As a small market team, the Oakland A’s will need to look for hidden gems in order to compete. There is an entire book turned movie on how they changed their philosophy in the early 2000s, sparking a revolution in how front offices looked at players. But even the savviest of baseball minds had to wonder what the A’s were doing when they signed unheralded Japanese pitcher Shohei Tomioka.
Unlike most other Japanese prospects, Tomioka never played in Nippon Professional Baseball, and had been plying his trade in an industrial league. He had a non-descript career at Toyo University, one that did not result in any professional offers anywhere. It was almost as though the A’s plucked a random player from the Rolodex and handed him a contract.
Oakland A’s mystery prospect Shohei Tomioka
But Tomioka did show some promise. He had hit 95 MPH with his fastball during open tryouts, while throwing a changeup, cutter, and a curve. Add in his somewhat deceptive three-quarters delivery, and it was possible that the A’s had unearthed their latest diamond in the rough.
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Now that the minor league season has begun, the A’s are getting a real chance to see what they have in Tomioka. He has appeared in four games for the Lansing Lugnuts, getting one start out of those appearances. Tomioka has allowed five runs, four earned, on 11 hits and two walks in his nine innings, striking out five batters.
Clearly, Tomioka is facing a major step up in competition. He has gone from the independent leagues in Japan to coming stateside for his first taste of professional ball. There will be a drastic learning curve as he acclimates to a new culture and dramatically improved competition.
But the A’s have confidence that he can do just that. Even if the results are not there right now, it will be fascinating to see how he performs as he gets comfortable. He has the stuff to be an intriguing option, and with his funky delivery, he could be a ground ball machine at the upper levels. But he needs to get there.
The Oakland A’s are finally getting to see Shohei Tomioka in action. Although the results may be somewhat disappointing, it is a matter of progress.