Archive > October 2009

Indians to Sign College Righty Nakamura

» 31 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 5 Comments

Sponichi is reporting that the Indians have agreed to a minor-league contract with Chuo University righthander Takafumi Nakamura.

Nakamura wasn’t a high-profile draft prospect, so I headed over to Draft Reports to get the scoop on him. Nakamura has got a big frame at 195 cm, 89kg (6’5, 195lbs), and throws from a three-quarter delivery. His heater tops out on the gun at 149 km/h (92mph), but he mostly sits at about 140 km/h (86 mph) with both his fastball and slider. He also has a curve, forkball, and shuuto. Looking at his stats, he shown an ability to strike his college competition out, but walks have been an issue.

Sponichi says that the Indians’ goal is to get him in shape in Rookie Ball, and then give him a look at Single-A after a couple of months. An official contract is expected in November.

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1994 Nippon Series

» 31 October 2009 » In npb » 3 Comments

I stumbled across this clip a while ago, and normally I wouldn’t post it, but there’s a personal back story and with this year’s Nippon Series about to start, it seems like a good time.

1994 was the year the MLB players’ strike canceled the World Series, which I especially hated because my team, the Chicago White Sox, was in the middle of a great season and I fully expected to see them reach the Series. Chicago doesn’t win in baseball very often, and I felt like we were getting screwed out of the best team that had come along to that point in my lifetime.

So with no World Series, Chicago’s local cable sports station, SportsChannel, broadcast the Japan Series on tape delay, with the games called by Hawk and Wimpy. To that point, just about everything I knew about Japan came by way of Nintendo, and Japanese baseball was something new to me. It was familiar but different, it kind of looked like the SF Giants playing the KC Royals. The only players I knew were Dan Gladden and Mike Pagliarulo, though Henry Cotto also appears in this clip.

So this is what piqued my interest in Japanese baseball, but I didn’t really get into it permanently until 2000, when I went I went to Japan as an exchange student. And of course the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, which made up for the missed opportunity in ’94.

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Foreign Player Updates: Laforest, SoftBank, Lotte

» 30 October 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

Some notes about foreign player movement this offseason, mostly featuring the Chiba Lotte Marines:

  • Pete Laforest had a tryout with the Seibu Lions, the results of which will be announced in a few days. Laforest has spent the last few years in the Mexican League. It’s rare for NPB teams to go after import catchers, so I’m wondering how Laforest would fit on to the Lions’ roster.
  • The SoftBank Hawks are retaining DJ Houlton and Jose Ortiz for next season. You’d have to think they’ll bring Brian Falkenborg back as well.
  • Hanshin is looking for Kenji Johjima to provide input on next year’s foreign roster.
  • Chiba Lotte is looking at bringing in Marlins lefty minor leaguer Carlos Vasquez to pitch relief. Vasquez played for Venezuela in last year’s WBC. At the same time, the Marines want reliable bullpen arm Brian Sikorski to take a 33% pay cut, and may lose him this offseason.
  • More from Lotte: the team is looking at bringing former Marine and Hawk Julio Zuleta back to Japan. He’ll have a tryout in early November, and if he passes, the team will look at him as a low-budget option ($300k) for next year. Zuleta struggled in the Mexican League in 2009.
  • Yeet more from Lotte: the Marines are again looking at Korean slugger Kim Dong Ju this offseason. Kim has been trying to sign with an NPB club for years, and Bobby wanted to bring him to Chiba last season, but got denied by the front office.

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NPB Draft Notes

» 30 October 2009 » In npb draft » 3 Comments

Here are some unorganized, rapid-fire notes about yesterday’s draft. Some of these are my own observations, others are from the media.

  • In the end, ‘only’ six teams went after Yusei Kikuchi in the first round. Still impressive, but not exactly an unprecedented number. It seemed that the other teams used the distraction of Kikuchi to nab the guy they wanted.
  • Despite this being considered a thin draft, the only player that was selected by more than one team in the first round was Kikuchi.
  • Kikuchi’s parents are happy with the outcome of the draft.
  • The one team that should have been in on Kikuchi, but wasn’t, was Yokohama, who took slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo with their first pick. This looks like a case where the team allowed the appeal of taking the local kid outweigh the choice that really best fit their needs (pitching).
  • I think Hiroshima made a great first round pick in Takeru Imamura, and then followed it up with strong picks with Shota Dobayashi, Hisashi Takeuchi, and Hayato Shoji. I could just be biased towards fame though; Takeuchi is a well-known college pitchers and the other guys were noted Koshien performers. Shoji put a lot of mileage on his arm at this year’s Koshien.
  • Hisayoshi Chono finally wound up with the Giants.
  • Fat, short first baseman Ryoji Nakata got taken in the third round by Chunichi. He’ll need to get into shape as a pro, and even then I still think he looks more like a pinch hitter than a starter.
  • Honda hurler Takao Suwabe was annoyed at not being picked until the sixth round, and might not sign because of that.
  • In another bittersweet result, high school righty Takumi Akiyama cried at lasting until Hanshin drafted him in the fourth round, but vowed to do his best at Koshien.
  • In more tear news, Kenta Imamiya wept for joy at being selected by his local SoftBank Hawks in the first round.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing how Shuichi Furukawa, Yutaka Ohtsuka, and Yosuke Okamoto do as pros.
  • I was wondering why Akihiro Hakumura wasn’t drafted, but it turns out he’s going to college rather than the pros.
  • Former Braves farmhand Masayoshi Tokuda was not taken by the Carp, despite ‘passing’ their tryout.
  • A couple other non-picks I was slightly disappointed with were Michiya Minato and Shogo Akiyama. Admittedly I haven’t seen much of either of these guys, but they both seem to have good pitchers’ frames, decent velocity and command issues (particularly Akiyama on the last point). I was hoping to see if they’d develop as pros.

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2009 Draft: International Influence

» 29 October 2009 » In npb draft » Comments Off

My post on foreign players in the draft last year went over well, and I had meant to publish an update for 2009 prior to this year’s draft, but the gods of time weren’t on my side. In any case it’s not too late, so here’s a look at some players who brought a multicultural air to this year’s draft.

Pedro Okuda: Okuda is a third-generation Japanese Brazilian who came to Japan to play baseball. He made a name for himself in the 2007 Koshien tournament with a walk-off home run, but still didn’t get picked in yesterday’s draft.

Maike Magario: Magario is another Brazilian, though one who has grown up for most of his life in Japan. I haven’t seen much of Magario, but his build reminds me a little bit of Shawn Green. Yakult took Magario with their first ikusei pick. Note that Yakult also took Brazilian Rafael Fernandez in the ikusei draft last year, and operates an academy in Brazil.

Juanyoni Allan: Yet another Brazilian, I know even less about Allan than the previous two players – I don’t even know if I have the Romanization of his name correct. Draft reports indicates that he’s a big kid (196 cm, 100km; 6’5, 220lbs) who came to Japan with the goal of becoming a pro ballplayer. The report also says that he’s a power hitter who has seen time on the mound, but struggled with his command. Allan was not selected in the draft.

John Clayton Unten: clearly the best prospect of this bunch, Clayton was born to an American father and Japanese mother and attended high school in Okinawa. Shukan Baseball compares him to Seibu starter Takayuki Kishi, which I take a real compliment. Nippon Ham has become known for acquiring half-Japanese players (Yu Darvish, Romash Tasuku Dass, previously Micheal Nakamura as well), and indeed the Fighters drafted Unten in the fourth round.

Deanna has a full breakdown of who went where that goes into far more detail than I’ll get to. You’ll see more from me on the draft, though.

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Seibu Gets Kikuchi

» 29 October 2009 » In npb draft » 4 Comments

Despite the projections and comments in the media, ‘only’ six teams selected Yusei Kikuchi in the first round of this year’s draft, with the Seibu Lions winning the drawing and the rights to his NPB services. Hanshin, Yakult, Chunichi, Nippon Ham and Rakuten were the other teams that selected Kikuchi.

With half the league going after Kikuchi, the other six teams all got their picks uncontested. Orix (Shuichi Furukawa) and Hiroshima (Takeru Imamura) made pretty good picks in my opinion.

That’ll be all for me tonight, Gwynar is live-tweeting the draft and some nutbar is broadcasting it on justin.tv, though he has a bad habit of shouting into the mic and displaying an Excel sheet rather than the draft coverage.

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2009 Draft: First Round Preview

» 28 October 2009 » In NPB Tracker » 4 Comments

The NPB draft is tomorrow, and no shock here, but Yusei Kikuchi will be the story of the first round. So far seven teams have announced an intent to select Kikuchi in the first round. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Yokohama: Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
  • Hiroshima: Takeru Imamura
  • Hanshin: Kikuchi
  • Yakult: Kikuchi
  • Chunichi: Kikuchi
  • Yomiuri: Hisayoshi Chono
  • Orix: unannounced (Kikuchi)
  • Chiba Lotte: Kikuchi
  • Seibu: Kikuchi
  • SoftBank: unannounced (Kikuchi)
  • Rakuten: Kikuchi
  • Nippon Ham: Kikuchi

SoftBank has been very quiet on Kikuchi, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sneak up on Hiroshima and pick Imamura instead of trying their luck on Kikuchi. Orix has talked quite a bit about Kikuchi and I do think they’ll pick him. In any event Kikuchi has a realistic shot at breaking Hideo Nomo’s record of being selected by eight teams in the draft. But when he’s selected, there will still be a number of good prospects on the table, so we should see multiple drawings.

For a refresher on how it works, please see our primer on the NPB draft.

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The List of Free Agents

» 27 October 2009 » In international baseball, mlb prospects, nichibei » 2 Comments

It’s that time of the year again when each team starts to look forward to the offseason stove league, aside from the Giants and Fighters who are set to do battle for this year’s big prize. The main talks of the off-season will be centering around the movement of the free agents and today the list of qualifying players was released.

Potential candidates that might consider a move overseas are starting to buzz  around the rumor mill and Ryota Igarashi and Naoyuki Shimizu are two of  the bigger names in the news at this point. Toshihisa Nishi is another guy who wants to play in MLB, but he’s 38 and looking at MLB as a swansong. The situation might change once the offseason begins, but there have been no talks about big names being posted and it might be a relatively quiet offseason for new Japanese players coming to the States for a new challenge.

DOMESTIC

  • Fighters: Shugo Fujii (LHP), Hichori Morimoto (OF)
  • Golden Eagles: Yosuke Takasu (INF), Akihito Fujii (CA)
  • Lions: Yoshihito Ishii (INF)
  • Marines: Hiroyuki Kobayashi (RHP), Tadahito Iguchi (INF, under a three-year contract)
  • Buffaloes: Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara (LHP), Osamu Hamanaka (OF), Alex Cabrera (INF)
  • Giants: Shinnosuke Abe (CA)
  • Dragons: Hidenori (OF)
  • Tigers: Atsushi Fujimoto (INF), Norihiro Akahoshi (OF)
  • Carp: Ryuji Yokoyama (RHP), Yoshikazu Kura (CA)
  • Baystars: Atsushi Kizuka (RHP)

INTERNATIONAL

  • Fighters: Tomochika Tsuboi (OF), Yoshinori Tateyama (RHP)
  • Hawks: Hitoshi Tamura (OF, staying put)
  • Marines: Tasuku Hashimoto (CA), Naoyuki Shimizu (RHP), Shingo Ono (RHP),
  • Buffaloes: Hidetaka Kawagoe (RHP, has been released and will move on)
  • Giants: Hisanori Takahashi (LHP), Shigeyuki Furuki (INF), Alex Ramirez (OF), Kiyoshi Toyoda (RHP)
  • Dragons: Masahiko Morino (INF, under a multi-year contract), Motonobu Tanishige (CA)
  • Swallows: Ryota Igarashi (RHP), Kazuki Fukuchi (OF), Masao Kida (RHP, will move on)
  • Baystars: Shigeru Morikasa (OF), Toshihisa Nishi (INF, has been released and is looking to play in the States in ’10)

Note that the player’s status, where known, appears in brackets beside his name. We’ll update this page as the offseason progresses.

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Johjima Agrees With Hanshin

» 27 October 2009 » In npb » 6 Comments

Multiple reports out of Japan are confirming that Kenji Johjima’s NPB return will indeed be with the Hanshin Tigers. It took two rounds of negotiations for the Tigers and Johjima to work out a deal.

Sports Hochi Osaka is saying its a four-year deal, with an estimated value of 2.5 bn JPY ($27.25m at today’s exchange rate). No one else has reported that figure so we’ll see if it winds up being accurate. If it’s true, it’s a pretty nice deal for Joh. An official press conference will be scheduled shortly.

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Lotte to Invite Maddux

» 26 October 2009 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Sayonara Bobby, konichiwa Greg Maddux?

Maybe. The Chiba Lotte Marines are planning to invite the future Hall of Famer to spring training next season as a temporary pitching instructor, somewhat similar to what Orix did with Hideo Nomo last year. Sponichi notes that with his legendary control and excellent circle change, Maddux is a great role model on how to get by without velocity for Japanese pitchers. I’d tweak that just a bit and say he’s a great example for any pitcher.

Lotte’s intent is to reach out to Maddux through former Padres teammate and current Marine Tadahito Iguchi. I hope this comes together, it would be great to see Maddux back in the game.

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