Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Scouting Report: Hiroyuki Kawahara

In 2011, a young Japanese pitcher named Hiroyuki Kawahara pitched in the Puerto Rican winter league. The 21 year old lefty is not by any means "crafty" or "soft-tossing". According to scouting reports, he throws about 91 but has hit 96 before, and often.He was originally drafted in the NPB but there wasn't room in the rotation for him so he had been pitching in the minor league equivalent of the NPB. However, he is expected to take a leap and join the rotation of the Hawks in 2012. In Puerto Rico he had a great groundball ratio of 2.44 GB/FB. He gave up just 1 homer in 26.1 innings (7 starts, less than 4 innings a start). On the other hand, his ERA was 4.78. He somehow walked more batters than he struck out (control problems was originally part of his scouting report when he was just 18), walking 27, striking out 17 (5.86 K/9IP). He had big time splits, with a 6.19 ERA against righties and 2.61 ERA against lefties (even though his BAA was higher against lefties, he didn't walk many or give up many extra base hits to lefties). His numbers also would have been better if he didn't struggle so much with runners in scoring position (he gave up a BAA of .321 in those situations compared to .233). In most baseball circles LOB% is considered more luck than skill. One would expect this number to get better with a larger sample size, which would make his overall numbers better. He has had some should and elbow problems, and he was drilled in the head by a line drive earlier this year, but none of this seems too serious. Kawahara is an exciting prospect, and it should be fun to see him pitch in the NPB for the next few years, and at the very least could be a dominant left-handed specialist if made available to the U.S.

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