Tag Archive > Josh Whitesell

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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?).

Continue reading...

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

NPB Bullet Points: Okajima, Pinto, Aoki, Whitesell

» 27 December 2011 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 14 Comments

A couple of hot stove notes for the evening…

  • Sanspo reports that Milwaukee started negotiations with Norichika Aoki in in the backup player range, around $1-1.5m. Additionally, since the Brewers lack a scouting presence in Japan, they intend to work Aoki out at their Arizona facility before making a decision on him.
  • Sports Hochi reports that Hideki Okajima is in the final stages of negotiations with the Yankees on a minor league deal with a non-roster camp invite. Hochi cites a source familiar with situation as saying the two sides could “reach an agreement as soon as around the New Year.”
  • Sponichi reports that Softbank is working on acquiring lefty Reynel Pinto. Pinto would be a rotation candidate for the Hawks, who have said goodbye to starters Toshiya Sugiuchi, Tsuyoshi Wada and DJ Houlton this offseason.
  • Also via Sponichi, The Chiba Lotte Marines have announced that they have signed Josh Whitesell. Whitesell spent the last two seasons with Yakult.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,

Watching Baseball, April 18

» 19 April 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

Last night, thanks to some justin.tv channel surfing I was able to catch bits and pieces of three NPB games, and I’m catching up on Yu Darvish’s start against Orix as I write this. Here are a few things I noticed.

Seibu vs Lotte

  • Crowds were sparse at all the games I watched. Yokohama appeared to draw the best audience for their game against Hiroshima.
  • Takashi Ogino is a threat to steal every time he reaches first with second base open. I’d like to see him dig in and go after third as well.
  • Hideaki Wakui’s fastball velocity was in the 142 kmph range, which is a little bit sub-optimal for him. Lotte seemed to get better looks at him after the first time through the lineup.
  • Yoshihisa Naruse, on the other hand, was pretty much vintage in shutting out the Lions. He only K’d six, but he made few mistake pitches and induced a large quantity of pop up outs.
  • The defensive play of the game was rookie Shogo Akiyama’s jumping catch at the wall, on Saburo’s long fly ball to right field. I had always perceived Saburo as being vulnerable to hard pitches away, but the pitch he hit was a fastball over the outside corner, and he drove it the other way. Maybe Saburo has refined his approach, or maybe Wakui’s velocity wasn’t enough to make that pitch effective.
  • Akiyama’s bat is still way behind his glove. He struck out in his only two at-bats, the first time on three pitches.
  • Tadahito Iguchi has really filled out. He and Tae Kyun Kim have got to be the portliest right side of any infield in Japan.
  • Seibu infielder Hideto Asamura again looked extremely confident at the plate. He wound up going 1-3 with a double.

Chunichi vs Yakult

  • Yahoo had identified Kazuki Yoshimi as Chunichi’s starter, but it was actually Kenichi Nakata that took the hill.
  • Joel Guzman looked absolutely terrible against Masanori Ishikawa, and finished 0-4 with three strikeouts. NPB pitchers, take note —  Guzman should not see anything other than breaking balls out of the zone until he proves he can lay off them.
  • Kazuhiro Hatakeyama has stepped in to Yakult’s lineup with Josh Whitesell temporarily sidelined. He’s responded by going 5-8 with three home runs in the two games he started.
  • Despite his offspeed woes, Wladimir Balentien made contact with a couple of breaking pitches yesterday. Yes, they were groundouts, but there may be hope for him.
  • As noted by Jason Coskrey, it got darker at Jingu Stadium as the game progressed. Jason tweeted that NPB would consider using stadium lights for safety purposes during the night game ban.

 

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: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Foreign Player Hits & Misses: Central League

» 19 November 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

Every year sees a new crop of foreign players in Japan. 2010 was no different, and several newcomers to NPB were smashing successes, while others completely missed the mark this past season. Let’s take a look at some in the Central League:

Hits

Matt Murton, outfielder, Hanshin Tigers.

Easily the foreign-born player of the year (and perhaps the story of the year), Murton’s season was a record setter. A career .286 hitter over five seasons in Major League Baseball, Murton put up a stunning .349/.395/.499 batting line in his rookie season with Hanshin. He set a new Japanese single season hits record with 214, while leading his team with 105 runs scored. He also knocked in 91 runs while helping the Tigers to a second place finish. As an example of Murton’s batting prowess, he had seven games with four or more hits, and only went hitless in 28 (he played in all 144). Murton will undoubtedly be back playing for the Tigers in 2011, perhaps as their everyday right fielder, as they have already picked up his option for next season.

Brett Harper, infielder, Yokohama Bay Stars.

Harper was a pretty good mid-season find for a team that crashed to a 95 loss season.

Harper’s final line over his partial 2010 season read .316/.395/.596. That slugging percentage would have easily led the team if Harper had gotten enough playing time to qualify for leader boards. He hit 19 home runs in only 261 plate appearances. Harper looks like a keeper for 2011.

Josh Whitesell, infielder, Yakult Swallows.

Another mid-season pickup, Whitesell was a pretty good find for Yakult. The 28 year-old left handed hitter poked 15 home runs on his way to a .309/.399/.591 line. While he only saw action in 68 games he provides the Swallows with a pretty good first base option going forward. Like many first basemen he struck out at a high clip (71 times), but hit .359 with runners in scoring position. It looks as if Yakult will invite him back to Japan in 2011, though the sample size for his numbers is limited by his late start.

Giancarlo Alvarado, pitcher, Hiroshima Carp.

Alvarado seemed to be the only foreigner on Hiroshima’s staff whose season wasn’t a disappointment. The Puerto Rican right-hander provided a poor Hiroshima club with an 8-8, 4.07 ERA in 119 1/3 innings. The eight wins were good for second-highest on the team (Kenta Maeda earned 15) and his ERA was a full run lower than fellow newcomer Eric Stults’. Slightly concerning were Alvarado’s 4 wild pitches and team high 5 balks.

Misses

Justin Huber, infielder, Hiroshima Carp.

The Carp didn’t have any foreign hitters with pop in their bat like they have had in previous seasons (Alex Ochoa, Scott McClain, Scott Seabol, and Andy Phillips come to mind). Huber certainly didn’t hit the ball out of the park very often, and didn’t hit it much elsewhere either. In his 80 games Huber batted .220 for a team that didn’t improve their win total very much under new manager Kenjiro Nomura. Huber (like most of the rest of the 2010 Carp foreigners) was a washout.

Casey Fossum, pitcher, Hanshin Tigers.

2010 was not a productive season for the left-handed Fossum. Originally signed to be used as a starter, management changed course with him and tried him out of the bullpen. In 12 games at the ichi-gun level Fossum allowed 36 earned runs over 56 2/3 innings for an unsightly 5.72 ERA and 2-5 record. A demotion to ni-gun helped his numbers, as he posted a 3.10 ERA in 18 games at that level with a single win (1-0). Signed for only one year, the Tigers officially cut ties with Fossum in October.

Dionys Cesar, infielder/outfielder, Chunichi Dragons.

Cesar, a utility infielder who played in the Mexican League prior to coming to Japan, was a disappointment in 2010. Converted to the outfield, the switch-hitter batted a paltry .215 with a single home run (.215/244/.269). He struck out 45 times and walked only 7 times in 194 plate appearances. Chunichi cut ties with the Dominican at the end of the 2010 season.

Tony Barnette, pitcher, Yakult Swallows.

Barnette will not be offered a contract for 2011 after a rather poor 2010 performance. He posted a lackluster 5.99 ERA era at the ichi-gun level over 16 games (79 2/3 IP, 4-5 record). With Yakult’s ni-gun team the results were equally sub-par: 1 win, 3 losses, a 5.03 ERA over 34 innings.

One for debate

Jose Castillo, infielder, Yokohama Bay Stars.

In his first year in Japan, Castillo provided a .273/.309./446 year as Yokohama’s primary second baseman. He led the team with 16 errors and drew only 22 walks, which kept his OBP low. On the plus side, his 19 home runs were good for a third place tie on the team. It appears that despite his power, Yokohama will look for a player to replace Castillo in 2011.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , ,