Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thoughts on Tomohiro Anraku's Summer Koshien Outing

Tomohiro Anraku was the face of the Spring Koshien in what has been well reported already. If you are reading this, I assume you already know who the right-handed pitcher for Saibi Ehime is. For an Anraku tracker, and some GIFs, Kazuto Yamazaki has you covered. The rest of this post is my work from watching his first outing in the Summer Koshien online.

Anraku gave up 7 runs in a 137 pitch complete game, with most of the runs coming in the final inning. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out 7. The RHP is the main prospect in tournament and quickly proved to be hardest thrower I've seen so far in the tournament, and it isn't close. He also is one of the better sized pitchers in the tournament, listed at nearly 6'2 and 187 pounds. He may add a little weight, but probably not much, he seems pretty filled out already. 

Anraku has quite a bit going on mechanically. Everything seems very fast and sudden. He starts his delivery (after facing the hitter and bringing his glove over his head) with a standard leg kick and very slight pause. He then, very quickly, brings his body back and then lunges forward. This creates a body angle that is pretty low to the ground. It also looks like his body has already stopped as his arm comes through. This arm drag is usually some kind of concern command or injury wise because it puts too much stress on the arm itself because it is not in tune with the rest of his body.

He came out of the gate throwing 92-94 MPH. Anraku quickly got down to 87-89 MPH, and it was pretty straight. After he gave up a couple of runs in the first inning, he was back up to 92-94. He ended the first inning with a 96 MPH fastball, as high as he would get the entire game.

Anraku also threw a 84-86 MPH pitch that was flat up in the zones most of the time and didn't have a lot of movement. He threw this consistently throughout the game. I thought it was some kind of two-seamer, but Baseball America's Ben Badler called it a changeup. There was no consistent movement difference, and often times it just went in the strike zone straight. It was really a poor pitch that only worked when it did because he was taking some velocity off and upsetting hitter timing (and, frankly, was harder than a lot of the fastballs other pitchers' were throwing in the Koshien). 

His 78 MPH slider has quite a bit of drop, but the movement wasn't really sharp. It was up to 82 in the second and he threw a 84 slider in the third inning. One would think that this pitch will add a little velocity, ceteris paribus, and catch up to that fastball.

He has the slow curve, 69-70 MPH, but he didn't break it out until the start of the second inning against a left-hander. He started the third inning with a curve as well, getting down to 64. That was the slowest pitch he had thrown to that point, and I believe was the second slowest pitch he threw in the game. His next one was at 67, but he threw a harder one at 74 MPH in the 4th.

Anraku was 88-91 MPH with his fastball in the 2nd, down to 87. It seemed to have more arm side tail at this time, and was located very high frequently. It was a little hittable, but he jammed a left-handed hitter to get a groundball to end the much easier inning.

To start the third, he was 92-94 MPH and was 89-95 the rest of the inning, throwing mainly 4 seam fastballs. This time, he did a good job of keeping the ball away from a right-hander, getting a really ugly swing on the hardest and last pitch of the inning.

Anraku threw more sliders (78-79 MPH) in the 4th, and his fastball was up to 94-95, getting down to 87-91 (though some of these were probably more of the 2-seamer, which got down to 85 that inning). He would overthrow on the harder fastballs, having his hat come off and mechanics get a little crazy. This was something that he did throughout the game. 

He started the 5th inning 88-91 MPH and the 6th inning 89-93, getting a swing well out of the strike zone away to a right-handed batter on a 93 MPH fastball for the strikeout. For the most part, he was really in a groove after the first through the middle innings. 

In the 7th, he seemed to throw a lot of the 84 MPH moving fastballs/changeups to lefties, but got up to 92-94 with the hat flying off and the ball nearly flying over the catcher's head. When he found himself commanding the pitch again, his 4-seam fastball was down to 90-91. He got down to 61 on the curve, his slowest pitch, to end the 7th with a groundout.

91-95 MPH in the 8th, Anraku went with a 93 MPH with two strikes to get a strikeout looking. He got down to 88, but then back up to 91. His 4-seamer was clearly his out pitch throughout the entire outing and he ramped up his velocity when he was close to a strikeout.

In the 9th, Anraku was still firing bullets, getting up to 90-92 to start the inning, down to 88 MPH. He got into some trouble though, especially with the 84-85 MPH pitch up. His 4-seam command disintegrated as well, as he hit a left-handed batter. He still got up to 92 and 93 to what looked like might be the final batter, but things really unravelled when the left-fielder misjudged a fly-ball and he barely escaped with the win.

Anraku clearly has the raw arm to be one of the more exciting young pitchers in Japan, even coming off of a 2012 crop that was very impressive. He doesn't quite have the polish (particularly velocity consistency and command consistency) yet, but that is to be expected, he is just 16 years old. He is throwing at least 4 different pitches and throwing them often, showing a pitch selection very advanced for a high school kid with a fastball in the mid 90s (he could probably just dominate the Koshien with that pitch alone if he was willing to throw high octane again and again, though he probably wouldn't be able to handle the high pitch counts as well). Obviously there should be concern because of how hard his arm has been worked, and I think what the medicals on his shoulder and elbow will be key to how teams (whether NPB or in case the MLB comes calling and tries to convince him to sign) value Anraku when it comes to graduation. For right now, he is a very interesting prospect because he has shown durability, a four pitch mix, and a plus fastball at such a young age.

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