Tag Archive > Tatsuya Ozeki

More on Minor Leaguers

» 05 April 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off

Here’s more on some of the minor leaguers that I was following in the offseason:

  • Kazuhiro Takeoka -> training in Arizona, hoping to catch on with a team as the season progresses. 
  • Takateru Iyono -> didn’t catch on with an MLB organization; signed with the Brother Elephants of Taiwan.
  • Tatsuya Ozeki -> flunked his audition with the Rockies, back in Japan blogging.
  • Michinao Yamamura -> looks like he was in camp with the independent Calgary Vipers; not sure if he made the team.
  • Koichi Misawa -> Unknown; all I could find was that he won’t be back with Northern League’s RailCats in 2009.
  • Yosuke Kawaguchi -> this guy wasn’t on my radar at all, but two seperate readers pointed out that he’s signed with the Yuma Scorpions of the independent Golden League (thanks to readers Dave and Patrick P for the tip).

All these guys, with the exception of Misawa, played in NPB last season.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , ,

Ozeki Fails to Land Contract

» 14 March 2009 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

Former Seibu Lion, Yokohama BayStar and Yomiuri Giant Tatsuya Ozeki failed in his audition with the Rockies. The outfielder made the announcement in an entry on his blog, saying he had hoped to become a player who could succeed in America despite being passed over in Japan. He’s back in Japan now. I’ll guess he’ll be looking for something new to do. For those who are interested in following he is frequently updating his blog.

Continue reading...

Tags:

Ozeki Gets a Tryout

» 19 February 2009 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

Former Seibu Lion, Yokohama BayStar, and Yomiuri Giant Tatsuya Ozeki has gotten himself an audition with the Colorado Rockies. The tryout will take place in the beginning of March, which leads me to believe it will be held in the Rocks’ minor league camp.

This is Ozeki’s second attempt to land with an MLB organization. He had a minor league deal with Milwaukee in 2006, but it was voided over visa allotment issues. Ozeki is 32 year-old lefty outfielder coming off a .215 BA season for Yokohama. If he does get a contract he’s likely to be an organizational player.

Continue reading...

Tags:

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.

Continue reading...

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

Player Profile: Norichika Aoki

» 30 January 2009 » In npb » 4 Comments

From 1994-2000, Ichiro was the undisputed best hitter in Japan. After he left for Seattle, Hideki Matsui took over as Japan’s consensus batting king. After Matsui’s reign, you’d have to go with Nobuhiko Matsunaka, until 2005 when Norichika Aoki emerged. It’s hard to argue who was better in ’05, but in 2006 Aoki took over the title and has held it ever since.

I mainly focus on pitching with this site, just because I think pitching is the more interesting part of the game (baseball is the only game where the defense controls the ball). So this will be my first of comparatively few articles devoted to hitting, and why not start at the top?

Looking Back
Not too long ago, I was thumbing through Shukan Baseball’s 2003 draft guide, and I happened across Aoki’s profile toward the back of the section for college players. Shukan Baseball graded him an ‘A’ overall, noting that he had hit .400 in two consecutive seasons, but compared him to Tatsuya Ozeki
, a servicable contact-hitting outfielder with zero power. Aoki’s Waseda University teammate Takashi Toritani really viewed as the prize of the draft, and got a cover spot on that issue. Back then, the top college and industrial league players could choose which team to sign with, and Toritani chose to sign with Hanshin, while Aoki was selected in the fourth round of the draft by Yakult. By the end of 2005, it was obvious which team had the better draft. I didn’t see Aoki in college so I can’t explain why he was so underrated, but it does speak to the difficulty of drafing top amateurs. Perhaps teams were scared off by his small frame (5’8 or so).

While we’re here, other notables available in the 2003 draft included SoftBank closer Takahiro Mahara,  former-almost Red Sox farmhand Hayato Doue, Yomiuri starter Tetsuya Utsumi, Dodgers farmhand Robert Boothe, and Lotte ace Yoshihisa Naruse. Aoki’s “comparable” Ozeki is currently out of NPB work and looking to catch on with a US minor league team

Hitting
The lefty-hitting, center-fielding Aoki is the closest thing Japan has to another Ichiro
, and WBC viewers will probably get to hear the compared quite a bit. The comparisons aren’t really off-base, as the two have pretty similar games. Comparing Aoki to a Japan-era Ichiro, both players have a long stride in their swings, but Aoki gets into more of a crouch and appears to have a more stable lower body. But judge for yourself with some obligatory YouTube footage: here’s a clip chronicling the evolution of Aoki’s swing from 2005-2007, and a homerun Ichiro hit off of a rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka in 1999. Both clips are in Japanese, but the video should speak for itself.

Aoki is a bit of a free-swinger, but he’s reduced his strikeouts and increased his slugging percentage in each year of his career. He’s also improved on his batting eye, walking about as much as he strikes out (his walk total actually surpassed his strikeouts in 2007). Another telling stat is that in 2008, 31.2% of his hits went for extra bases, up from 16.4% in his historic rookie year. Note also this improvement came while Yakult moved the fences back in their home, Jingu Stadium.

Let’s take a look at how he got his job done in 2008, courtesy of some analysis borrowed from the outstanding Data League site:

PA GB / FB Ratio GB Rate FB Rate Line Drive Rate GB BA FB BA Line Drive BA Hits to Left Hits to Center Hits to Right Hits on GB %
500 1.4 52.40% 37.50% 10.10% 0.288 0.423 0.775 28.50% 35.40% 36.10% 13.60%

So it’s pretty clear that Aoki uses the whole field, and does well when he gets the ball into the air. I’d suggest that he can improve further as his batting eye continues to develop and he can get pitches to drive. 

And More…
Aoki was a bright spot for Japan’s disappointing 2008 Olympic team, and will take to the international stage again in this year’s WBC, where he’ll start in center alongside Ichiro. Along with Yu Darvish, he’ll probably attract the most attention of any non-MLB player on Japan’s team.

Aoki just signed for 2009 with Yakult for 260m yen ($2.86m) after four rounds of negotiations. There had been some rumblings of Yakult wanting to sign him to a 10-year deal, but so far nothing’s come of it. I wish they’d make more than a nominal attempt to do it. Aoki asked to be posted a couple years ago, and Yakult of course said “no way”, so it would be nice to see them back that up with a little commitment. Yakult basically knows they have a guy that they’ll eventually lose to MLB, but they have a nine-year headstart on his services. Let’s see how creative they can be in retaining him and building a competitive team around him.

Continue reading...

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

Yet Another Minor Leaguer to Attempt a Move to MLB

» 11 January 2009 » In mlb prospects » 1 Comment

Former SoftBank Hawks pitcher Michinao Yamamura is the latest released NPB minor leaguer to announce he’s taking a shot at signing on with an American organization. He’ll be flying to Arizona on the 25th to spend 4 days playing winter league games and trying out. “My agent is talking to a number of teams about a minor league contract. Ever since I threw in international games in college, going overseas has been a dream,” said the righthander. Yamamura, 30, has made 25 appearances at the top level in Japan, going 2-2 with a 3.58 era in 27 2/3 innings.

I can’t remember ever hearing about this many released  minor leaguers attempting to move to MLB organizations in a single offseason. Perhaps I’m paying more attention this year.

So far, I’ve come across:

All of these players have been released by their NPB organizations. With the exception of Kadokura, Noguchi, and Maekawa, none of them spent that much time at the top level in Japan. Even if they are signed, most of these guys are more likely to be organizational players rather than actual MLB prospects, but it’s still an interesting trend.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Free Agent Roundup

» 05 January 2009 » In mlb, npb » 4 Comments

It’s the first week of January and none of the major Japanese free agents have found MLB homes yet. Let’s check in on a few of them:

  • The Japanese press picked up on a Boston Globe article suggesting that the Red Sox had offered Takashi Saito a contract shortly after he was non-tendered by LA. Nikkan Sports adds that he got a deluge of almost 10 offers in December, including one from the Cardinals. Nikkan Sports suggests that he’ll be able to beat the $2.5m the Dodgers offered, and will spend the early part of the year narrowing down his options.
  • Outfielder Tatsuya Ozeki is yet another minor league-level guy eyeing a move to the States. Ozeki actually signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee after the 2005 season, but never played in America as the Brewers had used up their allotment of work visa applications. You can read more about Ozeki at the BR Bullpen.
  • But wait, there’s more! Former Chiba Lotte pitcher Ryohei Tanaka is still another minor leaguer trying out for the American minor leagues. Tanaka will be heading to America on the 8th for private instruction from pitching guru Tom House and tryouts. He doesn’t have the same level of experience as Ozeki.
  • Ken Takahashi might be starting to sweat a little bit. He’s quoted in the Chugoku Shimbun as saying, “I can’t see anything ahead.” The article also reports that he spoke to agent Peter Greenberg once at the of 2008, but they didn’t have anything concrete to talk about. Sponichi reminds us that the Mets and Cubs were publicly interested last year, but haven’t yet talked terms with Takahashi.
  • Ryan Glynn to the Yokohama BayStars is a done deal. Glynn signed on for a year at $900k.
  • And finally, the Orix Buffaloes are still looking to add a foreign position player. Said team president Nakamura: “this isn’t a sweet world where we can assume this year will be good because last year was. We still need to rely on foreign players”. Nikkan Sports has Orix looking at Jose Fernandez and Richard Hidalgo. Acquring them both would give Orix four foreign position players (Tuffy Rhodes has played in Japan for so long that he no longer counts as a foreign player), though Greg LaRocca and presumably Hidalgo would be injury risks. 
Strangely absent from media reports is Koji Uehara. I wonder what’s going on with him these days?

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,