Cubs Fujikawa among top projected rookies

FUJIKAWA-K-022413-SG-32

(Photo by Stephen Green)

People like to say that age is just a number. Apparently, Baseball America feels the same way.

The respected baseball publication unveiled its list of Preseason Top 20 Rookies for 2013 on Wednesday. Hyun-Jin Ryu (26 years old) of the Dodgers, Will Myers (22) of the Rays and Jurickson Profar (20) of Texas sat atop the list, but 32-year-old Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa was ranked No. 20. Aside from Ryu, no one else on the list was older than 24, and 12 players were 22 or younger.

The North Siders agreed to a two-year, $9.5 million deal with Fujikawa in early January. The righty totaled 220 saves in 12 seasons with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers and is projected to slot in as a late-innings arm in 2013. Here is what BA had to say about the pitcher:

20. Kyuji Fujikawa, rhp, Cubs

Age: 32. Finished Last Year: In Nippon Professional Baseball.

Best Case: Fujikawa provides the antidote to incumbent closer Carlos Marmol’s highwire act, assuming the ninth-inning role early in the season thanks to a low-90s heater and mid-80s splitter.

Worst Case: No Japanese pitcher has notched 20 saves in a season since Takashi Saito did so for the 2007 Dodgers. In fact, the most recent imported NPB closer, the Indians’ Masahide Kobayashi in 2008, ran up a 5.10 ERA in 67 appearances over two seasons.

Competition: A lock for an important bullpen role, Fujikawa could unseat Marmol as closer or Shawn Camp as set-up man.

Former Cubs prospect Chris Archer, a right-handed pitcher who was the centerpiece of the Matt Garza trade, was 17th on the list. Last year’s list included names like Matt Moore (No. 1), Mike Trout (No. 5) and Bryce Harper (No. 10).

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