering that he had a 7.57 ERA over his 60.2 major league innings, that is not the type of comparison that inspires confidence.
Uwasawa is generating some interest. At least a half dozen teams have sent scouts to his outings. It is possible that he can get a major league deal due to the interest he has received. However, this could be a case of buyer beware. His arsenal may not be good enough to come close to replicating his NPB performances.
Naoyuki Uwasawa is hoping to pursue his major league dream. That dream could easily become a nightmare given his comparisons.