Reliever Shota Imanaga (30, Yokohama BayStars), who was as dominant as Darvish Yu (37, San Diego Padres) in the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) Korea-Japan game, has been cleared for posting (sealed competitive bidding).
Major League Baseball representative John Morosi posted on his personal social media account on July 7 (KST), “Imanaga has been cleared for posting with the consent of his off-season club, Yokohama. He won a WBC championship medal in 2023 and is one of the top pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) along with Yoshinobu Yamamoto메이저놀이터(25-Oryx Buffaloes).”
Imanaga is a talented left-handed pitcher with a fastball that tops out at over 150 mph and a sharp curve, slider, and changeup. In the WBC Korea-Japan game in March, he took the mound as the second pitcher behind Darvish and shut down the Korean bats in a 13-4 victory.
While Darvish allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits (one home run) and four walks with one strikeout in three innings, Imanaga was even more impressive with three runs (one home run) and four hits with one strikeout in three innings. Imanaga then pitched two innings of one-run ball against the United States in the WBC final. This year, Imanaga is 7-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 19 games and 128 innings pitched for Yokohama with 152 strikeouts.
Imanaga holds his championship medal around his neck.
MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, said, “Imanaga has developed into one of the best starting pitchers in Japan since making his debut in Nippon Professional Baseball in the 2016 season. While posting clearance does not guarantee a major league spot, it is highly likely given his ability and the demand for (starting) pitchers.”
“Imanaga’s ability to induce strikes will appeal to major league scouts and he could hit the market at the right time. The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals are among the teams to watch.”
Meanwhile, Japanese professional baseball players have been utilizing posting contracts to reach the major leagues in recent years. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (32-San Francisco Giants) signed a posting contract with the Tampa Bay Rays ahead of the 2020 season, Seiya Suzuki (29) joined the Chicago Cubs the following year, and this year Senga Godai (30-New York Mets), Masataka Yoshida (30-Boston Red Sox), and Shintaro Fujinami (29-Baltimore Orioles) have donned big-league uniforms.
There is already a lot of interest in whether Imanaga will write another success story in the major leagues.
Imanaga is getting so much attention that a specific team name has been mentioned.