Takuya Asao (浅尾 拓也)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 165 lb.
- School Nihon Fukushi University
- High School Tokoname Kita High School
Asao was the first player ever drafted from Nihon Fukushi University when the Chunichi Dragons took him in the third round in 2006. He had a 4-1, 3.53 record in 19 games in 2007, missing some time with a shoulder injury. He went 3-1 with a save and a 1.79 ERA in 2008, with only 9 walks and no homers in 50 1/3 IP. He was ejected three times after hit batsmen that year.
Asao was Chunichi's Opening Day starter in 2009 but moved to the bullpen as the year progressed due to struggles. He was 7-9 with six saves and a 3.49 ERA in 60 relief outings and seven starts for the year. In 2010, he went 12-3 with a save and a 1.68 ERA in 72 games. He was 4th in the Central League in games pitched and tied for sixth in wins (even with Kazuki Yoshimi, Yoshinori Sato and Shohei Tateyama). He gave up just 60 hits (a .204 opponent average) and 10 walks in 80 innings. His 0.87 WHIP led the Dragons' staff, which was tops in the CL by a wide margin. He finished second in voting for the 2010 Central League Most Valuable Player Award despite his middle relief role, with 66 first-place votes and 600 vote points, 296 back of winner and teammate Kazuhiro Wada.
Asao had an even better season amazingly in 2011, going 7-2 with 10 saves and a 0.41 ERA in a league-leading 79 appearances. He also was 6th in save points. He struck out 100 and walked 15 in 87 1/3 innings, allowing 57 hits for a .186 opponent average. He became the first pitcher to win a Gold Glove in NPB without having made a start. He won the 2011 Central League Most Valuable Player Award, the first pitcher to win in the CL since Kenshin Kawakami in 2004 and the first reliever since Kazuhiro Sasaki in 1998; unlike Sasaki, though, Asao was not used primarily as a closer but mostly in a setup role for Hitoki Iwase. He had 170 of 249 first-place votes and 1,019 vote points; staffmate Yoshimi was second with 70 and 825 while Tetsuya Utsumi was a distant third with 83 vote points. In the 2011 Japan Series, he won game one and saved game six; Chunichi fell, 4 games to 3 to the Softbank Hawks due to limited offense.
With a three-quarters delivery Asao throws a fastball in low to mid-90s (tops out at 98 mph), a slider, and a splitter.