Japanese Phenom Tomohiro Anraku Returns In Koshien Opener

After generating international attention this spring—both for his incredible talent and draining workload—Japanese phenom Tomohiro Anraku is back.

Baseball America chronicled all of Anraku’s starts at Spring Koshien, where the 16-year-old righthander touched 94 mph and carried Saibi High (Ehime Prefecture) to the Spring Koshien final. Anraku amassed 772 pitches in nine days, including a 232-pitch outing in his first game.

He threw a 159-pitch start, came back on one day of rest to throw a 138-pitch complete game followed the next day by a 134-pitch complete game. On the mound in the final for the third straight day, Anraku looked exhausted, sat at 78-85 mph, topped out at 88 and gave up nine runs in six innings before Saibi High brought in another pitcher for the first time the entire tournament in a 17-1 loss.

Pitching last night in Saibi’s first Summer Koshien game in front of 47,000 fans, Anraku touched 96 mph and was effective for most of the game, though the final line doesn’t reflect it. Anraku gave up two runs in the first inning before rattling off seven straight scoreless innings. Back on the mound for the ninth with a 9-2 lead, Anraku allowed five runs before getting out of danger to hold on for the 9-7 victory. He threw 137 pitches with seven strikeouts, no walks, one hit batsman and 11 hits allowed.

Having grown an inch to 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Anraku appeared to be consciously pacing himself for what he certainly knows could be a long grind ahead, controlling his effort level based on the situation. For most of his start, he sat at 88-92 mph, but he reached back for more when he wanted the extra velocity, ramping up to hit 95 several times throughout the game.

Anraku mixed in his offspeed pitches liberally. He dropped a slow 65-69 mph curveball early in counts, then thew it in the mid-to-high 70s when he got ahead, along with an 83-85 mph slider and a mid-80s changeup. He was able to freeze hitters looking at strike three on the outside corner with his fastball at times, though his secondary pitches and command were a little erratic. But that’s nitpicking when evaluating a 16-year-old throwing in the mid-90s.

Anraku, who has one year of high school remaining, already touched 97 mph earlier this summer. A 16-year-old pitcher throwing 97 mph in Latin America is unheard of, but it’s unlikely Anraku will be signing with a major league team any time soon, as Japanese prep players rarely do so and instead head to Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball after graduating high school.

Immediately after the game ended, Anraku played some light catch in front of the dugout. He has to keep that arm warm—Saibi High will be counting on him to throw another complete game in a few days.