How Mr. Baseball Became a Go-To for Players Headed to Japan
When Yu Darvish was announced as the Mariners’ new starting pitcher, fans assumed he would follow in the footsteps of Ken Griffey Jr. and Chris Davis, who came to the United States as highly touted, but failed to make the majors. Instead, Darvish will spend the next few seasons in Japan playing for the Yomiuri Giants.
At the time of his selection as the Mariners’ starting pitcher, Darvish was ranked by Baseball America as one of the top prospects in the game. Baseball America ranked him as the top Japanese prospect and ranked him as the second-best Japanese pitching prospect in baseball.
But for what was considered a high-risk, high-reward project, Darvish needed a team willing to take a gamble on him. At 20 years old, Darvish was the youngest pitcher to be selected as a starter by an AL team. For a number of teams that chose him, Darvish’s success had been largely limited to minor league affiliate ball, where his stats have been solid but inconsistent. His fastball and slider were considered too high-risk, too high-reward pitches. With the Mariners, Darvish has a chance to make his own luck.
To get Darvish a chance, the Mariners were willing to trade away their starting pitching depth and select the 30-year-old Darvish from the Yomiuri Giants with the first round of the MLB draft. The Mariners were willing to trade their future as a pennant contender in the AL West.
The risk was worth it, right? It has long been true that the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Darvish was still so young that he was considered to be the best pitching prospect in Japanese history, as determined by Baseball America.
The Yomiuri Giants are known for being one of the most successful teams in Japan, and one of the best at drafting young talent.
“We looked at a variety of things,” said Yuichiro Nakajima, who headed up the Mariners’ international team while