By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
Cuban-born left-handed pitcher Dario Sarduy has signed a six-year contract with Japan’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball. Miguel Rodriguez Hernandez of Pelota Cubana was the first to report Sarduy’s contract on Saturday.
Sarduy, 18, will earn a $100,000 bonus in his first season, but the contract’s total value has yet to be announced. According to the Cuban Baseball Digest, the Federacion Cubana de Beisbol negotiated the agreement.
Sarduy does not turn 19 until this November and played with the Azucareros de Villa Clara in Serie Nacional de Béisbol during the 2023-24 season. Appearing in just eight games, Sarduy posted a 4.88 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. Control is an issue, as he walked 10.1 batters per nine innings.
Most recently, Sarduy pitched as a reinforcement in the Liga Élite del Béisbol Cubano with the Cazadores de Artemisa. His tendency to walk batters continued this winter, as he allowed 37 free passes in 35.1 innings.
The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have been interested in the young left-handed pitcher’s services since last September, reported The Cuban Baseball Digest. Two scouts representing the Hawks went to Cuba to watch Sarduy throw a bullpen session and were impressed.
According to the Cuban Baseball Digest, Sarduy’s velocity on his four-seam fastball ranges from 87-89 mph, but his best pitch is his curveball. At 18 years old, Sarduy has ample time to build strength in his lower body to increase velocity.
Sarduy is expected to begin the 2024 Nippon Professional Baseball season with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ farm team, but there is a chance he will make his NPB debut. Nippon Professional Baseball is widely considered the second-best professional baseball league in the world behind Major League Baseball, and the Hawks would display a lot of confidence in the lefty’s abilities if they gave him an opportunity with the Pacific League parent team.
Fellow Cuban pitcher Livan Moinelo also plays for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and could be important in the development of Sarduy. Like Sarduy, Moinleo is a left-handed pitcher and started his career in Japan with the Hawks in the Western League. The 28-year-old veteran can welcome Sarduy to the country and help polish his pitching skills. Moinelo has experienced a successful career in NPB, posting a 1.95 ERA in seven seasons (306 games).
Yakyu Cosmopolitan on X reported on Saturday the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks now have seven Latin American prospects in their system, including Sarduy. The other six are pitchers Mailon Felix, Luis Rodriguez, Alexander Armenta, and position players David Almonte, Marco Simon, and Jose Osuna.