Pittsburgh Pirates: Low-Risk/High-Reward Pitchers To Pursue Based On Stuff+

The Pirates should look into these low-risk/high-reward pitchers as they ranked highly in the eyes of Stuff+

Aug 25, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami (14)
Aug 25, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami (14) / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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Shintaro Fujinami

McHugh and Junis are far less risky than the third and last name of today's list. Shintaro Fujinami made his MLB debut after spending the first ten seasons of his career in Japan. He signed a one-year deal at $3.25 million with the Oakland Athletics, but Fujinami's first season in Major League Baseball did not go very well. However, he did better in the second half after getting traded to the Baltimore Orioles.

Fujinami pitched to a horrific 7.18 ERA, 4.61 FIP, and 1.49 WHIP through 79 innings. Fujinami started the season out in the A's rotation but was moved to the bullpen after four starts, where he pitched just 15 frames, allowed 24 earned runs, and walked the same amount of batters as he struck out with a dozen each. Fuji had a respectable 23.2% strikeout rate and 1.03 HR/9 but a poor 13.2% walk rate.

Fujinami seemed to figure things out almost exactly at the mid-way point of the season. After the A's 81st game of the year, Fujimani would go on to post a 3.98 ERA, 3.70 FIP, and 1.06 WHIP in his final 40.2 innings. Fuji held opponents to a sub-Mendoza line batting average of .190. He cut his walk rate down to just below 10% at 9.1% while striking out over a quarter of opponents faced (26.7%). Fujinami was great at preventing home runs as well, with a 0.89 HR/9.

There was little question about Fujimai's ability. His fastball sat at 98.4 MPH but played up because of his release point. Fujinami was in the 88th percentile of release point extension at 6.9 inches. That made his already speedy fastball look even faster out of hand, specifically 99.5 MPH on average. 

Fujinami's splitter induced a whiff 37.2% of the time, while his cutter got even more swings and misses with a 38.2% rate. The former was the 12th best whiff rate while the latter ranked 6th (min. 25 plate appearances). Fujinami also threw a sweeper that held batters to a wOBA of just .250. His whiff rate on his sweeper was less impressive at 27.3%, but given how infrequent opponents weren't able to hit it, it was still a decent pitch with potential.

Fujinami was rated at 114 by Stuff+. Does that mean I think the Pirates should sign Fuji with the intention of handing him a high-leverage role out of their bullpen? No, but he would be intriguing on a low-cost, one-year deal as one of the team's low-leverage relievers. Maybe he can eventually work himself into higher leverage given the right circumstances. A guy who averages 100 MPH will always turn heads and is always worth a low-risk shot.

Projected Opening Day Bullpen Roles. dark. Next. proejcting bullpen roles