Shota Imanaga: Cubs Poised to Sign Standout Japanese Lefty

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Shota Imanaga

The Chicago Cubs are Optimistic About Signing Top Japanese Pitcher Shota Imanaga

The Chicago Cubs appear close to a deal with premier Japanese starting pitcher Shota Imanaga. According to sources, there is a strong feeling that the Cubs will sign the 30-year-old lefty before Thursday’s deadline for him to finalize an MLB contract.

Shota Imanaga has been one of Japan’s best pitchers over the past eight seasons. He would give the Cubs a much-needed boost to their rotation as they look to contend in 2024 and beyond.

StatisticDescription
Age30
Height/Weight6-foot-1, 187 pounds
Bats/ThrowsLeft/Left
Fastball Velocity91-92 mph
Career NPB ERA2.82
2022 NPB Stats1.91 ERA, 179 Ks in 187 IP
2023 NPB Stats2.84 ERA, 174 Ks in ??? IP
MLB Projected 2024 Stats3.68-4.05 ERA, 170 IP, 7.9 K/9
Best Offspeed PitchesSlider, Split-Changeup
Contract Projection4 years, $52+ million
Shota Imanaga

Who is Shota Imanaga?

Shota Imanaga has excelled in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), Japan’s top league, since debuting with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in 2016 at age 22. He owns a career 2.82 ERA and has three times led the Central League in strikeouts.

In 2022, Shota Imanaga posted an outstanding 1.91 ERA with 179 strikeouts over 187 innings. He followed that up with a 2.84 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 2023. His consistency and durability have made him a central figure in Yokohama’s rotation.

Shota Imanaga first flashed his talent to MLB scouts during the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Pitching for defending champion Japan, he started the championship game against the powerhouse United States.

Although he only lasted two innings, Shota Imanaga impressed by striking out NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt and AL stolen base leader Cedric Mullins. He did allow home runs to Trea Turner and Mike Trout but kept Japan in the game.

Scouting Report on Shota Imanaga Pitch Arsenal

The 6-foot-1, 187-pound Shota Imanaga relies heavily on locating his low-90s fastball, throwing it over 50% of the time. He lives up in the strike zone, daring hitters to chase. Although the pitch doesn’t light up radar guns, its perceived velocity and high spin rate make it play above its velocity.

Shota Imanaga mixes in three quality offspeed pitches to keep batters guessing. His slider and split-changeup are strikeout weapons, while he’ll also mix in an occasional curveball or cutter.

The slider, thrown with a variety of arm angles, has late downward bite. The split-change features good velocity separation from his fastball and gets plenty of empty swings.

MLB Projections and Upside for Shota Imanaga

Various projection systems see Shota Imanaga settling in as a reliable mid-rotation starter in his first MLB season. ZiPS forecasts a 4.05 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 7.9 K/9 over 170 innings, while THE BAT X projects a 3.68 ERA.

These numbers seem reasonable based on recent Japanese imports like Miles Mikolas, Merrill Kelly, and Kohei Arihara. However, at age 30, Shota Imanaga likely has less upside to take a major leap than younger pitchers.

On the other hand, his consistency and strikeout ability in Japan portend a smooth transition to the majors. With four to five successful seasons, he could provide immense value on his new contract.

Cubs Rotation Outlook with Potential Shota Imanaga Signing

The Cubs have quietly built one of the National League’s better starting rotations despite little fanfare. Veterans Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman provide stability and leadership, while Justin Steele and newcomer Taylor Widener bring power stuff.

However, the Cubs lack a dominant ace who can shut down elite lineups in October. Shota Imanaga would give manager David Ross another quality arm to turn to every fifth day.

With Steele and Widener still improving and 2020 first-round pick Burl Carraway set to debut, Chicago’s pitching talent far outweighs its 2022 results (4.87 staff ERA ranked 25th). Add in Shota Imanaga, and this group should keep the team competitive all season.

The Cubs are well-positioned to make some noise in the challenging NL Central in 2024. Signing Imanaga would be one more savvy move for president Jed Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins as they craft a sustainable contender.

Credit: By Google News

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