Red Sox can find pitching options on international market from Japan

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Dave Dombrowski the President of Baseball Operations of the Boston Red Sox stands at home plate before a game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 18, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 5-4. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Dave Dombrowski the President of Baseball Operations of the Boston Red Sox stands at home plate before a game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 18, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 5-4. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox are always on the prowl for pitching and the international market offers opportunity.  Is there another Ryan Brasier in Japan?

The Boston Red Sox have suddenly and surprisingly found a gem – for now – in 30-year-old righty Ryan Brasier.  Brasier is a story of both failure and success with the failure portion that may have ended with an opportune trip to Japan and Nippon Professional Baseball.

Brasier bounced around in the minor league circuit having a cup of coffee and a very small cup with the Angels in 2013 appearing and just seven games. Eventually Brasier was sold to the Hiroshima Carp where he spent 2017.

Brasier was offered a contract with the Red Sox and signed, sent to Pawtucket and finally earning a shot with the Red Sox. Are there any other potential pitchers in Japan who may help the Red Sox in 2019? Here are a few who have followed a similar route as Brasier and gone to Japan. Maybe one or more may return for 2019?

Mike Bolsinger – RH starter of Chiba Lotte Marines

Mike Bolsinger played in MLB with Arizona, Dodgers, and Toronto making 41 starts in 48 games with a 4.92 ERA/4.58 FIP. The 30-year-old last surfaced with Toronto in 2017 going 0-3 before becoming a free agent and moving on to Nippon Baseball.

This season Bolsinger has had excellent success as a starter going 13-2 with a 3.45 ERA. Bolsinger has managed to deliver a 2.9 BB/9, but just a 6.4 K/9 in 110.1 innings. Bolsinger is a pitch to contact hurler much like current Red Sox righty Hector Velazquez and it certainly shows in a fastball that barely touched 88 MPH in his MLB career. As with all pitch type and speed statistics, it will be based on MLB available stats.

Bolsinger relies on a fastball, curve, and slider according to FanGraphs statistics, but in Japan has kept the ball in the yard (0.5 HR/9) and they do have some very small yards. Bolsinger also had a 49.8 GB% in his brief MLB career so he may be a pitcher that could be of value with men on bases.

Of note is Bolsinger once struck out four Red Sox hitters in an inning while pitching for the Blue Jays.

Spencer Patton – RH setup of Yokohama Bay Stars

The 30-year-old Spencer Patton had the usual wandering organizational resume in his MLB career with his last appearance being with the Cubs in 2016 (1-1, 5.48). In Patton’s brief 54.2 MLB innings one issue stands out – 4.6 BB/9. Patton has also allowed eight home runs in his MLB career.  Two not very promising statistics from his past.

Patton is basically a two-pitch hurler with a fastball and slider with an occasional change about 5% of the time. Patton touches in the low 90s on his fastball with about an 8-10 spread off his slider and change.

The plus this season in Japan for Patton has allowed no home runs in 35.1 innings after giving up four in 60 innings for the Bay Stars in 2017. The numbers for Patton have improved over his stateside years so he may be worth a further look if he leaves Japan.

Frank Herrmann – RH Closer of Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

Frank Herrmann has a degree in economics from Harvard (2006) so he is certainly familiar with Boston baseball. Herrmann – now 34-years-old – has 135.1 innings under his MLB cleats with a 4.72 ERA/4.68 FIP. What jumps out is a 33.3 GB% and seven home runs allowed. Herrmann relies on three basic pitchers – fastball, curve, and slider with a fastball that gets close to the mid-90s range.

The 2017 season was Herrmann’s introduction to Japan and it was a success appearing in 56 games with 53 IP.  Herrmann was used primarily as a set-up in the Eagles bullpen but did get a save.  This season Hermann has improved upon his H/9 dropping it from 8.2 to 5.6 while doing the dual role of closing and set-up.

This season Herrmann has been outstanding with 17 saves and 12 holds for the Golden Eagles. Herrmann’s 42.2 IP, 31 H, 16 BB, 41 K, have placed him among the top bullpen pitchers of Pacific League.  I would suspect Herrmann may have decided that Japan is his best baseball option.

Michael Tonkin – RH Closer of Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters

The number 25 stands out with Michael Tonkin in his five seasons with the Twins.  That is the number of home runs allowed in 146.1 innings. This season in Japan Tonkin has given it up just once in 42.2 IP while notching 12 saves and 17 holds.

Tonkin had spent his entire career in the Twins organization before being released in 2017 and then pursued the Japanese option. On a personal note, Tonkin’s brother-in-law is former Twins outfielder Jason Kubel.

The 28-year-old Tonkin is a basic two-pitch pitcher with his primary go-to pitch a near mid-90s fastball.  Tonkin’s second choice is a slider that he delivers in the low 80s. In Tonkin’s MLB career he posted a 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, but in Japan, Tonkin has only 24 punch outs and four wild pitches.

Kris Johnson – LH starter of Hiroshima Toyo Carp

A name from the Red Sox past is the 33-year-old Kris Johnson who was a first-round pick for Boston way back in 2006. Johnson was eventually released by the Red Sox and made it to the majors for just 23.2 IP for the Twins and Pirates. Johnson’s MLB stats should be categorized as forgettable.

Johnson relies on four pitches with his sinker being the centerpiece at 41% of the time. Johnson – like most of those mentioned – will not require a radar gun with triple digits screen.  In Japan, Johnson has been successful in his four years including a 14-7 season (2015) followed by a 15-7 season that places him among the best in Nippon Baseball.

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Would Johnson even consider a return? Johnson’s current contract with the Carp expires (I believe) after this season, but his success in Japan as one of the best pitchers and rewarded as such may just keep Johnson in his second home.

Japan Stats through 8/19