Shohei Ohtani is one of the many crown jewels of Japanese baseball, specifically in the Nippon Professional League (NPB). While the division rival Seattle Mariners have long been the preferred destination of Japanese imports in regards to baseball, the Angels have one key draw to future Japanese ballplayers. That draw is Ohtani.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Nippon Ham Fighters of the NPB are likely to post both outfielder Haruki Nishikawa and right-handed starting pitcher Kohei Arihara. While the Angels do not need any outfield help, Kohei Arihara could be of interest to the Los Angeles Angels.
Arihara had a rough start to his NPB career, but at just 28 years old, he has had ample time to shift the tide of his professional career. Arihara has posted a 2.93 ERA overseas for the Ham Fighters since the year 2019. He has struck out just a hair under one batter per inning across that span. The main draw to Arihara is his youth, but also the fact that he is the former rotation mate of Shohei Ohtani. Because of Arihara’s youth, many MLB teams could come knocking on his door considering the free agent class for starting pitchers is one of the most experienced and oldest in recent memory.
Sports Info Solution’s Will Hoefer profiled Arihara to a great extent, claiming that he has a clear path to developing two average offerings to pair with a fastball that reaches 95 miles per hour and a plus changeup. While Arihara doesn’t appear to be a complete difference maker at a level as prominent as Major League Baseball, he could provide solid depth for the Angels, a team that sorely needs it.
In addition, Japanese club Yomiuri Giants will be posted Tomoyuki Sugano, a winner of the Samawura Award, the highest honor bestowed upon NPB pitchers. He has won the award on two separate occasions. Over Sugano’s past 1,000 innings of work in Japan, he has posted a 2.22 ERA, a welcome sign for a prospective Angels deal. While Sugano would likely cost teams a pretty penny in fees and actual contract figures, he might be worth it for the Angels to at least kick the tires on. Sugano has made an impression on current Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen and would likely be of interest to a progressive organization due to the high spin rate nature of his offerings.