There may not be a bigger question mark heading into the 2014 Major League Baseball season than new Yankee Masahiro Tanaka.
Last year in the Japanese League, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. Those are simply incredible numbers, but many still doubt his ability to adjust to the game in the U.S. Let me tell you why he'll live up to the hype and is therefore worth a reach in your upcoming fantasy baseball draft.
The Splitter is Unreal
Similar to former Yankee Mariano Rivera, Tanaka could make a living off one pitch. After all, it is these kinds of pitchers who fare better since they virtually always have a pitch to go to with two strikes.
Justin Verlander (fastball), Clayton Kershaw (slider) and Adam Wainwright (curveball) are all elite pitchers with a specialty pitch. Tanaka's use of the splitter could someday launch him into that pitching stratosphere.
Watch as Ben Revere tries haplessly to make contact with Tanaka's splitter:
Tanaka is a Model for Efficiency
Over the last three years in the Japanese League, Tanaka has averaged just under nine strikeouts and just above one walk every nine innings.
Tanaka's WHIP two out of the last three years would have put him in the top three in the MLB in that category. His company wouldn't be too shabby either, as both of last year's Cy Young winners and Matt Harvey are also atop the list of pitchers in the WHIP category.
It's no secret how efficient Tanaka was, especially last year:
Masahiro Tanaka went 24-0 in the Japanese Pacific League with an ERA of 1.27 and 183 strikeouts in 212 innings pitched last season. #MLB— Davey Segal (@harvicknut_4) January 22, 2014
He is Expected to be a Lock in the Starting Rotation
According to rotochamp.com, Tanaka is projected as the No. 2 starter in the Yankee rotation behind C.C. Sabathia and should get the maximum amount of starts.
For those doubting if he'd crack the front end because of Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, rest assured Joe Girardi will back up his ace with Tanaka barring some sort of spring training disaster.
The Yankees haven't really had a strikeout machine in a while, and Tanaka gives them just that. Enjoy a little bit of this strikeout montage as Yankee fans marvel over what may be:
Tanaka's Arm Will Hold Up
As Wilfred Chan explains, Tanaka had thrown 1,315 innings by the age of 24. No young pitcher comes close to that today.
While Japanese baseball values repetitions, the MLB doesn't hesitate to utilize relief pitchers, especially in an age where Tommy John surgery is more relevant than ever as young pitchers' arms are becoming more fragile.
Just look at Stephen Strasburg or Harvey. Girardi will not make the same mistake with Tanaka, and you can be sure of it.
Some people seem to think Tanaka's mechanics can't sustain the rigors of the MLB:
I see a ticking time bomb every time I see Tanaka throw. That arm action has Tommy John written all over it. #Inevitable— Gennaro Farone (@GennaroFarone) March 7, 2014
Tanaka may not be your first or second pitcher taken off the board, but if you're really looking to shock some people, why not reach for an unproven pitcher with sky-high potential in the third round?