As Samurai Japan clinched their third World Baseball Classic title in March, and with Shohei Ohtani continuing to dominate both as a pitcher and a hitter, American fans are learning more than ever just how big a powerhouse Japanese baseball is. 2024 will see one of the largest free agent classes of Japanese-born players ever, and the St. Louis Cardinals are perfectly positioned to acquire some of the loaded pitching talent coming stateside.
The Cardinals have seen considerable success with acquiring players from NPB and also the KBO. Miles Mikolas, So Taguchi, Kwang Hyun Kim, and Drew VerHagen are some of the most notable players the Cards have signed from Japan and Korea. While it’s always exciting to see even more available names in the free-agent market, the Cardinals need to be smart about who they will sign.
For every diamond in the rough such as Miles Mikolas, there is also an overpaid and overrated “star” such as Yusei Kikuchi. With Japan amidst a “dead ball” era, in which league average ERA and league average OPS sit around 3.00 and .670 respectively, most Japanese pitching numbers will look deceptively strong when compared to MLB standards. It is critical not to overrate the performances of some of these players.
With the Cardinals seeking three starting pitchers this offseason, they will surely need to be creative about how they spend money and who to target. Here are two pitchers from NPB that the Cardinals should target and two they should avoid.