The Enigmatic Ryota Igarashi

The Blue Jays made a series of roster moves today; placing Ben Francisco on the 15-Day DL with a hamstring strain (some have reported it as a tear), sending LHP Evan Crawford to AAA Las Vegas, calling up 1B David Cooper and moving Dustin McGowan to the 60-Day DL to open up a 40-man roster spot for right-handed reliever Ryota Igarashi.  Cooper figures to spend most of his time on the bench with the Jays, spelling both Edwin Encarnacion and Yan Gomes at first base and designated hitter.  However, it is Igarashi who is the more intriguing of the two call-ups, both for his previous results and the potential value he can provide.

Ryota Igarashi, initially of the New York Mets, posted walk rates of 8.2, 7.7 and 4.0 percent in his three Triple-A seasons, the last coming with the Blue Jays affiliate in 2012.  The problem for Igarashi is that he completely loses the strike zone  at the major league level.  He has walked 14.2% of the batters he has faced in the Majors, contributing to a 1.71 WHIP.  Given his Minor League walk rates, I fail to see how Igarashi’s control becomes such an issue in the Major Leagues.

Igarashi features a low-90s fastball, a curve and a high-80s splitter and has been effective against right-handers in his career.  He has noticeably more issues with throwing strikes to lefties (55.5%) as opposed to righties at 60.2%.  Igarashi’s success against left-handed batters has been limited by his inability to pitch inside to them.  With erratic command of the curve, hitters are able to sit on a fastball and wait for a pitch to drive.

Against righties, however, Igarashi has no such problems.  He spreads the ball around the strike zone with ease and is able to generate swings and misses with his splitter.  Keeping this in mind, Igarashi won’t be a great reliever for the Jays, but deployed as a ROOGY, he could serve admirably, while allowing Frasor and Cordero to take longer appearances.

The Jays’ bullpen was supposed to be a strength of the club, but for much of the year it has been in flux.  Sergio Santos has been injured, roles have shifted and other than Janssen and Oliver, the relievers have been erratic.  Darren Oliver remains strong as a Jays LOOGY and having Ryota Igarashi as his piggyback right-handed complement may not be so bad after all.

UPDATE: Igarashi gave up two runs in one inning during Friday’s game and faced two batters, retiring neither, on Saturday.  That’s One inning plus two batters (ten faced), five hits, two walks, four runs (all earned) and two strikeouts.  Looking at the depleted bullpen and his hideous performance, he is a safe bet to head back o Vegas in time for Sunday’s game.  Oops.

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