After a dreadful 22-38 season in 2020, the Texas Rangers need several areas to improve in 2021 in order to contend for a playoff spot. The pitching staff ranked 11th in the American League with an ERA of 5.02. Getting help from the Far East, the team agreed to a two-year deal with Kohei Arihara, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
Kohei Arihara, 28-year-old, is a six-year veteran in Japan with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball. He’s posted a 3.46 ERA in 132 2/3 innings last year and was even better in 2019, with nearly a strikeout per inning and an ERA of 2.46. Although not an overpowering pitcher with a fastball topping out in the low-90’s, Arihara apparently has up to seven quality pitches. He’s displayed remarkable control, generally averaging around two walks or less per nine innings.
When comparing to Shun Yamaguchi, who pitched in NPB before signing with the Blue Jays last season, and Tomoyuki Sugano, top rater NPB starter who could pitch in the MLB this season, Kohei Arihara is not overpowering. What does this mean for Arihara moving forward with the Rangers?
The current rotation for the Rangers features Jordan Lyles, Kyle Gibson, Wes Benjamin, Kyle Cody, and Kolby Allard, and Dane Dunning. Cody had a 5.35 ERA over 22 1/3 innings and Dunning pitched to a 3.97 ERA in seven starts for the White Sox. The other three combined posted a less than substandard record of 3-18 with an ERA of 6.47.
There is plenty of room for improvement in the Rangers starting rotation, so despite the fact that Arihara isn’t overpowering, he could make a push for innings at the back end of the rotation. At the very least, expect Kohei Arihara to make the team pitching in long relief. Should one of the other starters fail to deliver, Arihara could move to the rotation.