As is the case for any pitcher on foreign soil, there’s no consensus on what kind of player he will be in the United States. Physical talents are one thing to gauge, but how the transition is made and his physical gifts translate to Major League Baseball are unknown quantities. In the case of LHP Kei Igawa, whom the Yankees just paid a reported $25 million for negotiating rights, all signs are pointing to a No. 3 Major League starter as the best case scenario.
Igawa is not a flamethrower, but you wouldn’t be able to tell if you simply looked at his arsenal and mentality. His fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range and has nice downward action that should translate well if or when he begins pitching in New York. He adds a slider that is an out pitch in Japan, but likely doesn’t have the juice to make big league hitters, especially right-handers, consistently swing and miss. Overaggression is an issue with both of these pitches, as his fastball misses up in the zone when he reaches back too far and his slider flattens out and spins when he overthrows it.
His solid, though unspectaculr, fastball-slider combination leads me to what I think will define his career in the U.S. – his ability to throw his change-up for a strike. As I noted on Weighed Bloggs, he has the right arm action for a quality change, but must throw it more often and develop a better feel to find success. Comparisons have been made between Igawa and Kaz Ishii, but Igawa projects more favorably because he has a.) better three-pitch potential and b.) better command than Ishii.