Tag Archive > Ken Kadokura

Kadokura Heading to Korea

» 13 April 2009 » In kbo » Comments Off on Kadokura Heading to Korea

Sponichi is reporting that Ken Kadokura is heading to Korea to sign a deal with the SK Wyverns. The Wyverns were the first team to make Kadokura an offer after he was released by Yomiuri, but he chose to pursue an MiLB contract instead. SK also has former MLB’er and SoftBank Hawk CJ Nitkowski under contract.

For more on Kadokura, please read this earlier post.

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Possible Destinations for Kadokura

» 03 April 2009 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off on Possible Destinations for Kadokura

Ken Kadokura wants to continue his career with an MLB organization, and Sports Hochi is reporting that the pitcher is already reaching out to the Cardinals and Orioles. I suspect the teams he’s starting with were among those that showed interest in him during the offseason.

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Cubs Release Kadokura

» 02 April 2009 » In mlb prospects » 2 Comments

Word out of Japan is that the Cubs have released pitcher Ken Kadokura. Kadokura had appeared in six spring training games and was demoted to the minors on March 18. I don’t find this shocking but I did think he’d last longer. 

Kadokura had an offer to join a Korean team in the offseason, but turned it down to join the Cubs. KBO foreign rosters are certainly set at this point, so that option is probably off the table for now. He also said that he had more than one MLB offer, so we’ll see if there are any takers for him.

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Igawa, Others Demoted

» 25 March 2009 » In mlb » 3 Comments

The inevitable happened: Kei Igawa has been reassigned to the Yankees’ minor league camp after a surprisingly good spring numbers-wise. His demotion came after a 4-run, 4-walk outing agains the Rays in which he yielded his first and only run of the spring. Igawa finished up with the one earned run in 15 1/3 spring innings. Nikkan Sports quoted him as saying, “it feels like my time to appeal (for a spot on the team) in camp has ended. They’re going to have me start down there and I want my agent to do my best”. That last statement indicates that Igawa’s agent is looking for a team that is willing to trade for Igawa.

Other recent demotions include Ken Kadokura, Katsuhiro Maekawa, Keiichi Yabu, Ken Takahashi and Junichi Tazawa. Takahashi had pulled a muscle earlier in the spring.

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Spring Debuts

» 28 February 2009 » In mlb, mlb prospects » Comments Off on Spring Debuts

Another MLB-centric post here. Several of Japan’s recent baseball exports have already made their exhibition debuts for their MLB clubs. Here’s a rundown:

  • Koji Uehara started for the Orioles today, going scoreless two innings, and allowing a hit and a walk while striking out three. 
  • Kenshin Kawakami got the start for the Braves, and also went two scoreless, allowing a hit, and struck out one. 
  • Sanspo has pics of both Uehara and Kawakami.
  • Junichi Tazawa pitched one inning against Boston College, getting three outs on four pitches, all fastballs. “I wanted to throw a breaking pitch,” commented Tazawa.
  • Ken Kadokura pitched an inning in relief in the Cubs Feb 25 game agains the Dodgers. “Looking back on today’s debut game, I was just happy to be there,” said Kadokura.
  • Katsuhiko Maekawa hasn’t appeared in a game yet as far as I know, but he’s impressed so far in the Cardinals camp. According to Sanpo, the Cards have five spots open on their pitching staff and Maekawa is an option. I’ll believe it when I see it.

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Spring Training Bullet Points: Warming Up

» 22 February 2009 » In mlb, mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

Hope springs eternal at the start of every season. Here are some spring training notes, mostly on guys who are trying to make their teams.

(All of the below items point to Japanese-language articles)

  • Ken Kadokura is testing a two-seam fastball and a sinker, neither of which he threw in Japan. “The movement on my breaking pitches is bigger than it was in Japan,” said Kadokura, “I think I can use these”.
  • Junichi Tazawa threw 51 pitches to Jason Varitek. “I was nervous the whole time,” Tazawa said with a smile. “I was concerned that I was stretching my arm more than usual,”
  • Kei Igawa threw 15 pitches to Hideki Matsui. Matsui hit eight, and took seven. “I’m glad I didn’t hit him,” Igawa said with big laughter. Last year, Igawa plunked a minor leaguer in batting practices.
  • Ken Takahashi got a decent review from Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg: “My first look at him was good. We have two open rotation spots. He has enough of a chance to get one. I hope he makes the team.”
  • Marc Kroon threw 70 pitches in a bullpen session on the 19th and will appear in an inner-squad game on the 23rd. He’s working on a two-seamer and a shuuto. “first I’m getting back into game shape. I want to get a feel for all my pitches,” he said.
  • On his WBC off day, Ichiro travelled 1200km back to Kobe to take batting practice at Skymark Stadium.
  • Rakuten manager Katsuya Nomura has come up with an innovative approach to batting practice: tape a picture of Yu Darvish to the pitching machine. Did it work? Nomura looks happy with the results.

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Minor Leaguers Going Overseas This Offseason

» 19 February 2009 » In mlb prospects » 4 Comments

This offseason, we’ve seen a large number of released NPB players announce an intent to pursue contracts with MLB organizations. I’m not sure if this is a record, but it’s the most I can recall. I’m not including Junichi Tazawa and Ken Takahashi in this list, because Takahashi turned down NPB offers, and Tazawa would have been drafted. All of these guys were either released by their NPB teams, or in the case of Yamarin, not drafted.

  • Shigeki Noguchi -> agreed with Blue Jays, failed physical
  • Ken Kadokura -> Cubs
  • Kazuhiro Takeoka -> Unsigned (Braves?)
  • Katsuhiko Maekawa -> Cardinals
  • Takateru Iyono -> Unsigned
  • Tatsuya Ozeki -> trying out with the Rockies in March
  • Ryohei Tanaka -> Orioles
  • Michinao Yamamura -> Unsigned (Golden League?)
  • Koichi Misawa -> Unsigned (played in the Northern League in ’08)
  • Yoshinori Yamarin -> Braves
  • Itsuki Shoda -> Sinon Bulls (Taiwan)

Five Players are still unsigned, which doesn’t surprise me, but I can see Yamamura and Iyono getting a shot as they’re still in their 20’s. Takeoka has worked out twice for the Braves and played AAA ball, so he might a chance too.

Notable MLB returnees:

  • Jeremy Powell -> Pirates
  • Jason Standridge -> Marlins
  • Craig Brazell -> Orioles
  • Winston Abreu -> Rays

Without a doubt, all of the players listed above obvious face big uphill battles to making it to the majors. But the fact that they are getting a chance indicates either a heightened respect for the level of talent in Japan, or a greater need to find low-cost, low-risk players through non-traditional channels. There will be 22 Japanese players in 14 big league camps this spring.

Reasons not to write these guys off just yet: Tomo Ohka, Takashi Saito, Hector Carrasco, Buddy Carlyle, Brian Shouse and  Pedro Feliciano. Saito looked like he was on the downside of his career when he came over, and none of the other guys had lasting success at the top level in Japan. All have been at least useful MLB players.

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The Cubs’ Japanese Roster, or, Is There Any Hope For Kosuke Fukudome?

» 06 February 2009 » In mlb » 5 Comments

Admit it Cubs fans – you liked Kosuke Fukudome at first. He came roaring out of the gates, and the Northside faithful united in celebration of their new import star with hachimakis and t-shirts featuring the Asahi flag and “Fukudome” written in katakana. The hype was so great that Sports Illustrated even deemed him worthy of  cover appearance, thus assuring both he and the Cubs would suffer from the associated jinx (which one prescient Cubs fan tried unsuccessfully to prevent).

Then, Fuku went into a slump in the early summer, the novelty wore off and the honeymoon period was over. As the summer progressed, so did Fukudome’s struggles, drawing the ire of the Cubs fans and getting scapegoated after the Cubs’ latest postseason choke job. Fukudome wasn’t the only one responsible for the Cubs tanking in the playoffs, but to be fair, he did vastly underperform the expectations that came with his contract. 

Why was he so bad in the second half? You could probably point to a number of reasons — better scouting on him for the rest of the league, inadequate translation services, difficulty adjusting to the more demanding travel and game schedule, late affects of his 2007 elbow surgery, or some of each. I would put travel forward as a concern; Fuku had an .825 ops at Wrigley despite the late-season booing, versus a .655 ops on the road. Lou Pinella may want to rest him a bit on roadtrips in the upcoming season.

For his part, Fukudome has spent quite a bit of his offseason training with his Chunichi Dragons coaches in Japan. Nikkan Sports quoted him as saying, “I have some things that don’t fit with the way of doing things over there [America]”. He’s currently training with his 2002 batting coach, Kyosuke Sasaki and took 300 swings in the batting cage the other day. Clearly there are adjustments for him to make, and Fukudome must be hoping that Sasaki can help him regain some of his 2002 form, when he robbed Matsui of the Central League Triple Crown by winning the batting title.

I get WGN here in the Bay Area, and I got to see the Cubs a couple of times while he was slumping last season. I noticed two things about Fukudome that appeared to be problematic: 1) gotta shorten up that swing 2) pitchers were backing him off the plate by throwing hard inside; he needs to stand his ground. The one encouraging thing was that in the few games I watched, he wasn’t chasing bad pitches. 

It’s been speculated that the additions of So Taguchi and Ken Kadokura on minor league were partially motivated by the struggles of Fukudome. Honestly, it’s hard not to draw that conclusion, but I think it’s unlikely that either one will have a material impact on Fukudome’s performance. Taguchi seems like the more likely of the two to help — he’s been in America for seven seasons and has gone from being a guy that couldn’t make a big league roster to being a useful role outfielder. The problem is that he’s behind Reed Johnson and Joey Gathright on the depth chart, and both of those guys are younger and were more productive in 2008 than Taguchi. I like the Kadokura acquisition as a low-risk baseball move. I think we’ll see him in the majors for the Cubs at some point this year but he’ll be adjusting to MLB life himself.

So it’s a do or die year for Fukudome. I could see him hitting .298 with 45 doubles, but I could also see him having another sub-par year.

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Offseason Changes: Yomiuri Giants

» 02 February 2009 » In npb » Comments Off on Offseason Changes: Yomiuri Giants

Coming: Micheal Nakamura, Takahito Kudoh, Dicky Gonzales, Edgardo Alfonzo (maybe), Levi Romero (maybe)

Going: Koji Uehara, Makoto Kosaka, Takayuki Shimizu, Tomohiro Nioka, Masanori Hayashi, Ken Kadokura, Shigeki Noguchi

Staying: Marc Kroon, Sung-Yeop Lee, Alex Ramirez, Seth Greisinger

Trending: upward

Synopsis: Uehara is the only guy they will notice is gone, and Nakamura will mostly balance out his loss. Strong group of foreign players will be back in 2009. Of the departures, only Hayashi is under 30.

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And Now, a Word on Ken Kadokura

» 22 January 2009 » In mlb prospects » 6 Comments

Update, mid-day Jan 22: The Cubs introduced Kadokura today, here’s a pic of him in his new Cubs gear.

So who is Ken Kadokura? 

Prior to signing with the Yomiuri Giants for the 2007 season, Kadokura had been a serviceable swingman type for 11 NPB seasons. He lost the plot a bit in his two years with the Giants, kind of like Terry Mulholland’s mid-90’s stint with the Yankees. I haven’t followed Kadokura closely over the last two years, but I haven’t found any evidence that he’s been injured — if anyone has any let me know. Wikipedia puts his absence from the top team in 2008 down to non-performance: Kadokura failed to break camp with the top team, but was recalled in April ’08 to fill a middle relief role. On May 17 he blew a game in the 10th inning, and afterward was demoted again, never to be recalled. He spent the remainder of the year starting for the Giants farm team, posting a 3.21 era over 75 2/3 innings, with a 72/14 k/bb ratio. Minor league numbers don’t mean much to me, but he did pitch the whole year and didn’t suffer from any publicly-announced injuries.

Kadokura had a decent pre-Giants career. He’s crossed the 100 IP mark six times in his career, and boasts a respectable 1146 K’s in 1276 career innings. He’s also given up 1296 career hits, and given up his share of home runs, so take that with a grain of salt. I’m not sure what he did differently in 2005, which was by far his best season. The last article I have on his stuff is from 2006, and it says he mainly throws a fastball, forkball and slider, and gets his fastball up to about 90 mph. Maybe I’ll dig around my Shukan Baseball collection a little more over the weekend.

Kadokura was teammates with Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome for the 1999 season with Chunichi, and it’s been speculated that providing Fuku a little support over the course of the long season may have played a role in this signing. I obviously don’t know if that’s true or not, but to me this is a sound baseball move.* We’ve seen a solid trend of NPB relievers performing well in MLB, Kadokura might benefit from having a more consistent role, and the Cubs current regime seems to be able to get the most out of their pitchers. Given that this is a minor league deal, there’s very little risk involved, and if it helps Fukudome out somehow, that’s all the better.

I’d like to share a video of his work here, but the only one I could find was this on of him getting nailed in the chin with a line drive off the bat of former Cub Pedro Valdes during the 2001 season, when he was a Kintetsu Buffalo teammate of former Cub Tuffy Rhodes.

*I guess I should re-iterate that Kadokura is on a minor league deal, and certainly a depth guy for the Cubs at this point. I do think we’ll see him in the bigs at some point this year, even if it’s when someone goes down with an injury.

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