The Oakland A’s Shintaro Fujinami warms up at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa at Cactus League spring training (San Francisco Chronicle photo)
MLB: Oakland A’s – The Fuji effect-
Tha’s Amaury News and Commentary
By Amaury Pi-González
The 2023 season is not far from the ‘first pitch’, and Spring Training is in full swing as all 30 clubs have hopes of a postseason berth. Seven months from today reality will be set for 28 teams, and only two will be playing in the World Series. Although is too early to talk about October baseball, this is the time to talk about what teams have in store.
For the Oakland A’s there is a new bunch of players. Among the position players, only a handful of “veterans” like Ramón Laureano, Tony Kemp and Seth Brown are names that fans could identify together with some young pitchers. The team signed free agent Japanese right-handed pitcher Shintaro Fujinami “Please call me ‘Fuji.’ Like Mount Fuji,” the Japanese right-hander said in English when he was introduced to the media in Oakland.
Fuji played for ten years in Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan) for the Hanshin Tigers. Fuji (as he said he likes to be called) will turn 29 this next April. The A’s signed Fuji to a one-year deal for $3.25 million. He was, by far, the most interesting signing by the team this off-season.
The A’s going to Asia makes news. After all, the last time the A’s had a Japanese player was in 2011, slugger Hideki Matsui, who played only that year for the Green and Gold, with the difference that Matsui was already a major league player. Today in Spring Training, Fuji is the main attraction, although he had yet to throw one pitch in the majors and although many “experts” suggested (before he signed with the A’s) that he could help a team in the majors as a reliever.
The A’s are giving him a shot of winning a spot in the starting rotation. Why not? The A’s rotation is still young and does not have much experience. Fuji pitched for ten years in Japan (although a rookie in the majors) he still has more experience on the mound than any A’s pitcher on this roster, to date.
Here’s what Sports Info Solutions wrote about Fujinami. The splitter was his best strikeout pitch, and his most-used pitch with two strikes, narrowly edging out his fastball in both two-strike usage and strikeouts. In addition to having a solid 34% whiff rate, batters also struggled to do anything with the splitter when it was put in play. His splitters turned into grounders 66% of the time, and batters only managed a 9% hard-hit rate versus the pitch.
I do not know how much success Shintaro Fujinami will have with the A’s, and the truth is that nobody really knows. Not a surprise the A’s signed him for one year since he will have to prove himself at the major league level. I am surprised when the A’s signed veteran Cuban-born journeyman Aledmys Díaz to a 2-year $14.5 million deal.
Díaz can earn $500,000 annually in performance bonuses for plate appearances. Díaz is a seven year veteran who played for St Louis, Toronto, and the most recent World Champion Houston Astros. Díaz can play many bases and it makes sense he will take the place of utility man extraordinaire Chad Pinder who left the A’s to sign a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
Note: Fuji was very excited after he learned on Saturday he will be starting this next Tuesday the 28th against his good friend and countryman, the sensational two-way player, Shohei Ohtani when the A’s face the LA Angels.