The MLB and NPB agreed on a new posting system this year that has a maximum bid of $20 million - teams with tighter budgets will now be able to compete with the big money clubs, as opposed to when players such as Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka received bids north of $50 million. Any team that puts in a $20 million bid will be allowed to negotiate with Tanaka, and with the hype surrounding this right-handed ace, it's a near lock that multiple teams will bid the maximum.
Tanaka is a highly touted prospect for many reasons, but the biggest of those reasons is his production during the 2013 season. While it's not on the same level as the MLB, the NPB is a competitive league, and Tanaka managed a ridiculous record of 24-0 in 27 starts last season. His 1.27 ERA marked his third consecutive season with an ERA under 2.00, and he even notched a save in his only relief appearance. His strikeout rate (7.8 per nine innings) was down for the second straight year, but who cares when he's shutting batters down like that?
At 24 years of age (he turned 25 on November 1), Tanaka absolutely demolished the NPB - how does he do it?
- While he can reach the mid-90's with his fastball, Tanaka does not throw it with high velocity on a regular basis, averaging 90.85 MPH on the pitch in 2013. In addition, his fastball is straight and comes in on a flat plane, which is bound to give scouts some concerns when deciding if he's worth a mega-contract.
- The fastball is used more to set up Tanaka's other pitches, namely a slider. Tanaka's second-most used pitch tops out at a lethal 90 MPH, though he throws it more regularly in the low- to mid-80's. He controls it very well, and a tight break allows for him to consistently throw it for strikes.
- Many consider Tanaka's splitter (sometimes referred to as a forkball) to be the best pitch in his arsenal. It comes in hard and heavy at about 86 MPH, but can go as high as the low-90's. From what I have heard, this pitch can make pro ball players look like they're better suited for tee ball.
- Tanaka's two-seam fastball tails away and even has the appearance of a sinker at times. He'll use it to force a left-handed batter to lean across the plate or to jam a right-handed hitter. He throws it at about the same speed as his straight fastball.
- He took some of the velocity off of his curveball in 2013 and has thrown it a little bit more. He threw 27 curveballs that came in below 70 MPH this past season. He doesn't use it often, but will go to it once in a while to catch a batter off guard.
- Tanaka will occasionally go to a cutter that is quite similar to his slider, but still different enough to be considered a separate pitch. The cutter comes in at about 89 MPH on average, but he will only use it once or twice a game.
- While many pitchers rely heavily on a changeup, Tanaka threw his just .7% of the time in 2013 (down from 2.2% on his career). He throws it well at about 81 MPH, but generally uses his sensational splitter in changeup situations.
With the posting fee down to $20 million, Tanaka should have a double-digit number of teams put in the maximum bid, which will give Tanaka plenty of options as far as who to sign with - a new luxury for players coming from the NPB. Teams rumored to have Tanaka in their sights include the Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Angels, and Rangers.