Kodai Senga, a right-handed pitcher with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, is expected to weigh offers from Major League Baseball teams this winter, according to Jon Morosi.
Senga, who will celebrate his 30th birthday in January, is an accomplished talent. This season alone, he’s amassed a 2.05 ERA and a 3.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 105 innings. For his NPB career, he’s posted a 2.62 ERA and a 3.04 strikeout-to-walk ratio in more than 1,000 innings.
Senga throws several pitches, including a pair of breaking balls. His best offerings, though, are his mid-90s fastball and his forkball. The latter is a devastating pitch that has been nicknamed the Ghost Fork on Twitter:
Although Senga technically signed a five-year contract with the Hawks last offseason, his deal includes an opt-out clause that he can exercise this winter. That provision, along with his age and service time, would make him a true free agent and not someone who would be subjected to the posting system. The Hawks, for their part, have refused to “post” Senga despite his past requests.
“As a ballplayer, it’s essential to live my life always aiming higher,” Senga told reporters last winter about wanting to make the trek to the majors. “My thinking on that has not wavered.”
The posting system, for those unaware, is the transfer portal that applies to most players who make the jump from NPB to MLB. Players are “posted” by their NPB teams, who then receive a fee based on the player’s eventual contract size. MLB’s international amateur free-agent rules still apply to any player who is younger than 25 years old and has fewer than six years of service; in other words, those players have their earning potential greatly suppressed.
You may have heard that Major League Baseball’s trade deadline passed on Tuesday night. (If not, you can use our handy trade tracker to catch up on all of the moves from the past several weeks.) As such, this edition of Prospect Watch is, predictably, all about ranking and analyzing the five best youngsters who were included in deals.
Keep in mind that these exercises are always more of an art than a science and that there were more than five worthwhile prospects traded at the deadline. Now, onward.
1. Noelvi Marte, SS, Reds (Luis Castillo)
There’s a lot to like about Marte’s game. He’s a left-side infielder with well-above-average raw power who walks and who has kept his strikeout rate in check despite playing against competition that is several years older than him. The one big unknown facing Marte is his defensive position. He’s been error-prone at short over the last two seasons, and he might have to slide to third. That won’t be much of a negative if he hits the way he’s capable of hitting.
2. Robert Hassell III, OF, Nationals (Juan Soto)
Hassell, the eighth pick in the 2020 draft, has already achieved success in High-A by hitting .299/.379/.467 with 10 home runs in 75 games. Scouts have raved about his hit tool and his approach dating back to his prep days; alas, they’ve also questioned when (and how much) he’ll tap into his raw pop, and if he’ll stick in the center. Those concerns remain in place, but now it’s up to the Nationals to help him find a good resolution.
3. Edwin Arroyo, SS, Reds (Luis Castillo)
Arroyo had his share of fans coming into the 2021 draft thanks to a combination of his extreme youth and his defensive ability at shortstop. It didn’t hurt that he showed enough positive traits at the plate for scouts to envision him ascending beyond utility player status. Still, Arroyo showed more offensive competency than his most ardent boosters could have expected by hitting .316/.385/.514 in 87 games in the Cal League, where his average opponent was, oh, more than three years his senior. Arroyo is a couple of seasons away from being big-league relevant, but he’s one to keep in mind.
4. James Wood, OF, Nationals (Juan Soto)
Wood, the other outfielder in the Soto trade, has the kind of raw power you’d expect from someone listed at 6-foot-7. He moves better than the Richie Sexson’s of the world, however, and the Padres had primarily played him in center field. The main concern about Wood’s game as an amateur was that he would strike out too often to maximize his pop. It’s an encouraging sign, then, that he’s been able to keep his seasonal strikeout rate under 20 percent. Wood could develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter if that trend holds as he moves up the ladder.
5. Logan O’Hoppe, C, Angels (Brandon Marsh)
If the Angels were determined to take an offramp on Marsh, a former top prospect who has struggled to make consistent contact in the majors, they could’ve done worse than netting O’Hoppe in return. He’s spent the season in Double-A, hitting .275/.392/.496 with 15 home runs in 75 games. Hoppe is a well-rounded backstop, a field-general type who could provide average or better offensive production. He seems ready for Triple-A, and he should be able to make his big-league debut in 2023.