Tag Archive > Tony Blanco

Spring Training Story Lines

» 03 February 2013 » In npb » 2 Comments

Spring has arrived in Okinawa, and NPB camps are underway. As with every new season, there are a number of stories developing. Here are a few to look out for:

  • How long before Nippon Ham settles on a position for Shohei Ohtani?

Part of Nippon Ham’s pitch to Ohtani was letting him pitch and hit. Ohtani has the physique and high school track record to make this a very interesting idea, but I suspect that reality will eventually settle in and he’ll wind up sticking to his best role. That said, here’s hoping he pulls it off. I’d love to see him come in from right field to close a game.

  • How will top draftee Shintaro Fujinami adapt to life as a pro?

There is no such positional debate about the other high school prize of last year’s draft, Hanshin pitcher Fujinami. The sentiment echoed throughout the Japanese media following the draft was the question of whether Hanshin has the ability to develop a pitcher with the potential of “Mount Fuji”; now we begin to find out.

  • How will Yomiuri draftee Tomoyuki Sugano perform after a year away from competition?

Sugano took a year off in 2012, after his rights were won by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the 2011 draft. Undeterred, the Giants grabbed him uncontested in the first round of the 2012 draft, and he immediately signed. If he’s some approximation of this, the Giants will be quite happy he was insistent on playing for them.

  • Which of the bari bari Major Leaguers will sink and which will swim?

Andruw Jones, Bryan LaHair, Casey McGehee, Jose Lopez, Vincente Padilla and Nyjer Morgan are among this year’s NPB imports. It’s always hard to predict who will do well in Japan, but I’m particularly pessimistic about Padilla and Morgan.

  • Who will step in to Hiroyuki Nakajima’s shoes for Seibu?

History repeats itself. 10 years ago, Nakajima stepped forward as the replacement for star shortstop Kazuo Matsui, who had departed for the Majors. Now Seibu finds itself needing a replacement for Nakajima. It looked like Hideto Asamura could emerge as a successor, but he failed to impress last season. A return to form from speedster Yasuyuki Kataoka would be welcome, and perhaps Esteban German could see time at shortstop.

  • Who is Eddy Rivera?

Billed a “mystery” player, Rivera is in camp with the Chunichi Dragons on a trial basis (“testo sei“). Rivera has Dominican Summer League experience with academy affiliates of the Cardinals and Padres, but hasn’t appeared in a game since 2010.

Rivera stepped off his flight from the Dominican and immediately impressed with his velocity. Chunichi has found Latin American bargains such as Tony Blanco and Enyelbert Soto in recent years, we’ll see if lightning strikes again.

  • Has Orix improved?

Orix recently grabbed headlines for acquiring star outfielder Yoshio Itoi in a trade with Nippon Ham, but has made a couple other interesting moves this offseason. The Buffaloes signed 2B Keiichi Hirano, picked up starter Shun Tono in a trade with Yomiuri, and snagged closer Takahiro Mahara as compensation for losing free agent starter Hayato Terahara. On the negative side of the ledger, the B’s parted ways with talented, but health-challenged starters Terahara Hiroshi Kisanuki, as well as Alfredo Figaro. Orix is still on the outside looking in at a top-3 finish, but if everything goes absolutely right for them, they could make things interesting.

  • Has Yokohama DeNA improved?

DeNA’s offseason largely consisted of poaching Tony Blanco, Jorge Sosa and Enyelbert Soto from Chunichi, getting OF Hitoshi Tamura back from Softbank, and signing Nyjer Morgan. All of these moves, with the probable exception of Morgan, improve the Baystars, but none really addresses the team’s main weaknesses of the starting rotation and middle infield. The real step forward will have to be lead by the ‘Stars young players: 3B Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, C Shuto Takajo, pitchers Yuki Kuniyoshi and Kisho Kagami, and 2012 draftees IF Hiroyuki Shirasaki and pitcher Kazuki Mishima.

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Game Notes: Nippon Series Games 6 & 7

» 21 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 2 Comments

And so, my 12th season as an NPB fan has come to a close. Here’s how it happened:

Game 6 – Chunichi wins, 2-1:

  • Both starters, Kazuki Yoshimi and Tsuyoshi Wada, look tired. It’s been a long haul for them: like everyone else, they started camp in early February and experienced the delayed start to the season; but both also logged over 180 innings over the course of the year, plus three postseason starts each.
  • The guest commentator for game six? Yu Darvish. He didn’t really say anything interesting, at least not that I noticed.
  • Softbank started a better offensive lineup, with Hiroki Kokubo playing first base and Nobuhiko Matsunaka DHing. In the first two games at Yahoo Dome, Kokubo DHed while Shuhei Fukuda played first, with Matsunaka on the bench.
  • There was a great Softbank Hawks commercial with the Hawks players hitting line drives to each other.
  • Toru Hosokawa’s flyout in the third inning seemed like it would have been a home run with the old ball.
  • Chunichi got all of their offense out of the way in the first inning, courtesy of a two-run Kazuhiro Wada triple. After that, they never mounted much of a threat.
  • Softbank’s bats were equally lifeless, more so than in any game since their listless effort against Wei-Yin Chen in game one.
  • Four of the seven games resulted in a final score of 2-1.
  • I must admit… my notes are a little lacking from this one… so I must again turn to Michael Westbay’s write-up. Plus, he has a YouTube video of that commercial I mentioned.
Game 7 — read until the end:
  • Chunichi started Daisuke Yamai, the righty who pitched eight perfect innings in the decisive game five of the 2007 Nippon Series, only let closer Hitoki Iwase finish it off. Yamai only managed a third of a perfect inning this time, giving up a single to Yuichi Honda with one out in the first.
  • Softbank entrusted game seven to ace Toshiya Sugiuchi. Coincidentally, in September Sugiuchi took a no-hitter through six innings against Orix, but volunteered to leave the mound.
  • Like the game six starters, neither Yamai nor Sugiuchi scared anyone with their fastballs.
  • Critical point number one: bottom of the third. Softbank loaded the bases with Hitoshi Tamara singling, Yuya Hasegawa doubling on what was very nearly a great catch by Chunichi center fielder Yohei Oshima, and Katsuki Yamazaki walking on four straight bunt attempts. Hiromitsu Ochiai immediately went to his bullpen to play the matchup, bringing in lefty Masato Kobayashi to face Munenori Kawasaki and Honda, the Maximo Nelson to face righties Uchikawa and Kokubo. Kobayashi walked in a run, but got Honda, and Nelson induced a couple of lazy flyouts, so the strategy worked out pretty well. Hasegawa could have scored on Uchi’s flyout, but Softbank played it safe. Score: 1-0 Softbank.
  • Critical point number two: bottom of the fourth. Matsunaka drew a walk and Akiyama immediately took the bat out of one of his best hitter’s hands by having Matsuda bunt. After a Tamura line out, Chunichi pitched around Hasegawa for Yamazaki, and he made ‘em pay with a sharp single to right, scoring Matsunaka. Then Kawasaki ended the rally with a very good at bat that resulted in a line out to left field. Score: 2-0 Softbank.
  • Ryosuke Hirata had an atrocious stolen base attempt in the fourth, after reaching base on a chopper in Sugiuchi’s direction that took a bad bounce.
  • Critical point number three: top of the seventh. With one out, Tony Blanco bounced a grounder back up the middle for a single. Kazuhiro Wada struck out without much resistance, but Hirata drew a walk to give the Dragons a runner in scoring position for the first time in the game. Then Sugiuchi struck out Atsushi Fujii to end the threat. It would be Chunichi’s last of the year. Score: 2-0 Softbank.
  • Like the rest of the series, Chunichi’s lineup went down without a fight. They scattered four singles (one of which was a swinging bunt) and a couple walks. And the seventh was the only inning when two runners on at the same time, which was the only time they got as far as 2nd base. In general they had bad at bats and didn’t force Softbank’s defense to make tough plays.
  • One of Chunichi’s coaches seemed to be using an iPad or something similar during the game.
  • Cabrera again struck out in a pinch hitting appearance, off Takuya Asao. His only good swing was on a first pitch fastball. He fouled it off, and he knew he missed his pitch.
  • Critical point number four: bottom of the seventh. Cabrera struck out, Kawasaki walked, Honda bunted him over (great play by Asao), and Uchikawa singled him in. I think this was the only time in the series that Akiyama got his desired result with a bunt. Score: 3-0 Softbank.
  • Softbank did threaten again with two outs in the eighth, but nothing came of it.
  • Brian Falkenborg took a line drive off his wrist in the top of the ninth, but was okay. In his place, a relay of Masahiko Morifuku and Tadashi Settsu closed out the win.
  • Softbank owner Masayoshi Son handed what looked like money to the guy standing next to him. Akiyama shed tears, and was tossed seven times in a ceremonial douage.
  • And so it was that the Hawks took game seven 3-0, and thus the Nippon Series, their first Nippon-ichi in eight years and first under Softbank’s ownership.

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Game Notes: Nippon Series Games 3, 4, 5

» 19 November 2011 » In npb » Comments Off

So the day job kept me busy this week and I didn’t completely dissect these games or even take great notes, but I do have a few observations to share on the Nagoya leg of this year’s Nippon Series journey.

Game 3 – Softbank wins, 4-2:

  • Moving Tadashi Settsu into the rotation was probably the smartest move Softbank made this season. He is, simply put, a good pitcher. He throws strikes and always seems to make the right pitch.
  • Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson, on the other hand…. has a good arm but lacks Settsu’s polish. in Game three he seemed a little rough and let himself get into a lot of hitter’s counts.
  • Hitoki Tamura, who I ruthlessly criticized for his lackluster at bats in games one and two, went 3-4 with a home run. So did catcher Toru Hosokawa.
  • One of the fans in Softbank’s ouen-dan section kind of looked like Nagisa Arakaki.
  • Softbank manager Koji Akiyama took it easy on the bunting in game three and was rewarded with 12 hits from his lineup, nine at the expense of Nelson.
  • After taking losses in games one and two, Softbank closer Takahiro Mahara was benched in favor of Brian Falkenborg. Falkenborg spared Akiyama’s blood pressure by recording a save.

Game 4 – Softbank wins, 2-1:

  • I’ll have to admit that while I watched this game, I didn’t play particularly close attention to it. Michael Westbay has a much better recap.
  • Softbank got all the scoring they needed in the first. After allowing Softbank to string together a couple of singles and score a run, Chunichi starter Yudai Kawai induced a double play ball, but shortstop Masahiro Araki held on to his throw for too long and it skipped wide of first baseman Tony Blanco. This allowed Softbank’s second run to score and that was all they would need.
  • The hero for Softbank was corkscrewing lefty reliever Masahiko Morifuku, who bailed starter DJ Houlton out of a no-out, bases loaded jam in the 6th. Morifuku is a lot of fun to watch.
  • Falky recorded a six-out save in this one.

Game 5 – Softbank wins, 5-0:

  • Wei Yin Chen showed better velocity in Game 5 than he did in the series opener, but overall wasn’t nearly as good. He wasn’t particularly sharp with his breaking stuff and didn’t even throw it much, and worked up in the zone with his fastball. Overall he was a lot more hittable. He got singled to death in the 7th and 8th innings, but he was throwing pitches that Softbank’s hitters could make contact with.
  • Possibly the head-scratching-est move of the Series was made by Ochicai in the 8th. With the bases loaded and none out, Ochiai pulled Chen in favor of reliever Junichi Kawahara. Removing Chen was the right move, why bring in retread Kawahara instead of bullpen ace Takuya Asao? Chunichi was down 2-0 at that point, but still. Kawahara was on the mound for Softbank’s next three runs, all charged to Chen.
  • Motonobu Tanishige finished the game 0-4 and has still gotten hit safely in the Nippon Series.
  • Masaaki Koike left the game in the top of the fourth, after making a great, wall-crashing catch on a long fly ball off the bat of Nobuhiro Matsuda.
  • Softbank starter Hiroki Yamada comes close to violating NPB’s ban on two-stage deliveries with his double clutch windup. I don’t think I had previously seen him pitch this year. He wasn’t totally consistent with the double-clutch, but he did manage to keep Chunichi’s lineup quiet through six innings of work.
  • The one bullet Yamada dodged was in 6th, when he surrendered a double to Araki and Kazuhiro Ibata pulled a hard line drive just foul down the third base line before bouncing out to Kawasaki at shortstop.
  • Alex Cabrera looked awful yet again as a pinch hitter in the 7th.
  • Settsu pitched an inning of relief in the 8th, after having started game three, and with a  5-0 lead Akiyama let Mahara mop up the 9th.

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A Knuckleheaded Move By Chunichi

» 22 September 2011 » In npb » 5 Comments

When I woke up this morning and did my daily check of the news, I was surprised to see headlines that included the words “Ochiai” and “leaving the team”. My first thought was, “why is Hiromitsu Ochiai stepping down as manager of the Chunichi Dragons?” But he’s not quitting, Chunichi’s management has decided not to renew his contract, electing to replace him with 70 year-old former Dragons manager Morimichi Takagi. When given the news from Chunichi owner Bungo Shirai, Ochiai said, “yes, understood”, and later commented “that’s the kind of world this is.”

This is either pure baseball idiocy or there’s something behind the scenes that isn’t public knowledge. Ochiai’s Dragons have done little other than win since he took over in 2004. In the seven seasons he’s managed, the Dragons have finished first or second every year, except 2008, when they finished third. The Dragons have also made four Nippon Series appearances under Ochiai’s watch (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010), winning the big prize in 2007. This year, despite my predictions, the Dragons are again in second place, within striking distance of first place Yakult as the season winds down.

The Dragons’ success has come in spite of losing star contributors like Kosuke Fukudome, Kenshin Kawakami and Tyrone Woods over the years. Chunichi for the most part hasn’t acquired expensive replacements for their departed stars, instead extracting useful performances from bargain bin foreign players like Tony Blanco and Enyelbert Soto, and developing prospects like Wei-Yin Chen, Kazuki Yoshimi and Masahiko Morino. The one notable free agent signing Chunichi made, Kazuhiro Wada (to replace Fukudome), blossomed into an MVP winner under Ochiai.

So I don’t get it. I think this is the worst NPB managerial change since Yomiuri forced Tatsunori Hara out and replaced with with the reviled Tsuneo Horiuchi following the 2003 season (Hara’s crime: finishing second to Hanshin). The winner could wind up being Nippon Ham, the team Ochiai finished his playing career with, if they can convince him to move north to Hokkaido and replace outgoing manager Masataka Nashida.

Update: Daily Sports says Ochiai is on his way out because of his high salary (JPY 370m) and the fact that Chunichi never turned a profit during his run as manager.

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Game Notes: Yakult vs Chunichi (Aug 3)

» 05 August 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

The most interesting game I watched this week was Chunichi and Yakult’s 1-1 tie, played on Wednesday at Nagoya Dome. Here are a few observations from the game.

  • The last time I watched Wei-Yin Chen, he was extremely effective but I wasn’t sure how I felt about him as an MLB prospect. This start was a bit more confidence-inspiring. He showed a broader repertoire, working in his curveball and forkball, but more importantly I saw a little movement on his fastball that I had noticed earlier in the year. It was almost like a shuuto, with a little tailing movement away from righthanded hitters. Chen only tasted trouble in the second inning, when he gave up a series of line drive singles, yielding Yakult’s only run of the game; and in the third, when a series of elevated fastballs to Shingo Kawabata eventually resulted in a triple. On the negative side, he still didn’t have the great 150+ kmph (94+ mph) velocity that he’s shown in previous years, and he did work up in the zone a bit. That will catch up to him against better competition.
  • This was the first time I really watched Yakult rookie Yuki Shinchijyo. He kind of reminds me Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa.
  • Joel Guzman actually looked pretty good at the plate, at least in two of his at bats. His approach seems to have improved: he didn’t wave at bad pitches the way he did early in the season and looked more focused on making contact than trying to hit a home run. He was rewarded for this better approach with a pair of singles. Maybe he was seeing the ball better; Guzman was wearing goggles, which I don’t remember him having early in the year.
  • Wladimir Balentien, on the other hand, is going in the opposite direction. He looked like a complete mess at the plate; just hacking away without any kind of plan and behind everything. Chen struck him out three times, and only the third at bat was remotely competitive.
  • Ryoji Nakata started at first base for the Dragons, in the place of the the injured Tony Blanco. He’s clearly in batter shape than he was last year, though still quite round. It wasn’t a good game for Nakata, as he struck out three times times, including a big spot in the ninth, with runners on second and third and two outs. Nakata looks like he can drive balls thrown over the lower inside part of the strike zone, but pretty clearly struggles with the outside half of the plate.
  • Norichika Aoki’s plate discipline seems to have regressed.
  • Chunichi mascot Doala failed to land his trademark backflip, but a Dragons cheerleader executed one perfectly. In a show of support, visiting Yakult mascot Tsubakuro gave Doala a friendly pat on the back.

 

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90 Minutes of Baseball on Opening Day

» 12 April 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

The NPB season is finally upon us. On Monday evening (Pacific Time) I found about 90 minutes to spend watching two games, and talking baseball on Twitter. Here are my notes from what I saw of the games.

Chunichi vs Yokohama

  • The ‘Stars drew a pretty nice crowd.
  • Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson looked a little rough around the edges early on.
  • Yokohama starter Shogo Yamamoto can get a bunt down.
  • Forkballs and low fastballs still to work against Brett Harper.
  • Hirokazu Ibata has cool glasses.
  • Yamamoto left a mistake out over the plate for Joel Guzman, who tagged it for the first NPB home run of 2011. Yokohama manager Takao Obana wisely brought in righty Shintaro Ejiri before Guzman’s next at bat, and he made quick work of both Guzman and Tony Blanco.
  • Right after Guzman’s home run, yet another earthquake struck, shaking the lighting towers at Yokohama Stadium.

Yokohama eventually won 5-4, on a Yuta Naito walk-off hit off Takuya Asao.

Rakuten vs Lotte

  • There were quite a few fans holding signs encouraging the Tohoku region at QVC Marine Field. Lotte has great fans.
  • I thought the “Ganbarou Tohoku” patch on the Rakuten uniforms was a little small. Lotte wore black stripes on their shoulders.
  • Lotte starter Yoshihisa Naruse was locked in early on, and had six or seven strikeouts in the first four innings. I thought he was getting some low strikes called in his favor.
  • Takashi Ogino’s showed of his speed in the fourth inning: after singling, he stole second, and advanced to third on a hard fly out to left field. He then scored on a ground out to third base, though he probably would have been out if Motohiro Shima had been able to hang on to the ball. Ogino looked like he got into Hisashi Iwakuma’s head a little bit, as he seemed distracted when he was on first base.
  • Kim Tae Kyun looks fatter than last year.
  • Iwakuma got himself into a couple of minor jams in the fourth and fifth, but came away unscathed. His fastball velocity wasn’t great though.
  • I wasn’t impressed with Rakuten’s 1B/DH duo: Takeshi Yamasaki started at first, but hisfielding days should rightfully be behind him, and Randy Ruiz looked bad in his first two at bats against Naruse.
  • Just as I was signing off, Shima took Naruse deep for a three-run homer, giving Rakuten a lead they would extend and never relinquish. As great as Naruse is, his control has to be spot on, because he throws so softly that his mistakes can be very costly. Last year he struck out 192, but gave up 29 home runs.

Lotte mounted a comeback against Iwakuma in the ninth, but Justin Speier relieved him and stopped the Marines for his first NPB save. The final score was 6-4.

Other items of note from games I didn’t watch:

  • Matt Murton hit a home run in his first at bat of the season
  • Yu Darvish got lit up for seven earned runs in seven innings, in the worst opening day performance of his career.

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Offseason Changes: Chunichi Dragons

» 02 February 2011 » In npb » 6 Comments

Coming: Felix Carrasco, Joel Guzman, Takahiro Saeki, Tatsuo Kinoshita, Keisuke Mizuta

Going: Edward Valdez, Dionys Cesar, Ryota Arai

Staying: Wei-Yin Chen, Maximo Nelson, Kazuhiro Wada

Summary: When something works, stick with it. Though they did capture the Central League flag last season, Chunichi had the weakest offense in the league save for the BayStars. Let’s also remember that their margin over the other league contenders was a single game in the standings. But other than making a few cosmetic changes, the Dragons seem content to continue relying on quality pitching, a solid defense, and their mid-lineup hitters to put them on top again.

First, the pitching. The Dragons pitching staff had by far the lowest ERA in the CL last year, recording a 3.29 for the season. They allowed only 521 runs, nearly 100 better than their closest competitors. Japan’s best closer, Hitoki Iwase, will anchor the Nagoya side’s bullpen for a 13th season. Barring injury, numbers similar to last year’s 42 saves and 2.25 ERA are as close to a sure thing that the Dragons have. Working forward, Takuya Asao will again be an important cog in the bullpen, and expect Masafumi Hirai, Akinobu Shimizu, and Akifumi Takahashi to be leaned on for innings and appearances.

With 210 wins and Kimiyasu Kudoh idle, Masa Yamamoto takes the reigns as NPB’s active wins leader. He added 5 more in 2010, and will likely add a similar amount in 2011. But it was Wei-Ying Chen who led the staff in innings pitched, wins, and ERA last season. Expect him to be at the forefront of a very good corps again this season. Of note, the Dragons will need to find a replacement for starter Kazuki Yoshimi early on, as the righty had off-season elbow surgery and won’t be ready by Opening Day.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Dragons brought in Felix Carrasco and Joel Guzman from the American minor leagues to add offensive depth. Dionys Cesar didn’t get the job done and was let go. Make no mistake, though, it’s still Tony Blanco, Masahiko Morino, and Kazuhiro Wada who make up the core of a team that doesn’t get around the bases too quickly. Masahiro Araki is the only real stolen base threat on the squad. It remains to be seen if that core can perform to their 2010 level, and particularly if age will begin to catch up with Wada. He’ll turn 39 in June.

Manager and newly-minted Hall of Famer Hiromitsu Ochiai has reminded his team that they can be the first Dragons teams to ever win back-to-back pennants. With stiff competition from the Giants and Tigers, it should be another season long dogfight. Even if they don’t repeat as league champs, expect the Dragons to remain in the A Class for 2011 at a minimum.

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And the Tryouts Begin

» 18 October 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 7 Comments

With the season over for more than half the teams now, we’re seeing the tryouts begin. Lots of outside-the-boxing going on here:

  • Orix is looking at Venezuelans Luis Rodriguez and Victor Garate, both of whom have MLB experience. Garate is a 25 year-old lefty who has done well in 2A, but only reached 3A in 2010. Rodriguez is a 30 year-old infielder who bounced between the Majors and Minors between 2005-09, and spent last season on the White Sox’ 3A team. Orix had four Venezuelans on their roster last year, but management commented that it’s just a coincidence.
  • Rakuten brought in long-time US-based Indy Leaguer Travis Garcia for a tryout, but passed on signing him. Garcia has had some success in Indy ball but it’s not clear that he was active in 2010.
  • Yokohama brought in four pitchers for tryouts: 2A righty Clayton Hamilton and Indy Leaguers Jeff Ridgway, Brandon Mann, and Joseph Newby. Yokohama has had a hard time fielding a respectable pitching staff over the last several years, but I don’t think they’ll find the answer here. The pitchers in this batch are mostly in their late 20’s and haven’t had much success in the upper minors.
  • Hanshin worked out Venezuelan pitcher Robert Zarate a couple weeks ago. Zarate has three years of rookie ball experience under his belt, and pitched last year in the Independent BC League.

Of the guys listed in this post, only Rodriguez is a typical 4A type. We’ll see if any of them actually winds up signing contracts, but it looks like a trend of at least considering less-established players is emerging. The recent low-budget success of guys like Tony Blanco, Wirfin Obispo, Brett Harper and Francisco Caraballo have  shown that sometimes these kinds of moves can work out.

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Awards Announced

» 18 November 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

The 2009 season is in the books, and the MVPs go to Yu Darvish in the Pacific League, with Alex Ramirez receiving the honor for the Central League. Darvish earns the award for the second time in his career and Ramirez obtains the award for the second straight season.

The Rookie of the Year award is received by Tokyo Yomiuri Giants outfielder Testuya Matsumoto, the first time in 51 years that two players from the same team received the RoY in consecutive years (Giants reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi took the prize last year). The Pacific League award goes to reliever Tadashi Settsu of the Softbank Hawks.

The Best Nine Awards have also been announced and the winners are as follows:

Central Pacific
P Dicky Gonzalez Yu Darvish
CA Shinnosuke Abe Hidenori Tanoue
1B Tony Blanco Shinji Takahashi
2B Akihiro Higashide Kensuke Tanaka
3B Michihiro Ogasawara Takeya Nakamura
SS Hayato Sakamoto Hiroyuki Nakajima
OF Seiichi Uchikawa Teppei
OF Norichika Aoki Yoshio Itoi
OF Alex Ramirez Atsunori Inaba
DH Takeshi Yamazaki

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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.

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