Japan & The Dominican Republic

» 02 February 2010 » In international baseball »

Last week, after Jorge Arangure broke the news that Dominican prospect Rafael DePaula’s MLB signing ban had been lifted, I exchanged a few “tweets” with Jorge and Keith Law, centered around my post about DePaula’s consideration of Japan last summer. Sometimes 140 characters isn’t enough.
@keithlaw: @npbtracker I’m not sure why no suspended player has tried Japan, or even Italy or Holland. Go make some coin and keep playing for scouts.

Practically speaking, it doesn’t make sense for NPB teams to sign suspended prospects, assuming that they are a) not ready to contribute at the top level in Japan and b) only willing to sign short-term contracts. I was bullish on DePaula trying Japan last summer — with the caveat that he’d be willing to make a long-term commitment (looking back, I wasn’t clear enough about this in my post). Certainly a number of Taiwanese players, and some Dominicans have signed with Japanese teams as amateurs and done well.

Holland’s Honkbal Hoofdklasse is really a semi-pro league, and each team is only allowed one non-EU citizen roster spot (for more check out this post), so that seems like a little more of a longshot. I remember reading about some Dominican prospects trying to play in Taiwan, but I couldn’t find anything on that. Maybe a knowledgeable NPB Tracker reader will know something about that.

@jorgearangure: @npbtracker do you know how much Japanese teams scout the DR these days?

5:00 PM Jan 27th from TweetDeck in reply to npbtracker

The Carp have an Academy in the Dominican, from which they recently brought a couple of players to Japan. Pitcher Wilfreiser Guerrero was in the Carp’s Academy in 2007, followed by two years of independent ball in Japan, and has now joined the Carp as an ikusei (development) player. Dioni Soriano, another pitcher, joined the Carp last season after following a similar pattern. Hiroshima also added two pitchers as “practice” players this offseason: Juan Javier (22) and Jose Lauriano (20)*. Javier initially lied about his age and identity, claiming to be 16.

The Chunichi Dragons don’t have a Dominican academy, but scout the Winter League heavily and have signed quite a few players over the last few years, including four this offseason.  Unlike the Carp, as far as I know Chunichi has only signed players with at least some professional experience with MLB organizations. They do take younger guys without much upper-level minor league experience though.

Beyond that, the SoftBank Hawks showed some interest last offseason about finding an independent Dominican baseball academy to establish ties with, but I never read anything about it beyond the initial report. The Yomiuri Giants have had some success developing Wirfin Obispo, who signed as a 22 year-old and put up a solid showing last year in his first real test at the top level. Yomiuri has an academy in China but not in the Dominican.

Up to this point, the main international market Japanese teams recruit amateur talent from is Taiwan (Chen Wei-Yin, Chang Chih-Chia). My opinion is that if NPB is going to miss out on top Japanese talent, like Junichi Tazawa, the best way to stay competitive would be to sign more talented amateur players as international free agents. NPB teams will never be in the mix for the Michel Ynoa-class prospects, but could reasonably compete for players in the $300k-$500k bonus range.

*Note: I guessed the spellings of Javier’s and Lauriano’s names, as I only had them available in katakana.

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  1. Patrick
    04/02/2010 at 2:03 am Permalink

    International free agents? Weren’t you more keen on making a “World draft” work?

  2. Patrick
    04/02/2010 at 10:11 am Permalink

    Actually no. I have advocated a regulated global free agency market.

  3. Patrick
    04/02/2010 at 2:40 pm Permalink

    Sorry for misunderstanding. Is this the relevant article?

    If this is put into practice, the current recruiting will drastically change. For one thing, many Taiwanese and Dominican players are under the high school graduation age, which is prohibited in Japan and the US.

  4. Patrick
    04/02/2010 at 10:22 pm Permalink

    How so?

    Yomiuri has signed Taiwanese kids as young as 15, and Hanshin drafted 15 year-old Kento Tsujimoto a few years ago. Some Latin American prospects make their US debuts as young as 16/17 too — Elvis Andrus, Miguel Cabrera and Felix Hernandez immediately come to mind.

  5. Patrick
    04/02/2010 at 11:40 pm Permalink

    What I wanted to say is that Japanese and American players don’t get drafted out of Jr. high. (Kento Tsujimoto didn’t go to school in Japan.)

    What would happen if you put in Taiwanese and Latin American players in the same basket and do away with drafts? What would the minimum age be? As I pointed out in the linked article, local amateur organizations would be really pissed off, e.g. Kouyaren.

  6. Patrick
    05/02/2010 at 1:26 am Permalink

    Yeah, but it’s like that already. Latin American kids sign at age 16 and kids subject to the draft can sign age 18 and up (after they’ve been selected). Maybe you level it up so that Latin American kids are only eligible at age 18, but who knows if that actually helps anything.

    Also, yeah, you had the right post. There’s also this one: