Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka tossed a complete-game shutout against the Mets last night, improving to 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA eight starts into his rookie season.
I watched the game and was incredibly impressed with how Tanaka was able to keep Mets hitters off balance all night. His slider and splitter are huge weapons, but when he needed it Tanaka was also able to blow an above-average fastball past hitters in key spots. He’s the real deal.
It’s early to start breaking down numbers, but so far Tanaka has a 66/7 K/BB ratio in 58 innings. That would be by far the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever for a 25-year-old pitcher who qualified for the ERA title:
MASAHIRO TANAKA 2014 9.43
Ben Sheets 2004 8.25
Walter Johnson 1913 6.39
Jose Lima 1998 5.28
James Shields 2007 5.11
Johan Santana 2004 4.91
Zack Greinke 2009 4.75
Roger Clemens 1988 4.69
Ervin Santana 2008 4.55
Pedro Martinez 1997 4.55
That’s a helluva list to be sitting on top of. Tanaka’s strikeout rate of 10.2 per nine innings would also rank sixth all-time among 25-year-olds behind only Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Nolan Ryan, Tim Lincecum, and Yu Darvish.
New York paid $155 million over seven years for Tanaka, so it’s not as if they got some sort of incredible bargain, but that price tag factored in at least some uncertainty about whether he’d be an elite pitcher in the majors or merely a good one. Eight starts are still only eight starts, but my guess is that Tanaka’s price tag would be closer to $200 million now.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.
Twins’ right-handed pitching prospect Yorman Landa passed away in a tragic car accident on Friday night, per a team statement. According to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, 22-year-old Landa was in the passenger seat of the vehicle when it struck a fallen tree.
Daniel Szew, Landa’s agent, spoke highly of the young pitcher, who was one of his first clients back in 2010. Szew acknowledged Landa for helping him expand his company, LA Sports Management, and referred to the late pitcher as a leader and his “little brother.”
He was very even-keeled,” Szew said. “That was his personality. He wasn’t wild. That’s why this is so tragic. He wasn’t a wild guy. He was a happy-go-lucky guy who took life as it came, and he was super happy — always happy.
If leadership was one facet of Landa’s personality, so was loyalty. The 22-year-old agreed to a minor league contract with the Twins on Tuesday after getting cut from the 40-man roster, fulfilling a promise to re-sign with the club despite fielding multiple offers from competing teams. The deal included an invite to spring training, and comments from his agent suggested that the right-hander was “super confident” he’d break through to the major leagues in 2017, notwithstanding a troublesome shoulder injury that hampered his progress in High-A Fort Myers during the 2016 season.
“He never wanted to leave,” Szew told Berardino. “It was the only organization he ever knew.”
Our condolences go out to Landa’s family and the Twins organization during this terrible time.