Tag Archive > Juan Morillo

Post-Quake Roster Changes

» 14 April 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

A couple of roster changes have taken place in the wake of last month’s earthquake. Here they are.

  • Brian Bannister left Japan in the wake of the earthquake, but hasn’t returned and has subsequently been placed on the restricted list by Yomiuri. Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times┬áhas the details. Bannister had been competing with a number of foreign pitchers for a roster spot, and I don’t expect him to be replaced immediately, if at all.
  • Rakuten has granted Juan Morillo his release, which he reportedly requested due to shock of the earthquake. Rakuten picked up Romulo Sanchez from the Yankees a couple weeks ago, so I guess they saw this coming.
  • I posted last weekend that Yokohama lefty Brent Leach has so far elected not to return to Japan, and has been placed on the restricted list. To take his place, the BayStars are going to bring Stephen Randolph in for a workout in the next couple days.

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Offseason Changes: Rakuten Golden Eagles

» 04 February 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Akinori Iwamura, Kazuo Matsui, Shinjya Okamoto, Kelvin Jimenez, Byung-Hyun Kim, manager Senichi Hoshino

Going: Kazuo Fukumori, Norihiro Nakamura, Makoto Kosaka, Ryuji Miyade, Todd Linden, Andy Phillips, Naoto Watanabe, Keiichi Yabu, manager Marty Brown

Staying: Hisashi Iwakuma, Darrell Rasner, Randy Ruiz, Juan Morillo

Summary: ´╗┐Rakuten’s 2011 offseason was headlined by two big events: the unsuccessful posting of ace Hisashi Iwakuma, and the hiring of accomplished manager Senichi Hoshino. Hoshino inherits a team that finished sixth last year, and is facing with losing its ace again.

I shared a few observations about the Iwakuma posting, and why in retrospect it was destined to fail, over at FanGraphs last month, so I won’t rehash that. From an on-the-field perspective, the Eagles are certainly more competitive with him than without him. He and heir apparent Masahiro Tanaka will lead a rotation that goes four deep; five if Kelvin Jimenez’s KBO success translates to Japan. Coincidentally, Rakuten’s two notable bullpen acquisitions came via Korea last year: Shinya Okamoto spent last season with the LG Twins, and the other is Byung-Hyun Kim. Those two along with the returning Juan Morillo give Hoshino a couple more relief options, which will help as Rakuten’s bullpen wasn’t particularly strong in 2010. But overall pitching was not really Rakuten’s problem last season. The Eagles allowed 635 runs and a 3.98 ERA, which was right in line with the all the Pacific League teams that don’t have Yu Darvish.

Rakuten’s problem in 2010 was an anemic offense. Only Nippon Ham hit fewer home runs than Rakuten’s 95, but the Fighters’ contact-hitting lineup still scored 36 more runs than the Eagles. Rakuten finished last or next to last in the Pacific League in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, steals, and intentional walks. This poor performance can mostly be attributed to four players: imports Todd Linden and Andy Phillips didn’t show up last year, and veteran sluggers Norihiro Nakamura and Takeshi Yamasaki experienced declines. Linden, Phillips and Nakamura are all gone this year, replaced in the lineup by a full season of Randy Ruiz and NPB returnees Akinori Iwamura and Kazuo Matsui. That group should outperform the guys who left, though Kazuo is a bit of a question mark for me. Yamasaki is getting old, but his 28 home runs and .749 OPS in 2010 were a respectable contribution. After that, the Eagles have perhaps Japan’s unheralded offensive star, Teppei, who despite his talent only gets a passing mention in this article. So the offense should be better, but even in the best case scenario it’s hard to see it being more than middle of the road in the Pacific League.

The last factor to discuss is the addition of Hoshino as manager. I see a few parallels with the last team he took over, the 2002 Hanshin Tigers. Hoshino is again inheriting a team coming off a last-place finish, succeeding Katsuya Nomura (though Nomura passed the Rakuten baton to Marty Brown for a season), with some some added veteran talent*. Hoshino got his Tigers off to a fast start in 2002, and though the team cooled off and eventually finished fourth, the improvement was real. The Tigers won the Central League handily in 2003 and have basically been competitive ever since. Hoshino will have less to work with in Sendai, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his tenure with Rakuten take a similar path. He’ll be eager to exorcise any remaining demons from his stint managing Japan’s 2008 Olympic entry, a performance so disappointing it inspired a fan to set up a site protesting his involvement in the 2009 WBC. Rakuten definitely has the talent to compete for wins in 2011, though they probably won’t be in the mix for the Pacific League title. If they can take a step forward this season and build from there, Hoshino has a shot at wrapping up his distinguished managerial career on a high note.

*The 2002 Tigers brought in Atsushi Kataoka and George Arias. Tomoaki Kanemoto and Hideki Irabu joined in 2003.

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NPB Bullet Points: The Season Thus Far

» 11 April 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 10 Comments

News and notes on the season so far

…In Japanese:

  • Juan Morillo has been demoted to ni-gun. Unfortunately, his lack of command has translated to NPB. His velocity has been as advertised though.
  • On the flipside, Matt Murton is off to a hot start in Japan, having reached base safely in all 13 games so far this season. His slash line is a robust .407/.484/.556.
  • Takayuki Kishi took a no-hitter into the 7th against Orix on the 6th, and finished with a one-hit shutout. Bonus points to those of you who can recall Japan’s last no-hitter.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada set a new career best with 15 strikeouts against Lotte on April 8.
  • The Hanshin Tigers picked up lefty Yusuke Kawasaki for cash from the Chiba Lotte Marines. The last trade that Hanshin made with Lotte worked out pretty well for the Tigers, netting them Yasuyuki Kubo.
  • The Japanese baseball media has an uncanny ability find and point out obscure streaks. Examples? Last week, Nippon Ham’s Kensuke Tanaka’s streak at-bats without hitting into a double play ended at 862. On the 11th, Hiroshima’s Tomonori Maeda went yard for the first time in 686 days.
  • In a rather forward-thinking move, Nippon Ham is limiting Yu Darvish’s pitch counts to 120 per start. Darvish surpassed 140 pitches in two of his first three starts, and Ham is concerned about keeping him healthy for the whole season.
  • Belated congratulations to Shingo Takatsu, who has now saved games in Japan, the US, Korea and Taiwan. I hope he plays Winter League ball somewhere this year.

…and in English:

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New Foreign Players to Watch

» 11 March 2010 » In npb » 7 Comments

I’m suffering from something of writer’s block, so here we go with another list. This we’ll look at new foreign players on my watch list for the upcoming season.

  • Dionys Cesar (IF, Chunichi Dragons): Cesar tore up the Mexican League last year, and the Dragons seem to know what they are doing when it comes to Dominican players (nod to Domingo Martinez). So will lightning strike again? Cesar has put in 16 minor league seasons and spent some time in Taiwan, so it’s nice to see a guy like this get a chance to earn a solid paycheck in Japan.
  • Giancarlo Alvarado (P, Hiroshima Carp): The Carp also have a solid track record with foreign players (props for Erik Schullstrom), and like Cesar, Alvarado is a veteran who has bounced around the minors and independent leagues.
  • Matt Murton (OF, Hanshin Tigers): Murton was on my list, so that makes him an easy pick. He also has the unenviable task of taking over center field from retired star Norihiro Akahoshi, as well as following in failed American Tigers outfielders Shane Spencer, Lew Ford and Kevin Mench.
  • Lee Beom-Ho (IF, SoftBank Hawks) and Kim Tae-Gyun (IF, Chiba Lotte Marines): Honestly I’m not sure what to expect from these guys, as I haven’t seen much Korean baseball aside from the WBC and Asia Series, so that’s a reason look forward to seeing Lee and Kim this season. Kim is certain to get at-bats with the Marines, while Lee will have take turns in SoftBank’s 1B/3B/DH rotation with Jose Ortiz, Hiroki Kokubo and Nobuhiko Matsunaka. Lee had been adamant about wanting to stick at 3rd though. It’s too bad that Kim Dong-Ju didn’t make it to NPB for this season, as he had been trying for years.
  • Chris Bootcheck (P, Yokohama BayStars), Eugolio de la Cruz (P, Yakult Swallows), Juan Morillo (P, Rakuten Golden Eagles): All of these guys have the same profile: good velocity, bad control. But who will be this year’s Marc Kroon, and who will be this year’s Chris Resop?

And with that I’ll turn the floor over to the readers. Who are you looking forward to seeing?

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Hanshin in Pursuit of Morillo

» 10 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

We’ve posted extensively on Hanshin’s offseason pitching shopping list, and now several reports out of Japan suggest that the first guy Hanshin is after is right hander Juan Morillo, who played with the Minnesota Twins organization last season.

Morillo was a member of the All-Star Futures Game in 2005, but has struggled recently with a back injury and designated for assignment by the Twins on April 29th. Should he join Hanshin, Morillo projects as one of the main set-up guys for the Tigers.

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Johjima Scouts for Tigers

» 06 November 2009 » In npb » 6 Comments

Update: Looks like this caught at least one of the players mentioned by surprise. Keep in mind, the story is about a list of guys the Tigers are looking at and not necessarily in active negotiations with.

One of the fringe benefits Hanshin trying to get out of bringing in Kenji Johima is some additional scouting intelligence on pitchers in MLB organizations. Aside from Jeff Williams, Hanshin’s only sustained import success over the last several years has been righty Scott Atchison, who is leaving the team this offseason. After Atchison, Jerrod Riggan was good while he lasted and Darwin Cubillan had his moments, but that’s pretty much where it ends.

Sports Hochi Osaka has a list of candidates Hanshin is looking at, compiled presumably with Joh’s input:

  • Ryan Rowland-Smith
  • Chris Jakubauskas
  • Bobby Keppel
  • DJ Carrasco

I can’t believe that the Mariners would move Rowland-Smith, but Hanshin has the right idea with him. Carrasco spent a year in Japan with SoftBank and didn’t have a favorable experience, so I’d be surprised if he came back. Jakubauskas and Keppel sound about right.

Sanspo adds a few more names to the list, most of which we’ve seen before:

  • Brad Thomas
  • Juan Morillo
  • Jo Jo Reyes
  • Wil Ledezma
  • Charlie Haeger

The only new name on this list is Haeger, who is an interesting candidate. We don’t see a lot of knuckleballers in NPB.

In related news, Hanshin has announced that they are cutting ties with Jeff Williams, Scott Atchison, Kevin Mench and Aarom Baldiris, while moving to retain Craig Brazell and Kai-Wen Cheng. None of this is really news either, except that Williams has come out and said that he wants to return to the team after rehabbing for the next year. He’ll be about 40 if he can return in 2011, but here’s hoping he can come back and end his career properly.

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Hanshin to Import Pitchers

» 03 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Sanspo is reporting on Hanshin’s import pitching shopping list, and is naming names. Tigers manager Akinobu Mayumi says that Hanshin is after two middle relievers and one starter, to fill in for the departing Scott Atchison and Jeff Williams.

The names we have are:

  • Adrian Burnside (recently released by Yomiuri)
  • Brad Thomas (two-year Japan veteran, had been in Korea)
  • Jo Jo Reyes (Atlanta Braves)
  • Wil Ledezma (Washington Nationals)
  • Juan Morillo (Minnesota Twins)
  • Bob Keppel (Minnesota Twins)

Burnside didn’t appear at all with Yomiuri’s top team this year, so you’d have to figure he’d be a low-risk, low-investment type of signing. Thomas probably fits into the same category.

Reyes is an interesting name. He’s still pretty young, and I had the impression that he was a decent prospect for the Braves at one point. Morillo, as I recall from his time with the Rockies, is a hard thrower with bad command. I don’t know much about the other guys.

Two guys I’d like to see get a shot in Japan, with Hanshin or elsewhere, are Lenny DiNardo and Bobby Korecky. I couldn’t understand why DiNardo didn’t get more of a look in Oakland, when I saw him I thought he could contribute in the bigs (though I didn’t realize he had such a troubling k/bb rate). And Korecky is a guy who I haven’t seen, but has performed consistently well in the minors but never gotten a real shot to last in MLB.

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