LHP Yuki Matsui
Yuki Matsui isn’t your typical reliever. Instead of relying on a fastball with high velocity, he uses some impressive breaking and off-speed stuff to get outs. To say that Matsui has been lights out the last two seasons would be an understatement.
In Matsui’s last 87.2 innings, the southpaw reliever has a 1.33 ERA and .89 WHIP. Matsui does not allow home runs, posting a 0.51 HR/9 over the previous two campaigns. Even better is his strikeout rate. Matsui has struck out nearly 40% of the batters he has faced, posting a 39.1% K-rate. The downside is that walks have always been an issue for Matsui. He has had a 10.6% walk rate in the last two years. But on the plus side, his 8.9% strikeout rate this year is the second best of his pro career.
Matsui passes the stat test. He has impressive strikeout numbers, a workable walk rate, limits home runs, and doesn’t allow runs to score. In his nine seasons in the Japan League, he has posted an ERA under 1.00 twice (once in 2015 at .87 and again in 2021 at .63) and an ERA under 2.00 five times. But can his stuff play in the US?
Unlike most relievers, Matsui has a four-pitch mix. His fastball comes in the low-90s and tops out around 96 MPH. He also throws a slider with late break and curveball that sits in the low-70s. But the pitch to focus on with Matsui is his splitter. It’s a nasty off-speed offering that comes in the upper-80s.
Matsui is the definition of an unorthodox reliever in today’s game. When you think of high-leverage strikeout relievers, the first guys that come to mind are arms like Edwin Diaz, Enmanuel Clase, and Liam Hendriks, guys who can hit 100 MPH on the regular and stand above six feet. Matsui is a 5’9”, 170-pound lefty whose velocity is more average than anything.