Friday, November 30, 2012

Kota Kobayashi Signs with Indians: Scouting Report

Kota Kobayashi, a 21 year old right-handed pitcher, has signed with the Cleveland Indians on a minor league contract. A Japanese Native, Kobayashi (obviously not to be confused with veteran Hiroyuki Kobayashi or even the younger Bay Star Hiroshi Kobayashi) has been in the Yokohama DeNa Bay Stars organization, but had not pitched with the big club (and as far as I know, there aren't publicly available statistics for the minor leagues). According to the NPB official website, he is just over 6 feet tall (183 centimeters) and about 183 pounds (80 kg). This usually spells relief profile, as he isn't going to gain anymore height, but could perhaps gain a little weight. Now, on to YouTube Scouting!:

Here he shows a good off-speed pitch that breaks well out of the zone (you should probably ignore the hitter's reactions as it is a college team). At 25 seconds, you can see him throw it for a strike at the bottom of the zone, and it almost sort of flutters. The fastball is mostly straight (with perhaps some armside tail) and it looks like he can throw it at the bottom and the top of the zone. He also clearly has a curveball that you see at 2:30. While it can be difficult to tell from behind, it looks like it is soft and slow, but maybe doesn't have the gigantic loop that you often see in slow curves. He seemed to be having some problems repeating his delivery, which seems to have quite a bit of moving parts (more on that later). His fastball command wasn't exactly strong in this video, but it showed tail to both sides occasionally (he may even be sinking it). Just as far as the eye test goes from seeing behind without a radar gun, it does seem like he has decent velocity, or at least that he has good speed differential. It definitely looks like he has room to fill out. Here he faces former MLBer and current Rakuten Eagle Akinori Iwamura:

The second pitch is the curve, and from the side (but obviously zoomed out) it looks like I thought from behind. He seems to keep it low, but it isn't big or loopy. I wonder how a slow velocity curve will work when it has break like it is harder (my suspicion is "not good"). Iwamura slapped the 3rd fastball he saw pretty hard. Here is a pretty good (though somewhat shaky) view of his delivery:

One thing you will notice is that there is no pause. It is really a standard delivery from that standpoint. It has the leg sweep that you often see in the NPB, but it is pretty quick. I wonder if the quickness makes it harder to repeat or easier (that is, is it easier to rush, or does the lack of pause make the delivery more fluid?). I don't know what to say about the way he finishes the delivery, except that it is odd and funny looking. I don't think that it effects anything, it is just humorous. As far as arm action, he is basically coming over the top. He does a good job of getting extension despite his somewhat short stature, but it is a high effort delivery. This is going to give him the best velocity possible, but will also make repeating it harder (control/command) and make him tire easier and make injury more likely (though how likely, who knows). This is why I see him as basically a two pitch reliever. He seems (if the small selections we have seen are any indication) to be pretty fastball heavy, so his success will most likely rely on his fastball and his ability to move it around the strike zone (something he is probably advanced at for age 21). 

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