Tag Archive > Felipe Natel

Brazilians in Japanese Baseball

» 01 July 2011 » In international baseball, npb » 10 Comments

Last week, a tweet asking about Brazilian ballplayers in Japan came my way (and Ken’s). I’ve maintained an interest in Brazil since David Byrne started marketing 1960’s psychodelic innovators Os Mutantes around the turn of the century, so I decided to write a little more about the subject. If nothing else, it gave me a chance to write that last sentence.

I don’t know much about baseball in Brazil, but I know that there are significant reciprocal expatriate communities in Brazil and Japan, and it’s generally known that baseball was brought to Brazil by Japanese immigrants. Although it’s not terribly common, it’s not that unusual to see players with Brazilian heritage active in the amateur ranks in Japan, particularly in high school and college ball. And Yakult has some kind of academy in Brazil, but I have no idea how active it is. That’s about the extent of my knowledge of baseball in Brazil. If anyone can enlighten me further, I’m all ears.

There are currently three Brazilian players active at the pro in Japan, all with Yakult: OF/1B/PH Yuichi Matsumoto, P Rafael Fernandes, and OF Maike Magario. Each took a different path to pro ball. Matsumoto is the elder statesman of the group, with 13 years in the Yakult organization. He’s mostly served as a pinch hitter over the last few years, but is probably the most successful Brazilian professional baseball player to date. Fernandes played college ball at Hakuoh University, where he apparently showed great velocity but little polish. Yakult drafted him as an ikusei player in 2008, and he earned a promotion to the regular roster this season. Through 38 innings at ni-gun, he has a 1.89 ERA, but command is still a problem, as he has allowed 22 walks. Magario was born in Sao Paulo but moved to Japan at age five and came up through the high school ranks, playing at Koshien and eventually getting drafted as an ikusei player. So far at ni-gun this year, Magario has a defensive replacement’s line: 25 games played, seven plate appearances.

Looking to the future, a couple of Brazilian Industrial Leaguers I’m keeping half an eye on as potential NPB draft prospects. The first is pitcher Felipe Natel of Yamaha, who has commented that he would like to go pro after meeting the residence requirements to qualify as a Japanese player, thus avoiding the foreign player limit. My Natel experience is limited to video clips that I’ve sought out, but I’d like to see a little more velocity from him. The other is outfielder Allen Fanhoni of NTT East. Fanhoni first caught my eye a few years ago when I saw him in a prefectural high school game. I probably wouldn’t have remembered him if not for his name. He doesn’t look like much of a prospect at this point, but he’s probably the biggest guy in the Industrial Leagues at 196 cm / 100 kg, only 19 years old, and relatively in experienced at higher levels of competition. If he can refine his approach and turn himself into a real power prospect, he’ll be valuable NPB commodity.

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Draft Prospects: Interesting Names

» 06 June 2010 » In amateur baseball, npb draft » 9 Comments

By a wide margin, the Japanese-language blog I read the most is Draft Report. If you haven’t seen the site before and can read Japanese, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s like an MLBTR-style aggregation site for NPB draft prospects.

Names with katakana in them always catch my eye, and I’ve noticed five so far this year. Not all these guys will be in the draft his year and it’s possible/probable that some won’t be drafted ever, but they come from unique backgrounds, which is what caught my attention.

  • Hugo Kanabushi, LHP, Hakuoh University: Kanabushi is a Japanese-Brazilian who went to Japan for high school, and is now at the same university that produced Yakult farmhand Rafael Fernandez (Hakuoh University has a couple other Brazilian-looking names on its roster as well). According to Draft Reports, Kanabushi hides the ball well and has a fastball that stretches to about 145 kmph, plus a slow curve. Command is listed as an issue for him.
  • Felipe Natel, RHP, Yamaha: Another Brazilian, Natal is a rather diminutive righthander with a delivery that is somewhat reminiscent of El Duque Hernandez’s. Natal will most likely sit out this year’s draft and play another year of shakaijin ball, since next year he will meet the residence requirements to escape the foreign player framework and qualify to as a Japanese player.
  • Fionn Ryuji Boylan, RHP, Kwansei Gakuin: Born and raised in Osaka to a Japanese mother and Irish father, Boylan is a pitcher who idolizes Kyuji Fujikawa. He spent his junior high school years in Ireland playing rugby, so he has a bit of a different pedigree than other pitchers his age. Draft Report says that we should see his velocity increase as he adds strength.
  • Jose Gonzalez, RHP Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Yokohama: Gonzalez is a 30 year-old alumni of the Hiroshima Carp’s Dominican Academy, and is in his third year of industrial league ball and residence in Japan. Similarly to Natal, Gonzalez is two years away from being able to enter the draft without the foreign player constraints. If he does enter the NPB draft, it’ll be the first case (that I can think of) of a former Carp Academy player to do so. I don’t think it’s often we see a former Academy player in the Industrial Leagues either, though Dioni Soriano and Wilfreiser Guerrero are recent examples of Academy players who reached NPB through Japan’s independent leagues. Gonzalez is a big guy (188cm) with a big fastball (maxing out at 153 kmph), so at least superficially he seems like a prospect despite his age.
  • Justin Nakano RHP, Koujou high school (Kanagawa): For Nakano I’ll borrow this from the excellent Goro Shigeno Koukou Yakyu site: “Yes, this is another case where a person has an American father although unlike Minami at Urawa Gakuin, Justin doesn’t appear to have the stature bonus. He can touch 140 with his fastball and compliments it with a sharp slider as well as a curve.”

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