The Diamondbacks have come to terms with Japanese righty closer Yoshihisa Hirano. In Japan, the 34-year-old accumulated 156 saves over his career, but he is probably just a back-of-the-bullpen arm for Arizona.
Just a couple of seasons ago, Hirano was striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings in Japan, which would translate to a 9.0 K/9 in the majors. Last season, his K/9 dropped to 7.4 K/9, but he still posted a respectable 2.98 ERA. The strikeout drop, which would translate to 5.5 K/9 in the majors, is likely from a velocity decline. Besides the strikeout drop, his career Japanese walk rate (2.1 BB/9) and groundball rate (53%) are decent, which helps set a nice floor.
Overall, Hirano’s 2017 season translates to a major league equivalent of 3.38 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/%, and 51% GB%. Some pitchers who put up similar 2017 major league seasons were Jhan Martinez, Tony Watson, and Brandon Kintzler. Owners can maybe dream on Kintzler, but it’s going to be tough for a team to give the closer role to someone with a strikeout rate under 6.0. Speculate for saves elsewhere.
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