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A look at Kodai Senga, the X-Factor of the New York Mets
Top prospect Francisco Álvarez is optioned to minor league camp. Plus, how Kodai Senga is the biggest x-factor for the Mets in 2023.
What’s Up with the Mets? 🌴
The Mets fell to the Astros by a score of 5-2 at Clover Park on Wednesday afternoon (box)
C Francisco Álvarez was optioned to minor league camp and will open the regular season in Triple-A
RHP Kodai Senga allowed two runs on two hits, three walks and three strikeouts over four innings
RHP Tommy Hunter pitched two scoreless innings and has yet to allow a run so far in Spring Training
The catching tandem of Omar Narvaéz and Tomás Nido combined to go 4-for-4 at the plate in the loss
Injury Updates 🏥
CF Brandon Nimmo (right ankle and knee sprain) resumed baseball activities the last two days and is hoping to return to Grapefruit League action this weekend
LHP Brooks Raley (left hamstring strain) plans to appear in one more game before Spring Training ends to preparation for Opening Day
Today’s Game 🦩
Game 2️⃣3️⃣ of 3️⃣0️⃣
Match-up: Mets at Braves
Where: CoolToday Park - North Port, FL
Starters: TBD vs. RHP Mike Vasil
When: 1:05 PM EDT
Where to Watch: MLB.tv
A breakdown of Kodai Senga, the X-Factor of the Mets ✍🏻
One day after Japan won their third World Baseball Classic crown, all eyes were on the hero of Japan’s last WBC appearance, righthand pitcher Kodai Senga.
After signing with the Mets on one late night in December, Senga was brought here as a high-reward signing to help raise the ceiling of this team’s pitching staff. Senga was essentially the replacement for Chris Bassitt, who pitched well for the team in 2022 but ultimately fizzled out toward the end of the season and in the first round of the playoffs.
With Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander acting as a formidable one-two punch, and José Quintana (pre-injury) and Carlos Carrasco slated in as the fourth and fifth starters to round things out, Senga truly is the wild card of the Mets’ starting rotation.
Due to the recent injuries to their pitching staff, however — Quintana will miss at least the first three months of the season and closer Edwin Díaz is expected to miss all of 2023 – Senga will now be an even greater x-factor for this franchise entering the season.
We haven’t seen much of Senga in camp so far, making just three starts due to being held back early and dealing with tendinitis in his finger, but he has certainly lived up to the hype of being a right-handed flamethrower. In his three spring appearances, Senga’s fastball has routinely sat in the mid-to-upper 90s maxing out at 99 MPH on several occasions.
His breaking stuff still needs work, specifically when it comes to locating, but did breakout a nice, sweeping slider in Wednesday’s performance against the Astros as he generated six swings-and-misses on the pitch.
Senga’s most infamous pitch, known as the “ghost fork,” will likely act as the pitcher’s best out-pitch, though we have not seen much of it in Grapefruit League play. This is mostly due to the fact that Senga has been dealing with the finger issue, as well as wanting to concentrate on putting in more work on his other secondary pitches.
“It’s not like anything is bugging me,” Senga said to reporters through his interpreter on Wednesday afternoon. “But obviously easing it, and I just want to be 100 percent going into this season, so there is no need to rush anything.”
When we did see Senga break out that forkball in his first start, though, it was definitely tantalizing and dazzling to watch.
Other than his health, what will be the biggest watch-out for Senga early in this season will be his control. Over nine innings pitched this spring, Senga has already issued five walks. This was his one knock in Japan, as well, where Senga averaged 3.4 walks per nine innings in his career. For reference, that number would have ranked as the third-highest walk rate among qualified starting pitchers in MLB this past season, behind just Nick Pivetta (3.66 walks per nine) and Dylan Cease (3.88 walks per nine).
In addition to his past control issues, Senga is also still in a transition period after moving leagues and countries for the first time over this offseason. There has also been some attention paid to how he adapts to the different balls as Major League Baseball uses different balls than the NPB in Japan.
It’s safe to say that Senga is currently the biggest boom-or-bust player on this roster simply because he is still such a mystery at the MLB level. It will certainly be fascinating to watch his transition to the big leagues begin once the regular season kicks off and how the rest of the league adapts to him.
If Senga can rein in his command, he certainly has the A+ stuff in his arsenal to become an extremely effective and exciting starter in this league. If not, that just puts even more pressure on the backs of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
Kodai Senga truly is the biggest x-factor on this Mets pitching staff in 2023.
Around the League 🚩
Astros 2B José Altuve underwent successful surgery to repair the right thumb fracture he suffered in the World Baseball Classic
Phillies LHP Ranger Suárez is still dealing with elbow inflammation and could open the season on the injured list
Twins CF Byron Buxton will act primarily as the club’s DH early in the season to keep him healthy throughout 2023