May 21, 2024

If the Atlanta Braves’ offseason personnel decisions have shown anything (yet), it’s the necessity of acquiring pitcher velocity.

Atlanta’s bullpen now has pure gas, something they haven’t had in previous seasons, thanks to the addition of imports Jackson Kowar (96.9), Reynaldo López (98.2), and Aaron Bummer (94.4), who replaced softer-throwing relievers like Collin McHugh (avg FB velocity = 91.3), Kirby Yates (93.6), Jackson Stephens (93.0), and Brad Hand (92.6).

The Braves bullpen is far more dangerous in terms of pure velocity when you combine that with the return of Tyler Matzek (2021 average velocity = 96.0) and the promotion of relief prospect Daysbel Hernández (2023 AAA average = 96.2 mph).

The Orioles failed to fix Shintaro Fujinami - Camden Chat

Reynaldo López, a reliever signed from the White Sox, will be stretched out to start, which is an extra wrinkle. If it works, you get another cheap starting pitcher and at worst, he becomes a multi-inning relief option.

Similarly, Atlanta ought to think about bringing pitcher Shintaro Fujinami in as a free agent. He signed with the Oakland Athletics as an international free agent and struggled to adjust to Major League Baseball. After just seven starts, Oakland moved him to the bullpen, and at the trade deadline, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.

Fujinami’s stats for the entire season…aren’t great. 7-8 record with a 7.18 ERA over 79 innings pitched.

However, upon closer examination of his actual actions, there is cause for optimism that Fujinami could succeed in a different setting.

The first is his extraordinary speed; the 6’6 righty’s body produces pure gas, allowing him to throw fastballs at an average of 98.4 mph, which is the 97th percentile in all of Major League Baseball. Late in the season, he also touched 103 in relief.

The splitter is the second and most noticeable of his secondary weapons. Hurston Waldrep, a top prospect, throws a pitch that is similar to Fujinami’s, but Fujinami’s is a weapon because it reaches over 90 mph.

With the exception of the slider, which was only used seventeen times out of a total of 1,404 pitches during the season, the rest of the arsenal is appropriate for a starter’s workload: a cutter, a sweeper, and a slider.

Fujinami was far more effective as a reliever, with a 7-2 record and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings, despite his 5.14 overall ERA. However, the atmosphere also must be taken into consideration; Oakland was a poor team, particularly in the beginning of the season. During his final 25 games with Baltimore, Fujinami gave up 13 earned runs, 10 of which came in four games where he struggled with control.

Most foreign pitchers find it difficult to adjust to MLB life at first. Japanese pitchers who move to the United States must learn how to use a new baseball because MLB uses a mudded ball and the pitcher must apply their own rosin. Japan uses pre-tacked baseballs.

On a terrible Mets team that lost most of their veteran talent at the trade deadline, pitcher Kodai Senga—a runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year—had a 4.15 ERA through his first five starts with eighteen walks before turning things around to finish with a 2.98 ERA.

After signing for just $3.25 million and a single season prior to the 2023 season, Fujinami was not extended a contract by the Orioles and was free to sign elsewhere following the season. If everything went according to plan, he could enter your rotation with a different look and toolkit than the rest of the team. He would be an extremely cost-effective (and high velocity) addition to the bullpen.


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