== Missaki makes his mark in a big way ==
At first glance it was a “throwaway” — a “nothing.”
Brazil’s team in the World Baseball Classic was well ahead and decided to give it’s youngest member — then-16-year-old Daniel Missaki — a chance to throw in garbage time. No biggie, right?
Except that first impression doesn’t bear close scrutiny.
In fact, although Brazil was up, 7-1, the bases were loaded. One mistake and it was a whole new ballgame.
And, while Colombia is not a world power on the diamond, it happened that two of its best hitters were coming to the plate.
- Jolbert Cabrera, a former major leaguer, who, as a member of the Cleveland Indians, had a key hit in Cleveland’s comeback from a 14-2 deficit to beat the Mariners in August 2001.
- Luis Martinez had played just a few months prior for the Texas Rangers after spending most of his year with its AAA club, and was just a year removed from an .813 OPS for AAA Tucson. He’s currently with the Angels AAA team.
And the manager of the Brazilian team was Hall of Fame former Red Barry Larkin, who clearly knew what his young pitcher was up against, since he was in the National League when Cabrera had 32 doubles for the Dodgers in 2003.
This wasn’t just a “feel-good story,” like letting the kid with cancer run for a touchdown. Larkin needed outs, and he needed to get them against experienced hitters, not raw kids from the bush leagues. Brazil was making a surprise run through its play-in tournament (which it would eventually win), but it needed to close out Colombia to make the final.
He picked Missaki, a high schooler who had yet to throw a professional pitch. And Missaki got the outs, retiring both the above-mentioned veteran pros with a handful of pitches.
If you’re interested, you can see it here by advancing to the 3:40:00 mark on the video (at the very end).
Missaki’s better-known compatriot Luiz Gohara (also 16 at the time) was not on the WBC team (word was the Mariners didn’t want him to pitch; Missaki had not yet signed). But both youngsters would make their pro debuts in 2013.
Gohara crushed the Appalachian League in Pulaksi, posting 11.2 K/9, while Missaki appeared to struggle in the Arizona Rookie League with a 6.23 ERA. But, in fact, Missaki had 10.4 K/9 and a slightly lower walk rate than Gohara. He was stung by a .421 BABIP which inflated his numbers, but his ISO-against was only .111, so he wasn’t getting creamed.
This year, for whatever reason, the two have switched places, with Missaki in Pulaski and Gohara in Arizona. But they’re both heading up the ladder.
In a period in which Americans are making news for performing in Brazil, these two have provided some reciprocity:
- Missaki June 21: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K
- Gohara June 21: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
- Missaki June 26: 8.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K
Collectively, that’s 21.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 BB, 26 K.
Yes, it’s a Brazilian Bonanza so far.
Gohara was already 6-3, 210 at age 16, and is a big lefty who reminds many of C.C. Sabathia (though he’s not that big — C.C . is listed 6-7, 285; Gohara’s more the size of a left-handed Felix, though he may still grow).
Missaki, on the other hand, is a wiry righty listed (seemingly generously) at 6-0, 170.
If you’ve been following at home, you know that baseball in Brazil has been historically centered around Japanese immigrant communities, while soccer, obviously, is still the dominant sport. Missaki is of Japanese descent while Gohara is mixed, but both have had the benefit of Japanese coaching while in a Latin environment, which is a very interesting development. Apparently some Cuban immigrants have also joined the coaching contingent as well. The Mariners seem to be among the first teams gaining the benefit. [Although Missaki’s WBC catcher Yan Gomes of Cleveland was the first Brazilian to make the majors, he went to high school in the U.S. and came up through the draft.]
And, as it happens, since I’ve been writing this up, an article has popped up on Fangraphs, with video and a scouting report on none other than Daniel Missaki (scroll down to middle of article). It has high praise for his “pitchability” while expressing some skepticism about his fastball (not overpowering or imposing).
Of course, it’s precisely that power-stuff (especially from the left side) that made Gohara the glamour Brazilian. Missaki will have to take more an Erasmo Ramirez path, and, as we’ve seen, that’s not always an easy one — even with “command” and “pitchability.”
But both of them are showing a very high level of performance for young teens, even though still at very low levels. It will be fun to see how it turns out.