Last week, Tampa Bay signed Japanese pitching prospect Naoyuki Uwasawa to a minor-league deal ahead of spring training beginning in right around a month. He recieved a lot of intrigue by plenty of MLB teams during this offseason, but took his negotiations right down past the edge of his posting window before reappearing in Tampa.
At 29 years old, Uwasawa has already had an impressive career overseas. He has a career ERA of 3.24 and this comes over the course of over 1,300 total innings pitched. He also has over 1,000 strikeouts in his career and has reached 100 strikeouts in three of his last four seasons.
Scouting details the veteran pitcher as having good spin on his fastball pitches that are commonly occuring in his arsenal. He mixes in a curve, slider, and splitter. All of those breaking balls have a distinct up to down movement. One issue has been that the velocity may not be up to the standards major league baseball presents. But there is time for Uwasawa to develop not only in spring traning but also in the minor leagues.
As to where he can fit into the Rays rotation, that's a tough thing to look at. But from first glance, it seems like the team has a starting rotation set with names like Aaron Civale, Zach Eflin, Taj Bradley, Zack Littell, and maybe even the newly acquired Ryan Pepiot. However, like many newcomer arms to St. Pete, Uwasawa can most certainly find room in the deep Tampa Bay bullpen (or at Triple-A, hence the minor-league deal).
With a possible plan brewing to shop Jason Adam and Garrett Cleavinger -- still inactive due to an injury last season, he can make himself a home within the bullpen and be an innings-eater for pitching coach Kyle Snyder.
The future is uncertain for Uwasawa in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform. But, spring training will be a good time to gauge his skill and figure out how he can fit within the pitching staff when the time is right.