Archive > January 2012

Changes for 2012: Hiroshima Carp

» 28 January 2012 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Kam Mickolio, Nick Stavinoha, Yusuke Nomura (1st round draft pick)

Going: Gio Alvarado, Mike Schultz, Dioni Soriano, Kiyoshi Toyoda, Wilfreiser Guerrero, Masaki Hayashi, Chad Tracy

Staying: Bryan Bullington, Brian Barden, Dennis Sarfate, Kenta Kurihara

The key offseason move for Hiroshima was the one that didn’t happen. For the second straight winter, the Carp failed to lure its former ace, Hiroki Kuroda, back from his successful Major League tenure. Had Kuroda returned, Hiroshima would have opened camp with a good shot at having the best rotation in Japan. Even without Kuroda though, Hiroshima’s rotation has some solid pieces to work with. Kenta Maeda and Bryan Bullington are strong at the top, second-year man Yuya Fukui showed proimsed in 2011, and perhaps rookie Yusuke Nomura and sophmore Kyohei Nakamura will join the mix. Veteran Kan Ohtake showed signs of life toward the end of last season, and 24 year-old lefty Yuki Saito should return from the back injuries that sidelined him for all of 2011. Kuroda would have been a great addition to this group, taking the pressure of the younger guys and the injury returnees.

At the plate, Hiroshima suffered a severe power shortage in 2011, hitting a league-low 52 home runs. To that end if Nick Stavinoha can establish himself and slug .450, it will be a huge addition. The retention of Brian Barden is a sound move, as he hit a respectable .280/.368/.371 over half a season last year. Simply getting a full season out of him at third base, which has been a hole since Takahiro Arai departed, will be a plus and if he can find some pop, all the better. We’ll see about the rest of the lineup once the open-sen season opens.

So while their approach is contingent on the younger players maturing and contributing, Hiroshima seems to be headed in the right direction.

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Changes for 2012: Yokohama DeNA Baystars

» 28 January 2012 » In npb » 9 Comments

It’s time again for this series of posts.I was hoping to get these in before camps open on February 1, but alas, sometimes real life intervenes. This year we’ll go in the reverse order of the final 2011 standings, Central League first. 

Coming: Alex Ramirez, Masaaki Koike, Shugo Fujii, Gio Alvarado, Kazunari Tsuruoka, Masanori Hayashi, Kazumasa Kikuchi, Taketoshi Goto, DeNA ownership, manager Kiyoshi Nakahata, new uniforms

Going: Shuichi Murata, Termel Sledge, Brett Harper, Shingo Takeyama, Naoto Inada, Tomo Ohka, Daisuke Hayakawa

Staying: Clayton Hamilton, Brandon Mann

2011 was another year in the cellar for Yokohama. The Baystars finished last in the Central for the eighth time in ten years, including the last four consecutively with sub-.360 winning percentages. Better news came following the season though, when the previous ownership group TBS finally found a buyer, mobile gaming company DeNA. The combination of new ownership and charismatic new manager Kiyoshi Nakahata has generated a level of buzz around the team unseen since Kazuhiro Sasaki’s return.

Despite 2011’s last place finish, there were a few bright spots: Kentaro Takasaki emerged as a solid starter, slugger prospect Yoshitomo Tsutsugo performed well in his late-season trial, 2009 ikusei draftee Yuki Kuniyoshi emerged as a prospect, and lefty Brandon Mann put up good numbers in limited work.  The obvious rub is that of the four guys mentioned, only Takasaki made a contribution that lasted the entire season.

The Baystars’ 2012 roster changes aren’t going to vault the team into contention, but they aren’t going to hurt either. Yomiuri refugee Alex Ramirez and the emerging Tsutsugo should cancel out the losses of Termel Sledge and Shuichi Murata, and perhaps the departure of Brett Harper will lead to a few at-bats for prospect Atsushi Kita. Ramirez will be a defensive liability, and Tsutsugo probably will be as well, but then again, Sledge and Murata weren’t exactly gold glovers.

The bigger issue for Yokohama over the last several seasons has been run prevention. Last year, Yokohama had only two pitchers through 100 or more innings, Kentaro Takasaki and NPB Tracker favorite Daisuke Miura. To that end, if newcomers Gio Alvarado and Shugo Fujii can contribute 100-120 IP of league average or slightly better ball, the dual benefit of giving the younger pitchers some breathing room and making the more competitive will be realized.

The Baystars seem destined for another last-place finish in the Central this year, but for the first time in quite a while it feels like there’s a little competitive light visible at the end of the tunnel.

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Kawakami Close to Chunichi Return

» 27 January 2012 » In nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

Update: Kawakami’s agreement with Chunichi is for one year and JPY 30m ($390k), reports the Mainichi Shimbun. An official contract and press conference are set for Jan 31 in Okinawa.

Multiple reports out of Japan are saying that former Atlanta Brave Kenshin Kawakami is negotiating with the Chunichi Dragons. Among the reports, the Asahi Shimbun reports that a basic agreement is in place and an announcement is due in the next few days, while the Mainichi Shimbun adds that Chunichi offered a one-year deal at a “low budget.” Kawakami won 112 games for Chunichi between 1998 and 2008 before heading to Atlanta as a free agent.

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Remaining Free Agents

» 17 January 2012 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 13 Comments

With spring training a mere two weeks away, NPB teams are largely done making offseason roster moves. But Buster Olney’s observation that there are a number of established MLB players that are still available on the free agent market got me wondering if any would be fits in Japan. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Kosuke Fukudome – There has been surprisingly little discussion of a Fukudome return in the Japanese media, the only rumor of note being that Hanshin was considering him as a replacement for Matt Murton, who they successfully re-signed.
  • Kenshin Kawakami — Kawakami’s name has been similarly absent in the Japanese media this offseason. The only news I’ve seen on him is from his personal blog, saying he’s begun working out and hasn’t decided on a team for 2012 yet. It’s reasonable to assume that most NPB rotations would benefit from having him around.
  • Dan Johnson — Johnson played for Yokohama in 2009, and was solid aside from a .215 batting average. Since then, he’s returned to US with the Rays organization, where he’s played well in Durham but been overmatched in Tampa Bay, and developed a penchant for clutch home runs. He does enough things well to be of value to an NPB team.
  • Derrek Lee – Had they not already signed Josh Whitesell, Lee might have been a first base match for Lotte, an organization that once employed his father and uncle (Leon Lee and Leron Lee). Derrek spent part of his youth in Japan.
  • Marcus Thames — Thames has appeared on NPB team’s foreign player candidate lists in the past, but surprising he’s only gotten one previous mention on this site. Power was the rarest skill in Japan last year, and Thames has shown plenty at both the 3A and MLB level.
  • Bill Hall — Hall is something of a personal favorite; I thought he would have a better MLB career than he’s had. He still has at least two solid strengths – a power bat and a strong throwing arm – that match up with teams in need of third base help (Yokohama?).

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No News for Nippon Ham

» 16 January 2012 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

Nippon Ham hasn’t heard anything from Yu Darvish. Team representative Toshimasa Shimada, commenting in Sponichi, said “we haven’t any contact from Darvish yet,” followed by “we’ll probably find out from [the] America[n media].” Team general director Hiroshi Yoshimura added, “we’re keeping in touch with NPB.”

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Another Japanese Signing for Baltimore

» 15 January 2012 » In nichibei, npb » 15 Comments

… this time lefty reliever Yoshihiro Doi on a minor league contract (via Nikkan Sports).

Doi is an interesting case. He qualified for free agency after the 2010 season and immediately headed to the Western Hemisphere, an endeavor that was totally overlooked on this site. According to Nikkan Sports, Doi didn’t find any takers among MLB and Mexican League teams, and although he passed an Indy League tryout, he wound up spending 2011 on the shelf with knee visa problems. This year he hired agency IBC NY to represent him, and caught on with Baltimore. He’ll join former Chiba Lotte Marine Ryohei Tanaka in the O’s system.

Doi is 35 and hasn’t shown much over the last few years, but kudos to him for sticking to his guns and finding an opportunity. Taking my usual glass-half-full view, he’s lefthanded and had enough skill to hang around NPB for 12 years, so that’s something. Here are links to his stats and stuff.

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Attanasio on Aoki

» 14 January 2012 » In mlb prospects » 1 Comment

Update: Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt has more.

Sponichi got Brewers owner Mark Attanasio on the record about Norichika Aoki on January 12. Here’s what Attanasio had to say:

“It certainly wasn’t a tryout. It was an opportunity for our GM and manager to directly see what type of player he is.”

“Defensively he was terrific and he’s a professional with an established track record, so he took it seriously.”*

*Note: translation of a translation.

Sponichi expects the Brewers and Aoki to reach an agreement by the start of the week. The two sides have until the 17th to work out a deal.

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Yokohama DeNA Bolsters Front Office With Kakazu

» 14 January 2012 » In npb » Comments Off

A bit of front office news to pass along here — last week, the Yokohama DeNA Baystars hired Shun Kakazu as an assistant to GM Shigeru Takada. Kakazu, 30, is a Harvard graduate who worked in Lotte’s front office during the Bobby V era and spent the last two years scouting for the San Francisco Giants.

The extent of my knowledge of Kakazu is limited to Bobby singing his praises on his personal blog, most notably after Kakazu’s trip to the winter meetings, and upon Bobby’s return to Connecticut for the 2008-09 offseason. That said, I like the idea of Kakazu having a top job in an NPB front office, mostly because he breaks the mold of front office guys being former players, or coming from the ownership’s parent company.

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Scot Drucker: Free Agent For Hire

» 12 January 2012 » In international baseball » Comments Off

Disclosure: Scot is currently a free agent and provided me this bio to run on the site. I have no financial interest in Scot’s contract situation, my only objective is to help out a hardworking ballplayer.

Scot Drucker, minor league veteran and world traveler, is currently a free agent and looking for a spot to play overseas this season. He just wrapped up a season in Venezuela for the Tigres de Aragua, and spent 2011 in Taiwan pitching for the Lamigo Monkeys. Scot played collegiate ball, initially at University of Florida and later transferring to the University of Tennessee, before being selected by the Oakland A’s in the 13th round of the 2004 MLB Draft. After playing four seasons with Oakland, he was picked up by the Detroit Tigers where he reached AAA with the Toledo Mudhens. Scot’s winterball travels include Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Venezuela. He has shown much versatility by closing, starting, and serving as swingman wherever he has been. He also has been a fan and clubhouse favorite everywhere he has played and actively engages his fanbase using social media.

Career line (including 2011 in Taiwan)

W L ERA Games GS GF Saves IP Hits BBs Ks
8 Seasons 42 26 4.27     209     68      68      21 627 660       172       432

RHP
6’2 200lbs
90-93 Fastball, Curveball, Slider, Change Up

Scot can be reached via email.

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NPB Bullet Points: Pinto, Bowker

» 11 January 2012 » In nichibei, npb » 18 Comments

I’ve got a couple of player personnel notes to pass along, via Sponichi.

  • Softbank has announced the acquisition of righty Reynel Pinto. The big righty gets a one-year deal worth JPY 70m ($910k) plus incentives. I expect him to be in the mix for a rotation spot in Fukuoka.
  • Yomiuri is working on a deal with outfielder John Bowker and expects to have a deal announced within a few days. The Phillies have already granted Bowker his release, so I’d assume a deal just needs to be signed.

And a bonus bullet point that I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet:

  • Yokohama DeNA has signed Gio Alvarado, who spent the last two years with Hiroshima. Gio should add a modicum of stability to the DeNA’s rotation.

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