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Kenshin Kawakami Examined

One pitcher I haven't paid much attention to this year is Kenshin Kawakami of the Braves.  Ditto for Koji Uehara, but I'm less intrigued with him pitching in the AL East.

Mock drafters are taking Kawakami in the 19th round.  By comparison, Hiroki Kuroda went in the 25th round last year.  So there is increased awareness for mid-level Japanese import starters.

To project Kawakami, we head over to BaseballProjection.com, home of CHONE.  They project Kawakami for a 3.88 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8 wins, and 113 Ks in 123 innings.  Looks like the makings of a sleeper, especially since the Braves probably are looking to get 180+ innings out of him.  It will be interesting to see a few other projection systems weigh in on Kawakami, who posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 117.3 innings in Japan last year.

Scouting-wise there is reason for skepticism.  Here's what Keith Law had to say:

Kawakami posted solid strikeout rates in Japan, but without a clear out pitch he doesn't project to miss as many bats in MLB. His fastball is fringe-average, and he'll likely have to change his approach and pitch more with his offspeed stuff. Like all pitchers coming from Japan, he'll also have to adjust to the larger baseball used here.

So we shouldn't count on that projected 8.27 K/9.  Law believes Kawakami will be HR-prone as well.  CHONE has Kawakami's HR rate at 1.02 per nine.  Law believes he will be prone to the four-bagger, so it may be safer to put him down for 1.1 or 1.2.

19th round, though...go for it.  He's a nice guy to snag as the sixth starter on your fantasy team.

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