Tag Archive > Chang Yong Lim

Re-run: Player Profile: Chang Yong Lim

» 12 December 2012 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

This post originally ran in 2009, when it appeared that Chang Yong Lim might move to MLB as a free agent. At the time this post was published, Lim was under contract with the Yakult Swallows until the end of 2010. After 2010, he re-signed with Yakult for two years covering 2011 and 2012, and an option year for 2013. He was injured early last season, and Yakult declined their option on him. Today he agreed to a deal with the Cubs. His velocity charts are available at NPB Tracker Data.


A pair of Asian-born NPB pitchers are getting some attention from MLB teams. Today I’ll take a look at South Korean relief ace Chang Yong Lim.

Lim is best known among international fans for giving up the eventual game-winning hit to Ichiro in this year’s WBC Final. By day, however, Lim is the closer for the Yakult Swallows, and he’s been lights-out this year. Through 29.2 innings, he has yet to allow an earned run for the surprising Swallows, who at 36-22 are 2nd in the Central League.

Lim is a fastball/sinker/slider pitcher who relies on a rather unsual combination of velocity and a side-arm delivery. He pitches off his fastball, which usually sits in the 90-93mph range, but will reach 96/97mph. There were reports earlier in the year that he hit the magical 160kmph (100mph) mark on the gun, but I don’t buy it. Other reports put that pitch at 155kmph (97mph), which is more believable and still very good. You can get a sense of his mechanics from these clips of his 17th and 18th saves from this season, or this clip of him striking out a couple of Chunichi Dragons last year.

What prompted me to write about Lim now was the recent revelation that he’s looking for a US-based agent, first published in Japanese tabloid Nikkan Gendai and repeated in the Japanese edition of the JoongAng Ilbo, where I found it. However, the soonest we’re likely to see him Stateside is 2011, as Yakult holds an option on his services for next year, which they’ve reportedly already decided to excercise. While it’s unclear how much the option year is worth, he’s been an absolute bargain for the Swallows so far. He earned just $300k last year, and is making $500k this season. By comparison, bullpenmate Ryota Igarashi is making about $840k this season.

Lim’s interest in playing internationally dates back to 2002. According ot his Japanese Wikipedia entry, his KBO club Samsung posted in him to MLB in 2002, but ultimately didn’t get a bid they were happy with. Lim again attempted a move abroad in 2004, negotiating with Rakuten in Japan and, reportedly, several MLB clubs before resigning with Samsung.

Next time I’ll take a look at Chunichi lefty Wei Yin Chen.

Continue reading...

Tags:

Changes for 2012: Yakult Swallows

» 11 February 2012 » In npb » 1 Comment

Coming: Lastings Milledge, Orlando Roman, Kenta Abe, Tatsuo Kinoshita, Itsuki Shoda

Going: Norichika Aoki, Aaron Guiel, Hirotoshi Ishii, Osamu Hamanaka, Ryo Kawashima, Josh Whitesell

Staying: Wladimir Balentien, Tony Barnette, Chang Yong Lim

First a admission: whatever I write here won’t be as good as what you’ll find at TokyoSwallows.com. That site’s entirely in English, so click the link without fear. It was tempting to not write this at all and just stop with that link, but onward I shall press.

Yakult’s offseason boils down to this: Norichika Aoki out, Lastings Milledge in.

In fulfilling Norichika Aoki’s long held wish and sending him to MLB via the posting system, Yakult waved good by to one of the statistically best hitters in team history, but a guy who’s OPS fell from .944 to .718 with the introduction of the new ball. Milledge might not take over center, but he’ll step in to an outfield spot left open by Aoki and should bring a bit more power, a bit less contact, and a bit less defensive prowess.

And that’s pretty much it for offseason moves for Yakult. I thought they could have used another starter, but there weren’t too many on the market. Orlando Roman provides some interesting pitching depth, but he’ll have to beat out Tony Barnette for roster time, as foreigners Milledge, Wladimir Balentien and Chang Yong Lim have secure roster spots. Perhaps that other starter is already on the roster, in the from of improvement from sophomore Yuki Shichijyo, a return to health from Yoshinori, or a return to form from Kyohei Muranaka.

Will the Swallows compete in 2012? They finished second in 2011, but it seemed like they got there by getting off to a hot start, and then playing enough games to hang around for the rest of the year. Instinctively an Aoki-less 2012 Yakult feels similar to Hiroshima, though with more power. Like the Carp, Yakult has front-rotation strength (Yakult has Shohei Tateyama and Masanori Ishikawa), a strong foreign closer (Lim), and some mid-rotation and middle relief question marks. Only the presence of Yakult’s power bats of Balentien, Kazuhiro Hatakeyma and probably Milledge seem to differentiate. So, yeah, it’s a cop-out, but this feels like a middle-of-the-pack roster that could compete with regression from the rest of the league or break-out performances, or could suffer from the inverse.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Offseason Changes: Yakult Swallows

» 25 January 2011 » In npb » 8 Comments

Coming: Wladimir Balentien, Osamu Hamanaka, Ryuji Miyade

Going: Jamie D’Antona, Jun Hagiwara, Hei-Chun Lee, Eulogio De La Cruz, Yuki Tanaka

Staying: Tony Barnette, Aaron Guiel, Josh Whitesell, Chang-Yong Lim

Summary: While many teams spent the winter making splashy signings, the Swallows chose to remain a bit under the radar. Unless you consider Wladimir Balentien a big-name international talent, Yakult was dormant in the foreign player market this offseason. The biggest headlines were reserved for Chang-Yong Lim‘s contract size and learning the fate of Jamie D’Antona.

After a rough season, D’Antona was jettisoned and signed a minor league contract with MLB’s Florida Marlins. The team also decided they didn’t have much use for a second season of Eulogio De La Cruz. The Swallows further determined that 37-year old Hagiwara’s best days are behind him. They did retain starter Tony Barnette, a player who showed some flashes of decency but I felt was an overall flop. I know some writers have a higher opinion of him, but I look at his 5.99 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in 2010 with skepticism going forward.

I am a fan of closer Lim’s and I expect Aaron Guiel to perform better in 2011, though maybe not to his 2009 level. Age (38) and health have to be factored in when calculating his expectations.  With respect to their only major addition, Balentien, I am a bit torn. I’m not sure if this guy is going to be Tuffy Rhodes or a Curaçaoan Rob Deer. He could come to NPB and crush the pitching, but his history to this point shows that he tends to be a strikeout machine. We’ll see how he hits, though I know he features a strong outfield arm. Ryuji Miyade returns to Meiji Jingu after a two year absence, though I don’t expect he nor Osamu Hamanaka will have a major impact on the team’s fortunes.

Last year’s mid-season managerial change and second-half surge is history. What remains to be seen is if the Swallows can avoid another slow start and vault themselves into A Class this year. While I believe the team, which finished 72-68-4 (.514) last year, will be competitive throughout 2011, I’m not sure they’re yet in a position to overtake Chunichi, Hanshin, or Yomiuri. Despite having what should be a good, young team with one of Japan’s best players roaming their outfield, I think they’ll fall short of the playoffs.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lim Stays With Yakult

» 28 November 2010 » In npb » 1 Comment

After an on-again-off-again sort of negotiation, Chang Yong Lim has agreed to a deal that will keep him in the Yoyogi area of Tokyo. The headlines are calling it a three-year, 1.42 bn yen deal, but read a little more carefully and you’ll see that it’s really a two-year, 750m yen deal, with a mutual option for year three.

Yakult is reportedly now going after pitcher Young-Soo Bae, of the KBO’s Samsung Lions.

I thought Yakult might be a possible landing spot for Marc Kroon, but that’s a lot less likely with Lim returning. At this point, Rakuten seems like his best shot at a closing job in 2011.

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

Lim Close to Yakult Return

» 12 November 2010 » In npb » 2 Comments

Sports Hochi had reported that Yakult closer Chang-Yong Lim is close to a deal to return to the Yoyogi area of Tokyo. Here’s what his agent had to say: “We’ve arrived at an agreement (on terms). It’s not 100% but we’re 90% there. They’ve rated these last three years very highly.” It’s said to be a three year deal worth a total of 1.2 bn yen (about $15m at the current exchange rate), so Lim will join Kyuji Fujikawa and Hitoki Iwase among Japan’s most highly paid pitchers. This also means that Lim will be off the market, so Yomiuri will need to find a different replacement for Marc Kroon.

Continue reading...

Tags:

A Look Ahead at This Year’s FA Class

» 12 August 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

Only the most eagle-eyed readers will notice this, but I just updated the navigation bar, retiring last year’s free agents page, and replacing it with (surprise) an updated page for this season.

This year I’m going to start with a small list of players, and build it up over time. Here’s what I have so far:

International Free Agents

Hiro Kobayashi (RHP, Chiba Lotte Marines, Data): Kobayashi had a lengthy career as an underrated starter before moving to the bullpen in 2010, where he has been very effective. Kobayashi doesn’t have a power arm, but attacks the strike zone.

Chang Yong Lim (RHP, Yakult Swallows, Data): Certainly the top arm available in the international pool, the 34 year-old reliever had flirtations with MLB prior to moving to Japan. It would be interesting to see how his unusual combination of a low arm angle and velocity play at the MLB level.

Brian Falkenborg (LHP, SoftBank Hawks, Data): Falkenborg has dramatically improved his control in Japan (61:7 K:BB in 2010 as of August 12; 61:9 in 2009), and shown good velocity. SoftBank will want to bring him back, but he’ll be a candidate for MLB teams need righty bullpen depth.

Synopsis: the year of the righthanded reliever.

Domestic Free Agents

Seiichi Uchikawa (IF/OF, Yokohama BayStars): The best bat on the domestic market, Uchikawa downplayed his free agency when he qualified, saying he’d need time to think about it. If he decides he wants to play elsewhere in Japan, he’ll have the usual suitors (Hanshin, Yomiuri).

Tsuyoshi Wada (LHP, SoftBank Hawks, Data): Wada has qualified for free agency, but has already commented that “there’s absolutely no reason to exercise”. We’ll see what happens when he qualifies to move to MLB.

Munenori Kawasaki (IF, SoftBank Hawks): Kawasaki is eligible for NPB free agency after the season, but according to Sponichi, wants to hold out for a chance at MLB after next season.

Hisasahi Iwakuma (RHP, Rakuten Golden Eagles, Data): Iwakuma has qualified for domestic free agency, but is already under contract for 2011. He’s one to watch next year.

Synopsis: wait ’til next year.

Posting Candidates

Wei-Yin Chen (LHP, Chunichi Dragons, Data): Chen is an interesting case – he’s registered as a foreign player, but doesn’t have contract language allowing him to become a free agent if he chooses, as the MLB veterans that play in Japan typically do. As such, he subject to the posting system as his only means to move to MLB prior to hitting free agency. He was outspoken about wanting to be posted after last season, and hired Alan Nero to represent him, so I expect him to ask again this offseason. He’s 25, lefthanded, and has an electric arm, so I would expect him to command a healthy transfer fee.

Kyuji Fujikawa (RHP, Hanshin Tigers, Data): Japan’s best strikeout reliever has talked for years about being posted; Hanshin has insisted that Kei Igawa was an exception and that Fujikawa won’t be posted. I profiled Fujikawa way back in June 2008.

Yu Darvish (RHP, Nippon Ham, Data): The rumblings that Darvish wants to be posted have picked up this year, but then again every year there are rumors of an imminent posting and it hasn’t happened yet. I’d say there’s maybe a 1% chance that Darvish gets posted this year. He’s still about four years away from full, international free agency.

Synopsis: I think we see Chen posted, at the most.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

2009 Foreign Player Rundown

» 11 November 2009 » In npb » 7 Comments

By my count, there were 78 foreign players (including ikusei players) under contract to NPB teams in 2009. Some of them will be back for 2010, others will not. So far, I’ve counted 18 players that will remain with their teams for next year, 36 that are leaving, and 24 that we’re still waiting to hear on.

Despite my best efforts, there is a reasonable probability that I left someone out or have an out-of-date detail. If you spot something of that nature, please leave a comment. On with the show…

Yomiuri

  • Staying: Dicky Gonzales, Wirfin Obispo, Levi Romero, Alex Ramirez, Seung-Yeop Lee, Marc Kroon
  • Gone: Adrian Burnside, Edgardo Alfonzo
  • Unknown: Seth Greisinger, Yi-Hao Lin, Yi-Fan Lee

Ramirez no longer counts against the foreign player limit, which gives the Giants a little extra flexibility. He’s already re-signed on a two-year deal. You have to figure that Obispo and Gonzales will be back, which would only leave two ichi-gun rosters spots available. I would guess that Kroon is more likely to return than Greisinger, and Lee is on his way out. Kroon will have his option picked up, while Lee’s contract doesn’t expire until next season. Greisinger didn’t appear in the Japan Series and it’s possible that he won’t be back. The Giants don’t need much this off season, though we’ll probably see them go after some depth guys.

Chunichi

  • Staying: Wei-Yin Chen, Tony Blanco, Nelson Payano, Maximo Nelson
  • Gone: Tomas de la Rosa, Byung-Gyu Lee
  • Unknown:

Chunichi got outstanding production out Chen and Blanco, and Blanco has already received a new two-year deal. Lee will likely head back to Korea, while de la Rosa will remain with the team in a scouting/advisory capacitiy. Chunichi has been scouting the Dominican and will probably sign some interesting Latin American prospects this winter.

Yakult

  • Staying: Chang Yong Lim
  • Gone: Ricky Barrett
  • Unknown: Hei Chun Lee, Jaime D’Antona, Aaron Guiel

Hanshin

  • Staying: Kai-Wang Cheng
  • Gone: Scott Atchison, Jeff Williams, Kevin Mench, Chris Resop, Aarom Baldiris
  • Unknown: Craig Brazell

Out of this group, only Brazell really contributed anything, and he wants to come back. Hanshin’s search for pitching has already been well-documented, with the Tigers looking to import a starter and two relievers. Hanshin may also try to bring a power-hitting rightfielder to Kansai as well, even if Brazell sticks around.

Hiroshima

  • Staying: Dioni Soriano
  • Gone: Scott Dohmann, Ben Kozlowski, Scott Seabol
  • Unknown: Scott McClain, Colby Lewis, Mike Schultz, Andy Phillips

Hiroshima would like to keep Lewis and Schultz around, but may not be able to, and if the Carp don’t keep Phillips they will have to find a bat to replace him. Hiroshima desperately needs lefthanded pitching, as well. I’m assuming Soriano, who is an ikusei player from the Carp’s Dominican Academy, will get a full year to prove himself.

Yokohama

  • Staying: Stephen Randolph
  • Gone: Tom Mastny, Les Walrond, Dan Johnson, Ryan Glynn
  • Unknown: Wei Chen, Jin Chao Wang

Yokohama is again going to need pitching help, though Randolph’s late-season performance was encouraging. The ‘Stars wave goodbye the rest of this group, though Johnson actually had a decent year aside from a poor batting average, and Walrond looked like he had good enough stuff to last in Japan to me.

Nippon Ham

  • Staying:
  • Gone: Ryan Wing, Luis Jimenez, Jason Botts, Brian Sweeney, Termel Sledge
  • Unknown:

This year’s Pacific League champion didn’t get much production from its foreign lineup outside of Sledge, so it’s no surprise to see this group go. Nippon Ham apparently wanted to keep Sledge, but were too far apart in negotations. They’ll have to find a way to replace his bat in the lineup, and I would expect them to look for pitching depth as well.

Rakuten

  • Staying:
  • Gone: Matt Childers
  • Unknown: Darrell Rasner, Marcus Gwyn, Fernando Seguignol, Todd Linden, Rick Short, On-Yu Lin

Rasner is already under contract for next year, so he’ll be on the payroll but possibly not the roster. Childers is gone after just three appearances with Rakuten’s top team. The rest of the foreign staff had performance issues — Gwyn’s era was pedestrian, Shorts average fell off after years of solid performance, Seguignol looked more like the Orix Seguignol than the Nippon Ham Seguignol, and Linden struck out about one out of every three times to the plate(!). So I could see new manager Marty Brown turning over this whole group. Rakuten could use bullpen help and a big bat to play an infield or outfield corner.

SoftBank

  • Staying: Jose Ortiz, DJ Houlton, Brian Falkenborg, Justin Germano
  • Gone: Kameron Loe, Chris Aguila
  • Unknown: Andrew Touisant

SoftBank got strong contributions from Ortiz, Houlton and Falkenborg, and can reasonably expect more of the same next season. Sadaharu Oh is said to be looking for one more power hitter, to complement Ortiz and supplant aging sluggers Hiroki Kokubo and Nobuhiko Matsunaka. I would expect them to grab a couple of ptichers for depth as well.

Seibu

  • Staying: Min-Che Hsu
  • Gone: Jonah Bayliss, John Wasdin, Hiram Bocachica
  • Unknown: Alex Graman

I’m just taking for granted that Hsu will hang around. He should be shedding his foreign player status one of these years anyway. Graman is probably gone, though he was lights-out in the bullpen when healthy, and I could see him getting another shot. Bayliss was okay for Seibu, so I was a little surprised to see him let go. Seibu will be looking for bullpen help and perhaps a first baseman this offseason. Pete LaForest had been in Seibu’s autumn camp but went home with an injury.

Chiba Lotte

  • Staying
  • Gone: Benny Agbayani, Chase Lambin, Gary Burnham
  • Unknown: Brian Sikorski, Juan Muniz

Agbayani departs after six years in Japan, and I would guess that he’ll retire to a life of scouting. I’ve read that Lotte might offer Sikorski a big pay cut, and thus risk losing him. I don’t expect Lambin or Burnham to be back, though I haven’t seen anything official. Lambin and Burnham won’t be back. Lotte will need a corner infield and outfield bats, and a pitcher or two to round things out.

Orix

  • Staying: Tuffy Rhodes
  • Gone:
  • Unknown: Jon Leicester, Alex Cabrera, Jose Fernandez, Greg LaRocca, Ryan Vogelsong

Rhodes and Cabrera both qualify as native players, so Orix could potentially carry up to six ‘foreign’ players on its active roster. Rhodes will be back, and the Buffaloes are supposedly adding a coaching title to his resume. I think Cabrera will make it back as well. There was speculation on Fernandez when he got hurt was that Orix probably wouldn’t bring him back, but that remains to be seen. I’m guessing Leicester and Vogelsong will be out as well. SoftBank has indicated an interest in LaRocca should he not get another year with Orix.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Player Profile: Chang Yong Lim

» 26 June 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

A pair of Asian-born NPB pitchers are getting some attention from MLB teams. Today I’ll take a look at South Korean relief ace Chang Yong Lim.

Lim is best known among international fans for giving up the eventual game-winning hit to Ichiro in this year’s WBC Final. By day, however, Lim is the closer for the Yakult Swallows, and he’s been lights-out this year. Through 29.2 innings, he has yet to allow an earned run for the surprising Swallows, who at 36-22 are 2nd in the Central League.

Lim is a fastball/sinker/slider pitcher who relies on a rather unsual combination of velocity and a side-arm delivery. He pitches off his fastball, which usually sits in the 90-93mph range, but will reach 96/97mph. There were reports earlier in the year that he hit the magical 160kmph (100mph) mark on the gun, but I don’t buy it. Other reports put that pitch at 155kmph (97mph), which is more believable and still very good. You can get a sense of his mechanics from these clips of his 17th and 18th saves from this season, or this clip of him striking out a couple of Chunichi Dragons last year.

What prompted me to write about Lim now was the recent revelation that he’s looking for a US-based agent, first published in Japanese tabloid Nikkan Gendai and repeated in the Japanese edition of the JoongAng Ilbo, where I found it. However, the soonest we’re likely to see him Stateside is 2011, as Yakult holds an option on his services for next year, which they’ve reportedly already decided to excercise. While it’s unclear how much the option year is worth, he’s been an absolute bargain for the Swallows so far. He earned just $300k last year, and is making $500k this season. By comparison, bullpenmate Ryota Igarashi is making about $840k this season.

Lim’s interest in playing internationally dates back to 2002. According ot his Japanese Wikipedia entry, his KBO club Samsung posted in him to MLB in 2002, but ultimately didn’t get a bid they were happy with. Lim again attempted a move abroad in 2004, negotiating with Rakuten in Japan and, reportedly, several MLB clubs before resigning with Samsung.

Next time I’ll take a look at Chunichi lefty Wei Yin Chen.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,

Player Profile: Ryota Igarashi

» 29 May 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb » 7 Comments

Note: corrected walks total.

Last winter, Yakult Swallows fireballer Ryota Igarashi declined to file for domestic free agency, instead re-signing for 2009 with the subsequent goal of moving to the majors. Igarashi is a righthanded reliever who has spent his entire career with the Yakult Swallows, and just turned 30 on May 28. If I had to pick the top free agent coming out of Japan after this season today, Igarashi would be my choice.

Stuff, Results & Mechanics
Igarashi is known one of the hardest throwers in Japan, and jointly holds the record for fastest pitch* by a Japanese pitcher in an NPB game with a 158 kmph (98.75mph) fastball. Igarashi hit 158 kmph in 2004, when the average speed of his pitches over the course of the season was 154.5 kmph (96.6mph), which is an NPB record he has to himself.

Although he doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but still runs his heater into the upper 90’s, and augments it with a hard splitter that he throws at around 90mph. He’s also got a slider and a curve that he’ll mix in occasionally, but is primarily a fastball/splitter pitcher.

Igarashi’s weakness has been his control. Over the course of his career through 2008, he’s allowed 221 walks and thrown 42 wild pitches over 517.1 innings. I suspect the number of walks would be higher if hitters could lay off the high fastball a little more. On the plus side, he’s balanced things out strking out 586 guys. Igarashi showed a significant improvement in his walk rate after returning from injury (see below) last season, allowing just six walks in 42.1 innings.  This year he’s come back to earth and allowed seven walks in 19.1 innings so far, which is more in line with his career norms.

When pitching out of the windup, Igarashi has a hitch at the beginning of his delivery, a la Daisuke Matsuzaka, but otherwise has a pretty orthodox approach. This YouTube clip from late April 2009 gives a good look at his mechanics. Here’s another clip of him striking out a Yokohama BayStars side in 2008.

*trivia question: who is he tied with?

Injury History
Igarashi had the worst year of his career in 2006, and bounced between the top club and the farm team during the second half of the season. After the season, it was discovered that he had a ruptured UCL in his throwing arm, and he went in for Tommy John surgery. He spent all of 2007 rehabbing, and didn’t return to game action for good until around July 2008. He has regained his velocity post-injury and has had a normal work load since last summer.

Role
Igarashi has been mostly a middle reliever in his career thus far, setting up for Shingo Takatsu
 early in his career and more recently for Chang-Yong Lim. He did spend 2004 as Yakult’s closer after Takatsu left, and recorded 37 saves. He’s a set-up man again this year.

Future
Igarashi spoke last season of making a “Shinjyo-class” move to MLB, which I took to mean he’d be willing to take less money to try his hand at MLB. Recall that Tsuyoshi Shinjyo
, as he spelled it back then, turned down about $12m from Hanshin to take a minimum-pay deal with the Mets. I don’t think Igarashi will have to take that kind of a cut, because he’s making about $840k this year and I think he’d be able to get at least that much from an MLB team. His best offers may still come from Japan though, as he could probably command an NPB closer’s salary.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , ,