Category > mlb prospects

The Scrap Heap: Huang, Vechionacci, Soriano, Others

» 14 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » Comments Off on The Scrap Heap: Huang, Vechionacci, Soriano, Others

Each offseason, NPB teams release a raft of players. I’ve combed through the list and picked out a few guys that could have some upside ahead of them.

  • Chih-Lung Huang — There were MLB clubs interested in Huang when he signed with Yomiuri out of Taiwan in 2009, but he preferred Japan. The Giants seemed bullish on him when he reached ichi-gun in 2010, but cooled off this year. His stuff wasn’t as advertised but at age 22 he may still have some upside.
  • Marcos Vechionacci — Vechionacci signed an ikusei contract with Hanshin last offseason, then hit .255/.359/.436 in 128 ni-gun plate appearances. That line sounds alright to me, but I guess Hanshin’s management didn’t agree. I would guess he’ll wind up back in 2A or 3A.
  • Dioni Soriano — Soriano is a graduate of the Hiroshima Carp Dominican Academy, and bounced around China and Japan’s independent Island League before signing with the mothership in 2009. He has shown more success than anyone else on this list, throwing a shutout against Hanshin near the end of 2010. Soriano has a good arm, but throwing strikes has tended to be an issue for him. At age 29 (on December 30) he’s not a spring chicken by baseball standards, be he likely still has a few decent years in front of him.
  • Wilfreiser Guerrero — Another product of the Carp’s Dominican Academy. Admittedly I know next to nothing about Guerrero, other that than he walked a lot of guys at ni-gun. I’ve included him on this list based on the observation that MLB clubs turned former Academy-sei players Ramon Ramirez and Esmailyn Caridad into Major Leaguers pretty quickly.
  • Wirfin Obispo — I’ve written quite a bit about Obi-chan, calling his very good 2009 season a “small triumph for player development” and lauding Nippon Ham acquiring him from Yomiuri as one of my two favorite trades of last offseason. Obispo made Nippon Ham’s opening day roster in 2011, but was lit up in the first week and banished to ni-gun, where he was unimpressive for the rest of the season. At his best in 2009, he had a 93+ mph fastball and hard slider. Obispo is playing Winter Ball this year in hopes of catching on with an MLB club.

As far as I know, none of these players has signed for 2012 yet.

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My Prediction For Aoki’s Destination

» 12 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 12 Comments

I don’t have much to say here, I just think that Norichika Aoki will wind up with the Rays.

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Darvish to be Posted

» 07 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 21 Comments

If the earlier news about Hiroki Sanada’s failed posting wasn’t exciting enough, we have more.

Yu Darvish is finally getting posted. He’s announced it on his blog, and I’ve translated below.

To all the fans, an announcement

At this time, Yu Darvish has decided to use the posting system.

 

Because I wanted to relay this to the fans first, I am announcing this here.

 

I greatly appreciate the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Baseball Club.

 

Because we’ve only just begun the posting process, I can’t talk about the details now.

 

I wish to hold a press conference once everything is decided.

 

Yu Darvish

It is going to be a very interesting couple of weeks!

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Nakajima Update

» 06 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 14 Comments

Update: And it’s the Yankees. I wonder if he’ll sign with them.

Only a quick update needed here — As expected, Seibu is going to accept the high bid for infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima. This is all over the Japanese media, but I’ll choose the Jiji Press’s brief writeup, which says that Seibu will file the paperwork on the 7th (JST) and the winning team will be made public within the same day.

So we don’t know the winning team or bid amount yet, though the Giants and Brewers have both clarified that they did not bid. So who might the winner be? My first three guesses would the Mets, the A’s, and the Rockies. But I’m not really up on the infield needs of most of MLB, so those really are random guesses.

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Grains of Salt

» 03 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 11 Comments

So unsurprisingly, I’m getting questions this offseason about how guys like Tsuyoshi Wada, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Wei Yin Chen project as MLB prospects. Truth be told, trying project established guys from NPB to MLB always makes me a little nervous. I don’t feel like I’m that great at it, so I decided to go back and look at my public track record, to give you the chance to decide if I’m worth listening to.

Here’s what I found:

  • Koji Uehara — I was bullish on him when he moved across the Pacific; injury history had me questioning whether he could start; he was one of my favorite guys to watch in Japan and I’m glad he’s done well.
  • Kenshin Kawakami — My synopsis was “mid-rotation guy you can win with“. In retrospect that was a little aggressive; he was more like a competent #4 guy before the Braves decided to bury him.
  • Hitoki Iwase — I thought his stuff would translate to MLB, particularly after watching Scott Downs pitch; he obviously never moved to MLB.
  • Junichi Tazawa — I really liked his stuff, but also expected him to hit a wall somewhere. He reached the majors before hitting a wall, which really impressed me.
  • Ken Takahashi — I predicted “a little bit of an uphill battle” for Tak1, but also thought he could be a useful pitcher. He basically was for his year in the Mets organization, though his career ended immediately after returning to Hiroshima.
  • Ken Kadokura — Remember when he signed with the Cubs? I felt like he had something left in the tank, but he wound up getting dropped by the Cubs at the end of spring training and went on to have a few good years in Korea.
  • Hisanori Takahashi — I liked Tak2 a lot better as a reliever than a starter; that one turned out to be true.
  • Ryota Igarashi — I don’t think I made an explicit prediction for Igarashi, but I thought he would do okay. He didn’t seem to trust his stuff in his first year, and though he did better in year two, he went from “effectively wild” in NPB to just “wild” with the Mets.
  • Chang-Yong Lim — Like Igarashi I don’t know that I really made an explicit prediction for him, though I really liked his stuff. I still do. Lim is still with Yakult and not a free agent, and I doubt we’ll ever see him in MLB.
  • Colby Lewis — I found reasons to be optimistic about Lewis in his return to the Rangers, but he certainly has exceeded my expectations.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka — Over at Fangraphs, I called Nishioka a “Chone Figgins/Ryan Theriot type”. What I meant by that was that he could be an infielder who would get on base but have minimal power, and play decent defense. I didn’t see him flaming out in year one the way he did.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma — Also at Fangraphs, I put Iwakuma’s upside at mid-rotation, noting he has to keep his forkball and he will probably regress some in innings pitched. I still mostly think this is the case, assuming he’s healthy. We’ll find out next year.
  • Yoshinori Tateyama — I never published much of anything about Tateyama, though I have an unfinished draft still sitting on Fangraphs, where I intended to make the case that he could be an MLB ROOGY/righty specialist. There was little original thought there, as he was dominant against righties in 2010 for Nippon Ham. In 2011 he exhibited a similar split for the Rangers, with a 2.04 against righties, versus 7.71 against lefties.

I kind of set out to prove that I’m not that great at these predictions, so I was surprised that the results here actually weren’t too bad. I seemed to do all right with Uehara, Tak1 and Tak2, while I probably underestimated Lewis and over-predicted Nishioka. The Nishioka flop makes me worry that I don’t know how to project position players. I think overall though, it’s pretty clear that I tend to see the glass as half-full with these guys as prospects. I also noticed here was that I seem to look at specific skills and how they might translate, rather than trying to project specific stats. Maybe I’m more of a scout than a numbers guy at heart.

That said, there are plenty of things I’ve been wrong about, I just haven’t always had a platform like this to assert my wrongness. If NPB Tracker had been around, however, I would have told you that…

  • …of the two Matsuis, Kazuo was the far better MLB prospect. I was a huge fan of Kazuo’s; I saw him as a five-tool player.
  • Kei Igawa’s changeup was going to be a good MLB pitch.
  • Nagisa Arakaki was Japan’s next great pitcher.
  • So Taguchi wouldn’t have anything to offer to and MLB club.

…and so on.

So you might see me make a few statements on how I think the 2012 NPB imports may perform after they cross the Pacific. I’ll let you decide the appropriate measure of salt to take them with.

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Ask Away, All Questions Answered

» 01 December 2011 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb, NPB Tracker » 35 Comments

Alright, so time constraints prevent me from writing as much as I used to, but the hot stove season remains the busiest time of year for NPB Tracker.

If you’ve got questions about this offseason, fire away, and I’ll do my best to answer ’em. Mileage may vary.

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Yokohama to Post Sanada

» 22 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 2 Comments

Here’s one I didn’t see coming: according to the Jiji Press, Yokohama has agreed to post righthanded reliever Hiroki Sanada. This will be Yokohama’s first usage of the posting system, as previous BayStars alumni Kazuhiro Sasaki and Takashi Saito moved MLB via free agency.

I don’t expect Sanada will be a hot commodity on the posting market this offseason. He’s never been a strikeout machine, but he dipped to just 18 over 49 innings of work in 2011. That may be explained by a drop in velocity. But more importantly, I doubt he drew much scouting attention over the course of the season, as few would have anticipated him being posted. As such, he’s probably headed for a minimal posting fee and a minor league contract.

As a side rant, this is exactly the kind of player the posting system works against. If Sanada were a free agent, he could fly to Arizona and throw a few bullpen seasons for scouts and potentially find a fit for himself. Instead, he’ll have to hope that a team that has already seen him chooses to bid during the four days they are allowed to.

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Game Notes: Nippon Series Games 6 & 7

» 21 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 2 Comments

And so, my 12th season as an NPB fan has come to a close. Here’s how it happened:

Game 6 – Chunichi wins, 2-1:

  • Both starters, Kazuki Yoshimi and Tsuyoshi Wada, look tired. It’s been a long haul for them: like everyone else, they started camp in early February and experienced the delayed start to the season; but both also logged over 180 innings over the course of the year, plus three postseason starts each.
  • The guest commentator for game six? Yu Darvish. He didn’t really say anything interesting, at least not that I noticed.
  • Softbank started a better offensive lineup, with Hiroki Kokubo playing first base and Nobuhiko Matsunaka DHing. In the first two games at Yahoo Dome, Kokubo DHed while Shuhei Fukuda played first, with Matsunaka on the bench.
  • There was a great Softbank Hawks commercial with the Hawks players hitting line drives to each other.
  • Toru Hosokawa’s flyout in the third inning seemed like it would have been a home run with the old ball.
  • Chunichi got all of their offense out of the way in the first inning, courtesy of a two-run Kazuhiro Wada triple. After that, they never mounted much of a threat.
  • Softbank’s bats were equally lifeless, more so than in any game since their listless effort against Wei-Yin Chen in game one.
  • Four of the seven games resulted in a final score of 2-1.
  • I must admit… my notes are a little lacking from this one… so I must again turn to Michael Westbay’s write-up. Plus, he has a YouTube video of that commercial I mentioned.
Game 7 — read until the end:
  • Chunichi started Daisuke Yamai, the righty who pitched eight perfect innings in the decisive game five of the 2007 Nippon Series, only let closer Hitoki Iwase finish it off. Yamai only managed a third of a perfect inning this time, giving up a single to Yuichi Honda with one out in the first.
  • Softbank entrusted game seven to ace Toshiya Sugiuchi. Coincidentally, in September Sugiuchi took a no-hitter through six innings against Orix, but volunteered to leave the mound.
  • Like the game six starters, neither Yamai nor Sugiuchi scared anyone with their fastballs.
  • Critical point number one: bottom of the third. Softbank loaded the bases with Hitoshi Tamara singling, Yuya Hasegawa doubling on what was very nearly a great catch by Chunichi center fielder Yohei Oshima, and Katsuki Yamazaki walking on four straight bunt attempts. Hiromitsu Ochiai immediately went to his bullpen to play the matchup, bringing in lefty Masato Kobayashi to face Munenori Kawasaki and Honda, the Maximo Nelson to face righties Uchikawa and Kokubo. Kobayashi walked in a run, but got Honda, and Nelson induced a couple of lazy flyouts, so the strategy worked out pretty well. Hasegawa could have scored on Uchi’s flyout, but Softbank played it safe. Score: 1-0 Softbank.
  • Critical point number two: bottom of the fourth. Matsunaka drew a walk and Akiyama immediately took the bat out of one of his best hitter’s hands by having Matsuda bunt. After a Tamura line out, Chunichi pitched around Hasegawa for Yamazaki, and he made ’em pay with a sharp single to right, scoring Matsunaka. Then Kawasaki ended the rally with a very good at bat that resulted in a line out to left field. Score: 2-0 Softbank.
  • Ryosuke Hirata had an atrocious stolen base attempt in the fourth, after reaching base on a chopper in Sugiuchi’s direction that took a bad bounce.
  • Critical point number three: top of the seventh. With one out, Tony Blanco bounced a grounder back up the middle for a single. Kazuhiro Wada struck out without much resistance, but Hirata drew a walk to give the Dragons a runner in scoring position for the first time in the game. Then Sugiuchi struck out Atsushi Fujii to end the threat. It would be Chunichi’s last of the year. Score: 2-0 Softbank.
  • Like the rest of the series, Chunichi’s lineup went down without a fight. They scattered four singles (one of which was a swinging bunt) and a couple walks. And the seventh was the only inning when two runners on at the same time, which was the only time they got as far as 2nd base. In general they had bad at bats and didn’t force Softbank’s defense to make tough plays.
  • One of Chunichi’s coaches seemed to be using an iPad or something similar during the game.
  • Cabrera again struck out in a pinch hitting appearance, off Takuya Asao. His only good swing was on a first pitch fastball. He fouled it off, and he knew he missed his pitch.
  • Critical point number four: bottom of the seventh. Cabrera struck out, Kawasaki walked, Honda bunted him over (great play by Asao), and Uchikawa singled him in. I think this was the only time in the series that Akiyama got his desired result with a bunt. Score: 3-0 Softbank.
  • Softbank did threaten again with two outs in the eighth, but nothing came of it.
  • Brian Falkenborg took a line drive off his wrist in the top of the ninth, but was okay. In his place, a relay of Masahiko Morifuku and Tadashi Settsu closed out the win.
  • Softbank owner Masayoshi Son handed what looked like money to the guy standing next to him. Akiyama shed tears, and was tossed seven times in a ceremonial douage.
  • And so it was that the Hawks took game seven 3-0, and thus the Nippon Series, their first Nippon-ichi in eight years and first under Softbank’s ownership.

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Farsa Darvish on Yu’s Status

» 19 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Yu Darvish was in Fukuoka with his manager Hideki Kuriyama on November 19 to provide commentary for game 6 of the Nippon Series. Discussion about the posting system was strictly off limits with Yu, but that didn’t stop Darvish’s father Farsa from commenting. Here’s what Farsa had to say:

“Yu and I are talking about having a family meeting once the Nippon Series is over.”

“At this point it’s about 50-50.”

Farsa did a longer interview a few weeks ago, which is available in English over at YakyuBaka. The Nippon Series wraps up on November 20.

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NPB Bullet Points: Coming & Going

» 08 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 16 Comments

Looks like we’re in for a busy offseason on the posting market. Here’s the latest.
  • Like last year, Seibu shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will again ask his management to send him to MLB via the posting system this offseason. This year, Seibu is expected to grant his wish. Nikkan Sports keeps mentioning the Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Orioles as possibly interested teams, but it’s not clear where that information is coming from.
  • Yakult Swallows centerfielder Norichika Aoki has also petitioned his team to post him, according to Toshiyuki Tachimatsu of the Mainichi News.
  • As of October 26, Chunichi lefty Wei-Yin Chen was 50/50 on moving to MLB, according to the Chunichi Shimbun.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Hiroshima has an offer out to Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda commented: “I’m happy that they would evaluate my contributions like that. Naturally, I’m happy. A feeling that they really want to win came across. (Hiroshima’s competitiveness this season) has come to a frustrating place, to a place where they are one step away… I’m very happy I got an offer from the Carp.”
  • A number of NPB teams have interest in Kei Igawa, among them Rakuten and Orix, who are both managed by men who managed Igawa with the Hanshin Tigers.

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