Junichi Tazawa Warrants a Deep League Fantasy Look

Grant Correspondent IAugust 9, 2009

NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Junichi Tazawa #63 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees in the 14th inning of the game on August 7, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

As a result of Boston designating Cooperstown bound pitcher John Smoltz for assignment, the Red Sox rotation now has an open slot slated for two starts in Week 19.

Since Beantown hurlers Tim Wakfield and Daisuke Matsuzaka continue to gather dust on the DL shelf, fantasy owners starving for pitching can benefit by predicting the to-be-determined Boston starter.

Recently the Red Sox signed veteran right hander Paul Byrd to a minor league contract.  However, the 39-year-old journeyman has yet to throw a pitch in 2009. The likelihood of Byrd occupying said rotation spot is along the same Vegas odds of me getting a date with Megan Fox.

Both are possible, but very, very improbable.

The safer bet is on newly promoted phenom Junichi Tazawa.

Tazawa made his major league debut last Friday in a 15 inning baseball marathon against the Yankees.  In his trial by fire, Junichi induced a flyout from his idol Hideki Matsui and struck out Mark Teixeira before giving up a two out, no cause for seppuku walk off homer to Alex Rodriguez.

Tazawa is only the third Japanese player to see Major League action in the states without first playing professionally in his homeland.

Scouts report the 23 year old import throws well beyond his age.  Tazawa possesses a full arsenal of pitches including a high 90's fastball and a curve which can only be described as "sick."

This year Junichi has plowed through the minors with the above mentioned arsenal, fanning batters at an excellent rate (7.75 K/9) while demonstrating superb control (2.23 BB/9).  Tazawa so far has compiled nine wins, a 2.55 ERA and has limited the opposition to a paltry .219 BA.

The Red Sox return to Boston on Monday to play a four game homestand against the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers before travelling to Texas to face the Rangers in a very hitting friendly ballpark.

Thusly, those participating in shallow mixed, non-keeper fantasy formats should play the wait and see game.  However, owners in AL only or 14 teams or greater leagues should add Tazawa immediately as a speculative waiver wire pick up.