The Mets gave the Japanese phenomenon a five-year, $75 million contract. Kodai Sengain December and scheduled him as the #3 starter in their rotation for this upcoming season.
So what are they getting into the soon to be 30-year-old hard-throwing Righty?
“He’s a guy who just keeps getting better,” said a National League talent assessor who scouted Senga in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
“He has a history of winning over there. It’s a good makeup guy. He wasn’t a famous name, even in high school. He had to fight his way through the NPB minor leagues and has performed really well there (at NPB level). He has a track record of getting guys out and winning. I think he’ll be pretty good.”
Along with Senga’s impressive background and makeup comes an elite repertoire that the Mets loved about him.
“He has the typical Japanese way of stepping back and pausing, lifting and pausing, collecting and going,” the talent evaluator said. “He’s got a really good direction toward home plate.”
“Fastball is up to 100 mph, but it’s likely going to be more 94-95 mph in the big leagues. He can move the ball on either side of the plate and has pretty good control.”
“The breaking pitches are good, but certainly not as elite as the fork ball. He can rotate the ball to make it move down or side to side.”
Speaking of “ghost” fork ball, this is Senga’s #1 pitch in his arsenal, giving opposing hitters seizures.
“The fork ball is something special,” said the talent assessor. “Now you see it, now you don’t. When they say ghost, that’s because the hitters are watching fastball. The batsman swings by what he sees, not what is thrown.
“In ghost forkball, hitters see the same hand speed and it comes out (like a fastball), but then it has the late diving action. Even if you’re on it at the same speed, you really need to manipulate the run. So often when a batsman is committed to batting and where he perceives the ball, his pitch isn’t there. That is the ghost.
But the difficult thing isn’t even the speed, but the action of the pitch, says the talent assessor.
“The challenge is not only the speed, but also the action on the pitch. Hitters have to be on time to hit 95mph+ then they get the Drop of the Ghost Fork.”
“In the world of pitches, it’s really, really good. If you’re in a tight spot and really need a punchout, Senga really has the guns to throw you off track.”
In 11 seasons in the NPB, Senga went 87-44 with a 2.59 ERA, 1,115 WHIP and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings across 1,089 innings.
The Mets hope Senga’s success from Japan carries over to the big leagues as he is tasked with the replacement Chris Bassitt in the rotation, who had a strong year in Queens in 2022.
Senga’s repertoire, which includes a 95 mph+ fastball and a ghost fork ball, should give him a pretty strong shot at establishing himself in the major leagues for the Mets next season and beyond.
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