Update: Yankees have sent top evaluators to scout Masahiro TanakaBy
September 2nd: Assistant GM Billy Eppler and special assignment scout Don Wakamatsu both scouted Tanaka last week, report Mark Hale and George King. The Yankees have seen most of the right-hander’s starts this year. Seems like the team is really doing its homework after literally not knowing what pitches Kei Igawa threw after signing him.
August 21st: Via Ben Badler: The Yankees and Rangers have sent their top evaluators to scout Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka recently. Other clubs have watched him as well. We first heard New York had interest in Tanaka, who is expected to be posted after the season, back in May. Balder says MLB and NPB are discussing changes to the posting system — including placing a hard cap on the posting fee — but nothing is final.
Tanaka, 24, has a 1.20 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 158 innings for the Rakuten Golden Eagles this year. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 lbs., and is said to sit in the low-90s with a fastball that touches 96. Badler says scouts have some concern because he doesn’t get good plane on the pitch and it’s more hittable than the velocity suggests. Tanaka also throws a low-80s slider and a mid-80s splitter, like many Asian pitchers. He has been one of the league’s best pitchers for years now. Here’s video.
Tanaka is not as good as Yu Darvish, but Badler says “scouts project (him) as a potential No. 2 starter who can immediately step into a Major League rotation.” The Yankees have been very shy when it comes to bidding on big money international free agents after getting burned by Kei Igawa, but they could always change their approach at a moment’s notice. They will need some starters going forward, that’s for sure. The posting fee doesn’t count against the luxury tax either, just the actual player contract.