Shohei Ohtani isn't the only Japanese pitcher who could be on his way to the Major Leagues.Kazuhisa Makita, a 33-year-old reliever for the Saitama Seibu Lions, will also be posted and available for a big league club to sign, Major League Baseball announced Friday, along with news of the new
Shohei Ohtani isn't the only Japanese pitcher who could be on his way to the Major Leagues.
Kazuhisa Makita, a 33-year-old reliever for the Saitama Seibu Lions, will also be posted and available for a big league club to sign, Major League Baseball announced Friday, along with news of the new ratified agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League owners held a conference call Friday to unanimously ratify the posting agreement, at which time Ohtani was officially posted. He has three weeks to sign with a club.
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Somewhat buried in the news was word that Makita, a submarining righty, would be available as well. Makita will be posted sometime before Dec. 31, according to MLB.
Makita isn't the 23-year-old phenom Ohtani is billed to be, but he projects as an intriguing talent with a unique style. However, there is no guarantee an MLB team will offer Makita a big league deal. If he were to only receive a Minor League offer, Makita has said he would consider returning to NPB, according to Japanese media reports.
Here is what you need to know about Makita:
Scouting report: Listed at 5-10, 181 pounds, Makita recently completed his seventh season for Seibu. He spent the first five years of his career predominately as a starting pitcher before transitioning to the bullpen full time in 2016 at age 31. He's gone 10-4 with a 1.91 ERA over 108 relief appearances over the past two seasons, in which he averaged more than an inning per appearance. Makita struck out 35 against 5 walks last season, though his overall strikeout rate of 5.0 per nine innings would have ranked as the fourth lowest among MLB relievers in 2017.
Stuff: It's no surprise Makita doesn't rack up the strikeouts. Instead, he uses a combination of deception and pitchability to get outs. His fastball hovers around 80 mph and tops out around 85, according to reports, so Makita has to rely heavily on his unusual arm angle as well as his sinker, slider and curve. Doing so has allowed him to keep the ball in the ballpark well despite a lack of velocity. Over his seven-year career, Makita has allowed just 0.4 home runs per nine innings.
Experience: A late bloomer, Makita originally went undrafted after playing for Japan's collegiate national team, and he didn't make his NPB debut until 2011 at age 26. He won his league's Rookie of the Year award that season after faring well in a flex role: Makita made 10 starts and also converted 22 saves, before transitioning to the rotation full time the next season. He posted his best year in 2012, going 13-9 with a 2.43 ERA over 27 starts and setting a career high in strikeouts (108). He struggled as a starter in 2015 and transitioned to the bullpen.
Makita also has been active in international play, appearing for Japan in the World Baseball Classic in 2013 and '17.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.