Top Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga expected to explore MLB opportunities this offseason

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Top Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga expected to explore MLB opportunities this offseason

Kodai Senga has been one of the better pitchers in Japan over the past decade, and the right-hander could make for an intriguing entrant onto next offseason’s MLB free-agent market. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported last night that Senga is likely to consider contract offers from major league teams over the winter. That’s not especially surprising, as he’s reportedly sought to make the jump to MLB in the past but been denied that opportunity by his NPB team, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

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Senga is a career-long member of the Hawks, with whom he has spent parts of 11 seasons. He’s tallied a bit more than 1,000 innings at Japan’s highest level, pitching to a 2.62 ERA with a very strong 28.3% strikeout rate. The right-hander has a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the past four seasons, including a sterling 2.05 mark across 105 1/3 innings this year. Senga has fanned 28.1% of opponents in 2022 against a fine 8.1% walk rate. Among qualified NPB hurlers, he ranks third in ERA.

Last offseason, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote that Senga has a quality four-pitch mix headlined by his fastball and split. Longehagen indicated neither of his breaking pitches (cutter or slider) were likely to be impactful offerings, but he suggested his two top pitches combined with solid control could give him a chance to start in the majors. At the time, Longenhagen placed Senga as his No. 4 international prospect who might be available in 2023 and beyond (and the No. 3 player in Japan, behind righties Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Roki Sasaki).

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