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Chunichi Sports: NY Mets sign 17-year Taiki Kawasaki

by on Sep.05, 2009 @ 2:27 pm, under Other

I noticed one of the sports papers (Tokyo Chunichi Sports) at a store earlier today carrying the headline:

17-sai Naniwakko Mettsu iri

I skimmed the article real quick and then came back home and checked out the Chunichi Sports site.

Apparently, 17-year-old lefty Taiki Kawasaki has signed, or will be signing, a minor league contract with the New York Mets.

Julio Franco (manager of a Mets rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League) will be arriving in Japan sometime in October to announce the deal. From there, Kawasaki will head to the Dominican Republic to play in the Winter Leagues.

The name Taiki Kawasaki might sound familiar to some baseball fans, especially since he aired out about 55 pitches in front of a number of scouts (San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, and NY Mets) last April in Los Angeles. But at the time of his try-out, he wasn't at his best: his fastball averaged in at about 125km/h instead of his usual 135; and he his curve kept dropping too quickly, often bouncing in front of home plate.

After failing to impress any of the scouts enough to sign a contact, Kawasaki joined the Julio Franco Baseball Academy in December (after receiving an invite) to continue his training.  While there, he grew 8cm (177 to 185) and bulked up (66 kg to 77 kg).  He also managed to gain a little more velocity on his fastball -- he used to max out at 138km/h but now regularly clocks in around 140km/h.

In the end, Franco was apparently impressed with Kawasaki's growth and likely felt he was a good enough risk to take.