The latest Japanese import: Takumi Numata

Before I get to my topic o’ the day, I wanted to make sure everyone saw the work that my colleague is doing on his blog, Callis’ Corner. He’s posted twice in the last couple of days, once on the callup and debut of the Royals’ Yordano Ventura and again about former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham getting the call by the Rays. Been quite an interesting few days in terms of big-name callups this late in the year.

Me? Today I want to head overseas briefly. The Dodgers announced on Monday they had signed Takumi Numata, a 19-year-old right-hander from Japan. So I did a little digging. Or tried to, anyway. I can’t say I’m super well-connected in the Far East, but I do know some scouts who work over there. But I had a hard time finding anyone who knew Numata all that well.

Dodger scouts Isao O’Jimi and Pat Kelly signed Numata. Both know what they’re doing, so it will be very interesting to watch Numata, who will be in Arizona to work out with the Dodgers during instructs this fall, develop.

I was about to give up on trying to track down information on Numata, but then Kazuto Yamazaki came to the rescue. Yamazaki writes for a site called ShutDownInning (check out his post about Yu Darvish), and he was able to find some info on Numata, who’d been pitching in the Japanese Industrial League. Here’s what we know about Numata (Yamazaki found the info from this site):

At 6-1, 188 pounds (that’s according to the release), it doesn’t sound like there’s that much physical projection to look for. His fastball sits in the upper 80s to low 90s, according to the report, topping out at 92 mph. He goes right after hitters with it and largely pitches off of his fastball, though he also has a slider. Here’s some brief video:

What made this signing interesting, I think, is that Numata is a teenager. You don’t see that many players that young come from Japan, as most go through the Japanese professional ranks and don’t come over until several years later (like Ichiro did). A year ago, it looked like Shohei Otani was going to try and bypass the professional leagues and come to the United States, becoming the first player to go straight from high school to pro ball here. Instead, he stayed at home and signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters (where he’s pitching AND hitting).

There have been a few teenagers to sign in the past, though: Takuya Tsuchida signed with the Indians in last fall and played in the rookie-level Arizona League this summer. Back in 2004, the Braves signed outfielder Takumi Hamaoka, who played parts of two summers in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2006 and 2007, but that was it. The biggest success story has been Mac Suzuki, signed as a teenager with the Mariners back in 1993. He spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues.

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