Tag Archive > Justin Huber

Offseason Changes: Hiroshima Carp

» 24 January 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Coming: Chad Tracy, Dennis Sarfate, Bryan Bullington, Kiyoshi Toyoda, Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara

Going: Jeff Fiorentino, Justin Huber, Vinnie Chulk, Eric Stults, John Bale, Ken Takahashi, Shinjiro Kojima, Hayato Aoki

Staying: Gio Alvarado, Mike Schultz, Dioni Soriano

Summary: Perhaps the biggest story of Hiroshima’s offseason was the players they didn’t land. The Carp tried unsuccessfully to lure Hiroki Kuroda back in the mix, and lost out to Softbank for prized free agent Seiichi Uchikawa, despite his wife being a Koi fan.

Having lost out on the two Japanese stars, most of Hiroshima’s reinforcements for 2011 are of the suketto variety. Out goes the ineffective group of Fiorentino, Huber, Stults, Bale and Chulk; in come newcomers Tracy, Bullington and Sarfate joing holdovers Alvarado, Schultz and Soriano. The headliner of this year’s import class is Tracy,  the Carp’s highest paid and most accomplished first year import. The other five members of Hiroshima’s foreign roster are all pitchers, and will have to compete amongst themselves for the three remaining ichi-gun spots.

The fact that Soriano is lefthanded may give him a little bit of an edge on the somewhat lefty-thin Carp, but what the team really needs is quality innings. Last season, only Yokohama’s dreadful performance saved Hiroshima from having the least effective staff in Japan. Despite the presence of Sawamura Award winner Kenta Maeda, the Carp surrendered 737 runs in 2010; the next worst was Seibu with 642. Losing Colby Lewis hurt, but so did the fact that eight of the 13 pitchers who threw at least 30 innings for the Carp had an ERA of 5.00 or higher. Getting 150 or so innings of 4.00 ball out of Bullington or Alvarado would go along way for the Carp. So would healthy returns from Kan Ohtake and Katsuhiro Nagakawa. The Carp also spent their first four draft picks on hard-throwing, older prospects last year, so one of them may pay early dividends.

At the plate, Hiroshima managed to finish fourth in the Central League in run production in 2010, despite hitting the fewest home runs. What they lacked in power, they made up for by leading the league in steals with 119, and striking out less than any team other than Yakult. Since Tracy is the only significant lineup change for 2011, expect to see more of the same this season.

Overall I like the group that Hiroshima will field this year better than last year’s, but I don’t see how they make the playoffs without one of the other teams faltering significantly.

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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.

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Orix Pursuing Segi

» 31 May 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Over the weekend, I caught a number of articles on Orix’s pursuit of 1B/DH Fernando Seguignol. The news ranged from Orix “looking into acquiring Seguignol” (Daily Sports) to “have a basic agreement and working on an official contract” (Nikkan Sports). Orix’s two import sluggers Alex Cabrera and Greg LaRocca are both injury-prone and Seguignol is in the Atlantic League, so a deal seems to make sense for both sides. I can think of an option I prefer for Orix, though.

Seguignol is perhaps the poster boy of the recent trend of “recycling” sukketo players, having previously been called in by Nippon Ham and Rakuten. After last season Rakuten replaced him with former Carp Andy Phillips, who played pretty well in Hiroshima but still had his pricey option declined in favor of Justin Huber and Jeff Fiorentino. With Phillips (and Todd Linden) struggling, Rakuten has added a new name in Randy Ruiz. And the beat goes on. Mabye all the teams have been better off if Rakuten had kept Segi, Hiroshima kept Phillips and Orix held on to Jose Fernandez or Tuffy Rhodes.

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New Foreign Players — Which Ones Did I Get Right?

» 27 February 2010 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Last November, I made a few predictions about guys we might see move to NPB for 2010. I actually got a couple right:

  • Buddy Carlyle (Nippon Ham)
  • Lee Beom-Ho (SoftBank)
  • Kim Tae-Gyun (Lotte)
  • Matt Murton (Hanshin)
  • Chris Bootcheck (Yokohama)
*excluding the players on my list that were already in Japan in 2009

So that’s 5/28 (without the 2009 NPB guys), and the two Koreans were pretty easy predictions. I thought I got Bobby Keppel right too, but when I looked back at my list it was Bobby Korecky that I had guessed.

There were other guys that I took long looks at, but decided to leave out for various reasons. These were the last three in my notes:

  • Andy Marte thought he would get an MLB shot with the rebuilding Indians
  • Carlo Alvarado – the number of 3A innings he threw over the last two years caught my eye; in retrospect I didn’t have enough starters on my list
  • Jeff Fiorentino – call this one gut feel. I favored slugging left fielder-types in my list, and thought Murton’s MLB experience distinguished him from Fio

Alvarado and Fiorentino signed with the Carp over the winter, while I assume Marte will get another look with Cleveland. Ironically, I would have loved to see the Carp get Marte instead of Justin Huber, but I don’t know if he was ever available.

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Hiroshima Movement

» 20 November 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei, npb » Comments Off

According to Chugoku Shimbun, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp have agreed to re-sign right hander Michael Shultz to a two-year contract and are also working on a deal to add outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, who appeared in 24 major league games with the Baltimore Orioles last season. The scouts liked Fiorentino’s average against left-handers and believes his batting eye is well-suited for the NPB.

As posted earlier in the week, the Carp are working on adding Justin Huber.

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Hiroshima Cuts Ties with Four

» 15 November 2009 » In Uncategorized » 1 Comment

The Hiroshima Carp are turning over most of their import roster this offseason. On their way out are:

  • Scott Seabol
  • Scott McClain
  • Ben Kozlowski
  • Andy Phillips

Phillips had the best shot at returning, but Hiroshima’s impending acquisition of Justin Huber has ruled it out.

The Carp are working on new contracts for pitchers Colby Lewis and Mike Schultz.

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Hiroshima After Huber

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

The Chugoku Shimbun is reporting that the Hiroshima Carp are close to a deal to acquire Justin Huber from the Twins. According to the report, the Carp put in a request to acquire Huber, and it was accepted the same day. The two sides will begin negotiating a transfer a the start of next week. The Twins’ removal of Huber from their 40-man roster coincides with this development.

I almost included Huber in my list of 2010 NPB acquisition targets, but left him out because I thought he might get another MLB look somewhere. He’s a pretty typical 4A guy at this point: successful in 3A, frequently on 40-man rosters and occasionally on 25-man rosters. But the Twins already have a pretty good first baseman named Justin, so playing at the next level was going to take an injury or a move to another organization.

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