Red Sox (to) Sign Tazawa(?)

» 01 September 2008 » In mlb prospects, nichibei »

Update, Sept 3: For more on Tazawa the pitcher, please see this post.

Update: Simon pointed out that minor detail that I glossed over — that the signing hasn’t happened yet, just that Theo Epstein ok’ed it. I guess my inner hot stove got the better of me. The subject matter of the post is still valid, and I’ve made appropriate tense corrections to reflect the actual situation.

Sponichi is reporting that the Boston Red Sox have signed are looking to sign amateur pitcher Junichi Tazawa from Eneos Oil of the Industrial Leagues. Tazawa is a 22 year-old righthander with a fastball that reportedly reaches 97 mph, and is widely considered a top amateur going into this year’s NPB draft. All 12 NPB teams, as well as the Braves and Mets had been watching Tazawa in addition to Boston.

Theo Epstein comments in the article on scouting Japanese amateurs (warning: translation of a translation):

“We know how good Japanese pitchers are through Daisuke (Matsuzaka) and Oki (Hideki Okajima). The time has come when all 30 MLB teams have data on Japanese pitchers, but we’re proactive about data on young players.”

At this point I would like to note that terms of the signing were not included in the article, nor have I seen an official announcement. So hopefully there will be more details to come. It’s possible that The signing isn’t final yet.

This potential signing is likely to cause a stir in NPB. According to the article, there are no clear rules prohibiting MLB teams from signing Japanese amateurs prior to being drafting in NPB, but this is would be the first time that a consensus first round talent could potentially join an MLB team before being drafted. The NPB brass has never been nuts about losing veteran talent to MLB, so we’ll see how they would react to losing a coveted amateur.

This isn’t wouldn’t be Boston’s first amateur signing out of Japan. The signed relief pitching prospect Ryo Kumagai out of college a few years ago, and attempted to sign catcher Hayato Doue from the independant Shikoku Island League earlier this year. Kumagai wound up back in Japan pitching in the amateur industrial leagues pretty quickly, while I believe Doue failed to secure a visa and never made it over.


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  1. Patrick
    01/09/2008 at 8:58 pm Permalink

    I just happened to see Tazawa pitch yesterday in the first round of the Intercity Championship (Toshi-taikou going on at the Tokyo Dome right now. Eneos’ Tazawa absolutely dominated his opposition JR Shikoku, 8IP 12K 0BB pitching perfect through 5 innings and only giving up a solo shot in the 6th and three other harmless hits. We’ll see how he does in the rest of the tournament.

  2. Patrick
    01/09/2008 at 9:00 pm Permalink

    Since players like Tazawa who play in the industrial league (and universities too, I reckon) would have been “passed over” in previous NPB drafts, they are technically eligible to sign with any team in the world. Great ahead of the curve move by the Sox, we’ll see whether it pays off. Tazawa was consistently hitting the low 90s in the game I saw.

  3. Patrick
    01/09/2008 at 9:16 pm Permalink

    I had commented without reading your link first (oops). It says that the Red Sox has given Theo Epstein the go ahead to sign Tazawa, and that he may be signed by the club before the 30 October draft, but isn’t any more definitive on the subject.

  4. Patrick
    01/09/2008 at 9:21 pm Permalink

    Ahh, shoot. I kind of rushed through that one. Looks like I glossed over the ‘go’, right there in the first paragraph. I’ll have to do a minor bit of revisionist editing.

    Nonetheless, what do you think of the guy? What does he throw other than a fastball?

  5. Patrick
    01/09/2008 at 11:00 pm Permalink

    He also throws a biting slider in the 80s (高速スライダー).

  6. Patrick
    02/09/2008 at 10:21 am Permalink

    Could someone sign Yu Darvish this way? What is different in his case?

  7. Patrick
    02/09/2008 at 10:57 am Permalink


    I was just looking up stuff to write about him while writing about yesterday’s ENEOS game and I came across this and… ugh. He’s got a feature article and is even one of the guys on the cover of the 7/14 issue of Shukan Baseball about this year’s draft. Seems like he even tried to enter the 2007 draft as a kibouwaku but had an off year or something.

    Honestly, I think if the Red Sox can sign him before the NPB gets a shot at him through the draft system, it’ll be SERIOUSLY screwed up. Did someone meddle with the system last year over Robert Boothe or did he just happen to get passed up by everyone?

  8. Patrick
    02/09/2008 at 11:08 am Permalink

    Deanna — funnily enough, I looked at that issue of Shu-be in San Francisco’s Kinokuniya on Friday, but passed it up in favor of three others. I’ll pick it up next time if it’s still there. I think Robert Boothe went undrafted in NPB, but I’m not sure.

    Bob — Yu Darvish is already signed to a professional contract with the Nippon Ham Fighters. MLB teams respect NPB contracts, so he cannot be signed. Tazawa is still an amateur.

  9. Patrick
    02/09/2008 at 1:13 pm Permalink

    Boothe went undrafted, but it seemed fishy at the time to me. Not like Tadano fishy or anything, but just like… why? Was there knowledge of him being scouted by LA that turned teams off of drafting him? Or something else that even kept the Fighters, the happy hunting ground for untouchables, from taking a flier on him?

    Anyway, whatever. I have no comment on the Red Sox, and no useful photos of Tazawa, but if you want to see footage of the ENEOS marching band, you know where to look 😉

  10. Patrick
    02/09/2008 at 1:23 pm Permalink

    hahaha — nice pics.

    As for Boothe, his stats weren’t impressive in college. I’m pretty sure I have them in an issue of Shu-be at home, so I’ll post them after work.

  11. Patrick
    02/09/2008 at 9:01 pm Permalink

    Here are Robert Boothe’s numbers in rookie ball for this year — decent K rate, but awful era and 14 wild pitches in 13 appearances.

    The Shukan Baseball blurb I have on him says that he appeared in only 11 games in college with just 1 win. So he’s still probably very rough at this point. I can see why NPB teams passed on him.

  12. Patrick
    02/09/2008 at 9:13 pm Permalink

    Maybe it’s time to introduce Epstein’s history of messing with NPB in the case of Kevin Millar for the uninitiated. Gentlemen’s agreemnt out of the window.

  13. Patrick
    Mark Lanthorn
    02/09/2008 at 10:19 pm Permalink

    Who would have predicted that the September matchup vs the Tampa Rays would loom so large? Right now it’s the Pedroia show and Ortiz and Jason Bay and company are just along for the ride… The Sox’s lineup is so much deeper and better than the Rays, but that Rays staff and bullpen is scary good! Got my $20 tickets in hand for Tuesday game (yeah I’m cheap but whatcha gonna do? I’m a sucka for the bleachers) I can’t wait to see how this shakes out. The rosters expanded allow Francona the flexibility to make pitching changes and give some breathers in blowouts. The Wild Card is ours to lose…The Division is OURS TO WIN!

    RED SOX in 2008!


  1. [...] to reports, the Red Sox may sign Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa: Sponichi is reporting that the Boston Red [...]