Scouting Report: Yu Darvish
The batters of the world should start getting ready for Yu Darvish.
A once in a generation, iconic ace pitcher, currently with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (yes, that is the real team name) in the Japanese Professional Baseball League.
At 24-years old, the half-Iranian, half-Japanese hurler, has the stamina and make up to be a dominating ace in any league he chooses.
He spent the entire 2010 off season putting on muscle and body mass that will make him a wildly sought after asset, in his bid to challenge in the Major Leagues.
Of course, we’ve seen a steady stream of Japanese pitchers since the phenomenon that was Hideo Nomo.
Darvish’s most contemporary Japanese comparison has been Boston Red Sox starter, Dice-K. The comparisons between the two pitchers should stop after ‘country of origin.’ Dice-K’s tumultuous major league career is not an indication of the kind of potential Yu Darvish possesses. Major League teams knew exactly how good Dice-K could be. His talent was not on the rise when he made the jump to the major leagues. He was a legend in Japan during high school, and had a solid professional career. By the time he switched to the majors, he was a crafty veteran, with a well documented scouting report.
Darvish’s talent is not a known quantity. His game, and body continues to evolve. He possesses a dominating mid 90’s fastball, but he is not a fastball pitcher. He has a well polished arsenal of breaking pitches. From his curveball, to his sinker, to his slider. They are all at an elite level, and should all be considered strikeout pitches.
His slider is tightly wound, with an explosive late break, enough to make batters swing and miss, not merely mis-hit. His curveball has a sharp, downward breaking action, that disappears from the strike zone, and frankly makes professional batters often look like junior high batters only seeing a curveball for the first time.
Darvish also has an exploding sinker, also with movement surprising enough to make most batters whiff when it’s on.
Darvish has become more of a presence on the mound in the past year, but with his 6 foot 5 inch frame, could learn to be even more imposing. He will be a tall, intimidating pitcher even in the majors.
He is a fiery competitor, which makes him stand out in the more even-keel atmosphere of Japanese professional sports. He often screams after strikeouts (which happen often) and gives Tiger Woods-esque fist pumps after recording crucial outs.
His personal training is already legendary. He’s got the physical gifts to be a dominating world-class pitcher, and also a fierce passion to chase his own perfection. He added 25 pounds of muscle in the off-season, no doubt in preparation for his upcoming invasion of the majors.
When Darvish is on the mound, he comes across as a pitcher on a mission. Which is more than can be said for the mound presence of Dice-K, who seems rather content and focused on the game at hand. With Darvish, you get the feeling that he is playing for a legacy. That he is not merely mowing down opposing batters, but that he is facing off against the hand of destiny in every at bat. It makes for spectacular baseball theater.