Tag Archive > Kevin Mench

Hot Stove Preview, Part One: 2012 Free Agent Class

» 17 July 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » Comments Off

It’s time once again for my mid-season look at the crop of NPB players who will be available on the MLB hot stove market this upcoming offseason. I do these in the middle of the season so we have a list of guys to keep an eye on for the remainder of the season.

Part One will cover the top free agents in this year’s class. All these guys are scheduled to have met the service time requirements for international free agency by the end of the season.

Hisashi Iwakuma (SP, Rakuten Golden Eagles) — After last offseason’s well-documented posting misfire, Iwakuma will give it another go this year, this time as a free agent. The bad news is that Iwakuma is currently (July 18) rehabbing a shoulder problem that has kept him sidelined since May. We’ll see how he does when he comes back, but I fully expect him to command an MLB deal. (tag archive)

Wei-Yin Chen (SP, Chunichi Dragons) — Chunichi’s Taiwanese lefty ace negotiated a free agency clause into his agreement last offseason, and intends to move to the Bigs for 2012. I’ve only watched Chen once this year, and it looked like he traded some velocity for pitchability. It’s unusual to have an established lefty with a good arm freely available on the market at age 26, so it’ll be interesting to see where he winds up. Expect more on Chen in a later post. (tag archive)

Matt Murton (Outfielder, Hanshin Tigers) — Spare a thought for Hansin and their fans here for a moment: after years of importing duds like Shane Spencer and Kevin Mench to man rightfield, Hanshin scores a hit with Murton and almost immediately has to worry about losing him to MLB. Hanshin’s brass would love to keep him around, but the assumption is that he’d like to make an MLB comeback. Japan’s single-season hits record holder is again among the Central League’s batting average leaders, but like most of NPB’s batters his power and patience numbers have seen a decline in this offense-starved season. (tag archive)

Munenori Kawasaki (SS/2B, Softbank Hawks) — Profiling Kawasaki has been on my now-basically-defuct to-do list since I started the site back in 2008. I’ve long thought of Mune-rin as an MLB prospect, and though I’ve tempered my expectations for him I still think he could provide value to an MLB club in the right role. Kawasaki trains with Ichiro in the offseason, and the Japanese media would love to him wind up with Seattle. Mariners scout Yasushi Yamamoto had nice things to say about him in June: “I’m grading him higher than (Tsuyoshi) Nishioka and (Hiroyuki) Nakajima in baserunning and defense. If he can hit .250 in the Majors that will be enough (to play regularly).” Softbank will try to keep him. (tag archive)

Tsuyoshi Wada (SP, Softbank Hawks) — Lefty Wada stepped into the Hawks’ rotation straight out of Waseda University back in 2003, and has been pretty consistently effective even since, culminating with an MVP Award last season (over an arguably more-deserving Tsuyoshi Nishioka). Wada isn’t going to blow anyone away with his fastball, but he mixes a slider and a changeup and has solid command. My concern about Wada is whether he’ll be able to handle a full complement of innings in an MLB rotation. Japanese starters have had a tendency to regress on innings pitched after migrating to MLB; Wada has topped 180 innings only three times, the most recent being 2007 (though he’s on pace for about 185 this year). (tag archive)

Coming up in volume 2: posting candidates.

The Japanese site My Favorite Giants maintains a page on free agency status, which was a huge help in pulling this content together.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,

2009 Foreign Player Rundown

» 11 November 2009 » In npb » 7 Comments

By my count, there were 78 foreign players (including ikusei players) under contract to NPB teams in 2009. Some of them will be back for 2010, others will not. So far, I’ve counted 18 players that will remain with their teams for next year, 36 that are leaving, and 24 that we’re still waiting to hear on.

Despite my best efforts, there is a reasonable probability that I left someone out or have an out-of-date detail. If you spot something of that nature, please leave a comment. On with the show…

Yomiuri

  • Staying: Dicky Gonzales, Wirfin Obispo, Levi Romero, Alex Ramirez, Seung-Yeop Lee, Marc Kroon
  • Gone: Adrian Burnside, Edgardo Alfonzo
  • Unknown: Seth Greisinger, Yi-Hao Lin, Yi-Fan Lee

Ramirez no longer counts against the foreign player limit, which gives the Giants a little extra flexibility. He’s already re-signed on a two-year deal. You have to figure that Obispo and Gonzales will be back, which would only leave two ichi-gun rosters spots available. I would guess that Kroon is more likely to return than Greisinger, and Lee is on his way out. Kroon will have his option picked up, while Lee’s contract doesn’t expire until next season. Greisinger didn’t appear in the Japan Series and it’s possible that he won’t be back. The Giants don’t need much this off season, though we’ll probably see them go after some depth guys.

Chunichi

  • Staying: Wei-Yin Chen, Tony Blanco, Nelson Payano, Maximo Nelson
  • Gone: Tomas de la Rosa, Byung-Gyu Lee
  • Unknown:

Chunichi got outstanding production out Chen and Blanco, and Blanco has already received a new two-year deal. Lee will likely head back to Korea, while de la Rosa will remain with the team in a scouting/advisory capacitiy. Chunichi has been scouting the Dominican and will probably sign some interesting Latin American prospects this winter.

Yakult

  • Staying: Chang Yong Lim
  • Gone: Ricky Barrett
  • Unknown: Hei Chun Lee, Jaime D’Antona, Aaron Guiel

Hanshin

  • Staying: Kai-Wang Cheng
  • Gone: Scott Atchison, Jeff Williams, Kevin Mench, Chris Resop, Aarom Baldiris
  • Unknown: Craig Brazell

Out of this group, only Brazell really contributed anything, and he wants to come back. Hanshin’s search for pitching has already been well-documented, with the Tigers looking to import a starter and two relievers. Hanshin may also try to bring a power-hitting rightfielder to Kansai as well, even if Brazell sticks around.

Hiroshima

  • Staying: Dioni Soriano
  • Gone: Scott Dohmann, Ben Kozlowski, Scott Seabol
  • Unknown: Scott McClain, Colby Lewis, Mike Schultz, Andy Phillips

Hiroshima would like to keep Lewis and Schultz around, but may not be able to, and if the Carp don’t keep Phillips they will have to find a bat to replace him. Hiroshima desperately needs lefthanded pitching, as well. I’m assuming Soriano, who is an ikusei player from the Carp’s Dominican Academy, will get a full year to prove himself.

Yokohama

  • Staying: Stephen Randolph
  • Gone: Tom Mastny, Les Walrond, Dan Johnson, Ryan Glynn
  • Unknown: Wei Chen, Jin Chao Wang

Yokohama is again going to need pitching help, though Randolph’s late-season performance was encouraging. The ‘Stars wave goodbye the rest of this group, though Johnson actually had a decent year aside from a poor batting average, and Walrond looked like he had good enough stuff to last in Japan to me.

Nippon Ham

  • Staying:
  • Gone: Ryan Wing, Luis Jimenez, Jason Botts, Brian Sweeney, Termel Sledge
  • Unknown:

This year’s Pacific League champion didn’t get much production from its foreign lineup outside of Sledge, so it’s no surprise to see this group go. Nippon Ham apparently wanted to keep Sledge, but were too far apart in negotations. They’ll have to find a way to replace his bat in the lineup, and I would expect them to look for pitching depth as well.

Rakuten

  • Staying:
  • Gone: Matt Childers
  • Unknown: Darrell Rasner, Marcus Gwyn, Fernando Seguignol, Todd Linden, Rick Short, On-Yu Lin

Rasner is already under contract for next year, so he’ll be on the payroll but possibly not the roster. Childers is gone after just three appearances with Rakuten’s top team. The rest of the foreign staff had performance issues — Gwyn’s era was pedestrian, Shorts average fell off after years of solid performance, Seguignol looked more like the Orix Seguignol than the Nippon Ham Seguignol, and Linden struck out about one out of every three times to the plate(!). So I could see new manager Marty Brown turning over this whole group. Rakuten could use bullpen help and a big bat to play an infield or outfield corner.

SoftBank

  • Staying: Jose Ortiz, DJ Houlton, Brian Falkenborg, Justin Germano
  • Gone: Kameron Loe, Chris Aguila
  • Unknown: Andrew Touisant

SoftBank got strong contributions from Ortiz, Houlton and Falkenborg, and can reasonably expect more of the same next season. Sadaharu Oh is said to be looking for one more power hitter, to complement Ortiz and supplant aging sluggers Hiroki Kokubo and Nobuhiko Matsunaka. I would expect them to grab a couple of ptichers for depth as well.

Seibu

  • Staying: Min-Che Hsu
  • Gone: Jonah Bayliss, John Wasdin, Hiram Bocachica
  • Unknown: Alex Graman

I’m just taking for granted that Hsu will hang around. He should be shedding his foreign player status one of these years anyway. Graman is probably gone, though he was lights-out in the bullpen when healthy, and I could see him getting another shot. Bayliss was okay for Seibu, so I was a little surprised to see him let go. Seibu will be looking for bullpen help and perhaps a first baseman this offseason. Pete LaForest had been in Seibu’s autumn camp but went home with an injury.

Chiba Lotte

  • Staying
  • Gone: Benny Agbayani, Chase Lambin, Gary Burnham
  • Unknown: Brian Sikorski, Juan Muniz

Agbayani departs after six years in Japan, and I would guess that he’ll retire to a life of scouting. I’ve read that Lotte might offer Sikorski a big pay cut, and thus risk losing him. I don’t expect Lambin or Burnham to be back, though I haven’t seen anything official. Lambin and Burnham won’t be back. Lotte will need a corner infield and outfield bats, and a pitcher or two to round things out.

Orix

  • Staying: Tuffy Rhodes
  • Gone:
  • Unknown: Jon Leicester, Alex Cabrera, Jose Fernandez, Greg LaRocca, Ryan Vogelsong

Rhodes and Cabrera both qualify as native players, so Orix could potentially carry up to six ‘foreign’ players on its active roster. Rhodes will be back, and the Buffaloes are supposedly adding a coaching title to his resume. I think Cabrera will make it back as well. There was speculation on Fernandez when he got hurt was that Orix probably wouldn’t bring him back, but that remains to be seen. I’m guessing Leicester and Vogelsong will be out as well. SoftBank has indicated an interest in LaRocca should he not get another year with Orix.

Continue reading...

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

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.

Continue reading...

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

Central League Predictions: How’d I Do?

» 17 October 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Okay, so now that the regular season is in the books, let’s take a look and see how my Central League and Pacific League predictions played out. We’ll take a look at the Central first and do the Pacific in the next post.

(listed in order of actual results, my predictions are in parentheses)

1. Yomiuri Giants (2) — I picked the Giants to finish second. In 2008 Hanshin led for most of the year, before choking down the stretch, and I thought they’d make it this year. I was dead wrong about that, and the Giants wound up dominating from wire to wire. I thought someone from the secondary group of pitchers would have to step up, but the guys who did weren’t among my three breakout candidates (Kentaro Nishimura, Shun Tohno, and Takahiko Nomaguchi) — they were Yakult castoff Dicky Gonzales and Dominican prospect Wirfin Obispo.

2. Chunichi Dragons (5) — I was way off here. Chunichi put up a mediocre year in 2008, and lost three key contributors (Kenshin Kawakami, Nori Nakamura, Tyrone Woods) and I thought we’d see them slip further this year. Turns out I didn’t respect the Dragons’ depth highly enough. I did, however, correctly identify two of the key players for the Dragons this season, choosing Tony Blanco and Kazuki Yoshimi along with rookie Kei Nomoto. Nomoto was a bit of a disappointment, but Blanco and Yoshimi were outstanding.

3. Yakult Swallows (4) — Yakult took a step forward in 2009, sneaking in to the playoffs despite finishing one game under .500. Norichika Aoki overcame a horrific first half to finish at .303, and Aaron Guiel bounced back from a sub-par 2008 to hit 27 home runs. Two of my key players — Jaime D’Antona (.276, 21 hr) and Yoshinori (121 IP, 3.50 ERA)– were solid, while the other Tatsunori Masubuchi (one game, 12.60 era) was not. Yakult did get outscored by their opponents by 48 runs this year.

4. Hanshin Tigers (1) — My key players, Takahiro Arai and Kevin Mench, failed to meet expectations, and so did the Tigers. Mench’s time in Japan was particularly disastrous, flaming out after only 15 games. Hanshin’s trio of veterans Tomoaki Kanemoto, Akihiro Yano and Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi started to show some signs of aging as well.

5. Hiroshima Carp (3) –The step forward I envisioned after a solid 2008 season didn’t materialize for the Carp, despite the good vibes from the beautiful new Mazda Stadium. The rotation was solid 1-3 and the Carp added American sluggers Scott McClain and Andy Phillips mid-season, but it wasn’t enough to win consistently. My key player, Kenta Maeda, was better than his 8-14 record would indicate.

6. Yokohama BayStars (6) — The one prediction I nailed, except that I thought they’d be a little more competitive this year. Wrong. Yokohama was again a doormat, suffering to the tune of a .354 winning percentage, getting outscored by 188 runs and losing it’s manager in the process. My key man, Hayato Terahara, was limited to 83 innings of work.

Synopsis: I guess I was close enough on everything except Chunichi and Hanshin.I thought the league would be a little more competitive, but the way things played out Yomiuri and Chunichi were way ahead of everyone else.

Continue reading...

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

Hanshin to Look to the Dominican

» 06 August 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 2 Comments

The Hanshin Tigers will be looking to expand their player search to the Dominican Republic, where opponents such as the Chunichi Dragons and Tokyo Yomiuri Giants have had recent success finding sukketo. The Tigers have had trouble with their recent sukketo acquisitions and will revamp their international scouting in hopes of finding the next Tony Blanco (Chunichi) or Wirfin Obispo (Yomiuri).

Adding younger players from the Dominican will be a cost effective strategy in the long-run, as Wirfin Obispo was signed as an ikusei player earning close to the league minimum. Developing ikusei players could allow the Tigers to avoid spending hundreds of thousands to millions to a risky veteran players, only to have them fail to meet expectations. Kevin Mench is a recent example of this.

The Tigers have already researched the strategy of their rival teams and they have been sending scouts to the United States for next season. If they decide to go the Chunichi way of developing players, the Tigers might be sending players to the Domican Winter League. In recent years, the Tigers have been sending their young players to the Hawaii Winter League, but since the league dissolving the Dominican Winter League would make sense as an alternative.

Another strategy for investment is developing a Tigers Academy similar to the one Hiroshima has developed, or  strengthen an existing relationship with by investing in its facilities and operations. The Tigers had attempted to build a path in Dominican Republic with their acquisition of Esteban Yan in the 2006 off-season. The Tigers should be in search of new ways to compete and not fall into the vicious circle that kept them in a ten year drought of lower-division finishes in Central League between 1993 and 2002.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,

Hanshin Moving on From Mench

» 23 July 2009 » In npb » 8 Comments

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed the Hanshin Tigers this year, but team has already decided not to bring Kevin Mench back next season. Team president Nobuo Minami was quoted in Sports Hochi as saying “he won’t be here next year”. Mench has had a challenging stay in Japan, reportedly dealing with fatique and anxiety issues and ultimately getting just 15 games to prove himself with the Tigers, in which he hit .148.

Sanspo has additional reporting saying that Mench is due to head back to the States in the next few days for the birth of his twins in August (note: Kevin, if you’re reading this, congratulations from NPB Tracker). The article has an unnamed member of the Hanshin front-office saying “if he says ‘I don’t want to come back to Japan’, we won’t bring him back by force”. So there you have it.

With the Tigers sitting in 5th place and this looking like a lost season, the team is preparing for next year. Hanshin has mobilized scout Andy Sheets to begin building a list of acquisition targets, and they’re sending him and an international team representive to New York with the dual purpose of watching Hideki Matsui and checking out the new Yankee Stadium.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

Sanspo: Hanshin Moving to Acquire Reinforcements

» 19 May 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

Sanspo has published multiple articles about the Kevin Mench situation. This one says the Tigers have a list of six or seven guys, and quotes team president Nobuo Minami as saying they won’t release Mench, but are looking for him to make adjustments. An earlier report has Hanshin sending a team representative to America to negotiate a contract with a new slugger. According to the article, the trip is being delayed by the swine flu scare, but scouts Tom O’Malley and Andy Sheets are collecting data.

Sanspo is putting former Seibu Lion Craig Brazell in the lead for the spot. Brazell is with the St. Paul Saints after getting cut by Baltimore at the end of spring training, and should be available at a discount price. Surprisingly, Julio Zuleta’s name has been mentioned again. Zuleta had some good years in Fukuoka, but was pretty bad in his last few NPB seasons with Chiba Lotte, and currently sports a .233/.315/.391 line in the Mexican League

So who else might be on Hanshin’s list? They’re clearly after a power hitter who can play first base or right field.

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

Hanshin Looking For a Bat After All

» 18 May 2009 » In npb » 6 Comments

Despite giving struggling import Kevin Mench a vote of confidence last month, importing another bat is apparently still on the table for Hanshin. Says owner Shinya Sakai: “I think Mench has gotten better so he’s been called up. I haven’t gotten a request to acquire someone from (manager Akinobu) Mayumi, but money is not a problem”.

The linked report suggests that Hanshin is looking at retreads Tyrone Woods, Craig Brazell, and Julio Zuleta. Woods seems like the best choice among that group, though I suspect they’ll keep looking.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,

Predictions: How am I doing?

» 16 May 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

Before the season, I predicted the standings for both the Pacific and Central Leagues. Let’s see how I’m doing through six weeks of the season.

Pacific League (as of May 16)

  1. Nippon Ham Fighters (prediction: 2nd)
  2. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (prediction: 4th)
  3. Seibu Lions (prediction: 1st)
  4. SoftBank Hawks (prediction: 6th)
  5. Chiba Lotte Marines (prediction: 3rd)
  6. Orix Buffaloes (prediction: 5th)

Nippon Ham has hit more than I expected and has a +66 run differential… Rakuten’s pitching has kept them in games, but veterans just aren’t hitting… Seibu leads the league in home runs by a good margin and should be competitive all year… SoftBank leads the league in ERA and could be a dark horse… Chiba Lotte’s starting pitching needs to improve if they’re going to meet my prediction… Orix’s foreign sluggers, aside from Greg LaRocca, have been injured or ineffective, and their pitching has imploded.

Central League (as of May 16)

  1. Yomiuri Giants (prediction: 2nd)
  2. Yakult Swallows (prediction: 4th)
  3. Chunichi Dragons (prediction: 5th)
  4. Hanshin Tigers (prediction: 1st)
  5. Hiroshima Carp (prediction: 3rd)
  6. Yokohama BayStars (prediction: 6th)

Yomiuri has gotten good pitching across the board and leads the leage in runs; they’re currently on pace to win 100 games… Yakult has been a surprise at 20-13, especially given Norichika Aoki’s slow start (.226)… Chunichi slotted Tony Blanco in for Tyrone Woods but has otherwise regressed… Hanshin hasn’t gotten anything out of Kevin Mench or Takahiro Arai, but still has a +18 run differential… Hiroshima leads the Central in ERA (2.98) but simply isn’t hitting… Yokohama again is last in team pitching but is closer to the pack this season.

Of course, we’re only six weeks into the season so anything can happen, but we pretty much know what all the teams have at this point.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , ,

NPB Notes: Mench, McClain

» 27 April 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

  • Scott McClain has agreed to terms with the Carp. He gets a one-year contract that will pay him about $200k plus performance bonuses. He’ll wear number 90 for the Carp.
  • Kevin Mench is ready to begin his “rehab assignment” with the Tigers’ farm team. Sanspo quotes him as saying, “it was good to get a rest for three days. I was able to clear my head and relax my body”. Mench will get together with Hanshin farm team manager Katsuo Hirata on the 27th to get together on a plan.

Continue reading...

Tags: ,