The San Diego Padres were among the seven MLB teams Shohei Ohtani strongly considered before signing with the Los Angeles Angels in December. Though there’s no consolation prize for failing to sign a once-in-a-lifetime player like Ohtani, the Padres have signed another Japanese star whose stock is pretty high, reliever Kazuhisa Makita
The news comes one day after Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan confirmed reports from Yahoo Japan that the Padres were the heavy favorites to sign Makita.
Source: San Diego Padres have emerged as strong favorites to sign Japanese submariner Kazuhisa Makita. Confirms report out of Japan that says the 33-year-old Makita is on his way to U.S. for physical: https://t.co/Wfih3xyeFi (h/t @GraveyardBall)
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 5, 2018
So who exactly is Kazuhisa Makita?
Makita, 33, is not a two-way star like Ohtani, but he does bring something unique to the table as a submarine style pitcher. The best current examples of that style in MLB would be Brad Ziegler and Steve Cishek. The most notable submarine pitcher over the few last generations is legendary closer Dan Quisenberry.
Here’s a glimpse of Makita’s delivery from an exhibition game against MLB All-Stars in 2014.
According to Graveyard Baseball, Makita alternated between the rotation and bullpen after joining the Saitama Seibu Lions in 2010. He finally settled in as a reliever in 2016, and has since developed into a relief “ace” capable of filling several bullpen roles. Makita was used as a setup man in 2017, recording a 2.30 ERA in 62.2 innings. If the Padres elect to trade closer Brad Hand, Makita would be a sensible candidate to replace him.
If Hand isn’t traded, the Padres will move forward with a solid bullpen that also includes former closer Carter Capps and Craig Stammen, who the team re-signed on a two-year deal on Friday. In that scenario, Makita might be better used as a roving reliever who can appear at any point in the game. That was his role in 2016 when he dominated in Japan, posting a 1.60 ERA in 78.2 innings.
Despite his good stuff, Makita doesn’t produce a ton of strikeouts. He averaged just five per nine innings over his eight seasons in Japan.
Makita does produce a lot of weak contact though, and is considered a ground ball pitcher. Those traits, combined with his sparkling control — he issued just 19 unintentional free passes over his past 147 1/3 innings — put him in a great position to succeed in MLB.
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