Player Profile: Kyuji Fujikawa

» 16 June 2008 » In mlb prospects »

If I had to pick a guy from Japan to take on a MLB team, I’d have to go with Yu Darvish. But if I didn’t want to shell out the bucks for Darvish, Hanshin Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa would be my pick.

Kyuji hasn’t gotten the same level of media attention as Darvish has, for good reason — he’s older (28), he’s a relief pitcher, he suffered from injuries early in his career, and he hasn’t played for a Japan Series winner yet. But Kyuji is in the fourth year of probably the most dominant run for a relief pitcher in NPB history. And given that NPB relief pitchers have a solid track record of MLB success, Kyuji might be a little bit of a safer bet anyway.


Kyuji’s numbers are pretty mindblowing. This season, he’s 2-1, with a 0.88 era and 23 saves. But Kyuji’s trademark is his ability to strike guys out, and he ranks ninth overall in the Central League with 50 K’s. In 30 innings. For comparison’s sake, the eight guys that are ahead of him are all starters and have pitched at least 65 innings. Kyuji’s strikeout numbers have been amazing for the last four years:

year ERA K BB Innings
2008 0.88 50 6 30 2/3
2007 1.63 115 20 83
2006 0.68 122 22 79 1/3
2005 1.36 139 20 92 1/3

Other achievements include a 47 2/3 inning shutout streak in 2006, and tying the Japan record with 46 saves last season.


Kyuji’s primary weapon is a hard fastball with a rising action (looks like a 4-seamer). He usually sits at 92-93 but can gun it up to 95 on occasion. He also has a forkball with a sharp break that throws infrequently. Kyuji isn’t afraid of challenging batters and misses a lot of bats.


Kyuji requested to be posted to be the major leagues last off-season but his request was summarily denied by Hanshin’ management, who stated he was too important to the team’s competitiveness. Three major leaguers have come from Hashin: Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Keiichi Yabu, and Kei Igawa. Of the three, only Igawa was posted and according to Hanshin’s management he was an extreme exception (sports-navi, in Japanese). Injuries cost Kyuji roster time early in his career, so he won’t reach free agency for 3-4 more years. If he’s coming to MLB any time soon, it will be via the posting system. What happens next will depend on what Hanshin values more highly: the $10-15MM posting fee Kyuji is likely to attract, or having him on the team for 3-4 more years.

Kyuji Fujikawa on YouTube (in Japanese):

Fujikawa’s Fastball

Kyuji vs Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, May 2008

Kyuji vs Kevin Youklis (starts 30sec in)

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  1. Patrick
    jesse b-h
    18/06/2008 at 7:09 am Permalink

    I saw Darvish pitch a bunch of times in the 2007 playoffs – I actually went to two games of the Japan Series in Nagoya, though Darvish was not pitching.

    Darvish has nasty, nasty stuff. I have no doubt that he would be a legitimate number two starter in the MLB if he came over today. If he keeps up his numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get $40M+ in a posting fee.

    I do doubt that the Fighters will post him, as he is such a valuable asset for the team. I genuinely could see him as the first Japanese pitcher to win a Cy Young…

  2. Patrick
    18/06/2008 at 9:50 pm Permalink

    That must’ve been a blast. I had a ticket to the ’03 Japan Series in Osaka, but that game was rained out and I was on a plane the day it was made up.

    Darvish’s numbers last year were just as good as Matsuzaka’s best in Japan, and he did it at a younger age. He’ll definitely command a big posting fee, but he’s six seasons away from free agency. I guess the question comes down to whether he can generate more money for his team playing for them or being posted. I think having him in a Fighters uniform for six more years is worth more to the team than whatever his posting fee will be.


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