Tag Archive > Wirfin Obispo

The Scrap Heap: Huang, Vechionacci, Soriano, Others

» 14 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » Comments Off

Each offseason, NPB teams release a raft of players. I’ve combed through the list and picked out a few guys that could have some upside ahead of them.

  • Chih-Lung Huang — There were MLB clubs interested in Huang when he signed with Yomiuri out of Taiwan in 2009, but he preferred Japan. The Giants seemed bullish on him when he reached ichi-gun in 2010, but cooled off this year. His stuff wasn’t as advertised but at age 22 he may still have some upside.
  • Marcos Vechionacci — Vechionacci signed an ikusei contract with Hanshin last offseason, then hit .255/.359/.436 in 128 ni-gun plate appearances. That line sounds alright to me, but I guess Hanshin’s management didn’t agree. I would guess he’ll wind up back in 2A or 3A.
  • Dioni Soriano – Soriano is a graduate of the Hiroshima Carp Dominican Academy, and bounced around China and Japan’s independent Island League before signing with the mothership in 2009. He has shown more success than anyone else on this list, throwing a shutout against Hanshin near the end of 2010. Soriano has a good arm, but throwing strikes has tended to be an issue for him. At age 29 (on December 30) he’s not a spring chicken by baseball standards, be he likely still has a few decent years in front of him.
  • Wilfreiser Guerrero — Another product of the Carp’s Dominican Academy. Admittedly I know next to nothing about Guerrero, other that than he walked a lot of guys at ni-gun. I’ve included him on this list based on the observation that MLB clubs turned former Academy-sei players Ramon Ramirez and Esmailyn Caridad into Major Leaguers pretty quickly.
  • Wirfin Obispo — I’ve written quite a bit about Obi-chan, calling his very good 2009 season a “small triumph for player development” and lauding Nippon Ham acquiring him from Yomiuri as one of my two favorite trades of last offseason. Obispo made Nippon Ham’s opening day roster in 2011, but was lit up in the first week and banished to ni-gun, where he was unimpressive for the rest of the season. At his best in 2009, he had a 93+ mph fastball and hard slider. Obispo is playing Winter Ball this year in hopes of catching on with an MLB club.

As far as I know, none of these players has signed for 2012 yet.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , ,

My Favorite Offseason Trades

» 17 April 2011 » In npb » 8 Comments

Forward: I’ve had this one in “draft” status since November. If I actually finish it, it’ll be a new record for the post I took the longest amount of time to complete.

When I started drafting this post, it was about one trade: Yomiuri sending Wirfin Obispo to Nippon Ham for Hideki Sunaga and Toshimasa Konta. Then another trade worth writing about took place, but we’ll get to that later. First Obispo.

Graded on pure upside, the Obispo deal is a nice win for Nippon Ham. Obispo had a rough 2010, struggling with reduced velocity, but he’s still not really a finished product and worth taking a chance on. Assuming he’s not injured, he still has a good arm, and he showed in 2009 that he can contribute at the ichi-gun level. Yomiuri’s return offers much more limited upside. Sunaga a rather unpolished lefty reliever, who hasn’t been able to stick at ichi-gun, while Konta is a fifth outfielder/pinch runner type.

I didn’t quite get what Yomiuri saw in this trade until spring training, when I saw both Sunaga and Konta play in exhibition games. Sunaga seemed rough but may have some potential as a lefty specialist. Konta’s skills as a defensive replacement and pinch runner will come in handy for a team featuring aging outfielders Yoshinobu Takahashi and Alex Ramirez. Additionally, the Giants are stacked with foreign pitchers it was going to be difficult to find roster time for Obi-chan. So I like this deal for both sides, but the early returns favor the Giants. Obispo gave up five runs in one inning in his Nippon Ham debut, while Konta has already appeared in five games for the Giants.

So that was my favorite trade of the offseason, until Orix heisted Hayato Terahara (and Kazuya Takamiya) from Yokohama for Shogo Yamamoto and Go Kida. Unlike the Obispo-Sunaga/Konta deal, I still haven’t seen the logic in the Yokohama side on this one. I recall reading that the official word was that the BayStars weren’t happy with their lefty rotation options. That’s reasonable enough, but Yamamoto seems like a poor return for Terahara. Maybe Terahara plus another player could have pried Kenji Ohtonari away from Softbank, for example. In fairness to Yokohama though, we don’t have the luxury of knowing who was available on the trade market and what the asking prices were. And there is always some injury risk to Terahara, but if he’s healthy, he offers significantly more value than Yamamoto, regardless of which arm he throws with.

Through the first week of the season, Orix has the better of the Terahara-Yamamoto deal. Yamamoto has already made two starts for Yokohama, but has given up eight earned runs in 11 innings pitcher. Meanwhile, Terahara threw a shutout against Softbank on the second day of the season.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,

2011 Breakout Candidates

» 13 April 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

Tonight we take a look at eight guys who could take a step forward this season.

Sho Nakata (1B/LF/DH, Nippon Ham Fighters) — Nakata was on my list last year, and had an interesting season: a slow start followed by an injury, then a hot stretch immediately after the injury, and finally a slump to end the season. The important thing is that he showed he can handle ichi-gun pitching, which was a new development. If he can put together a full year he’ll likely be Ham’s best or second best home run hitter.

Shota Ohba (P, Softbank Hawks) — Like Nakata, Ohba was on my list last year, and also like Nakata he’s had stretches of success. Last year he only threw 9.1 innings at the ichi-gun level; if he were to make 20 starts this year it would be a boon to Softbank’s lefty-dominated rotation.

Naomichi Donoue (IF, Chunichi Dragons) — The Arakibata Combi can’t continue forever, and when the Hirokazu Ibata half was down with an injury last year, Doue was there to fill in. He’s been touted as a prospect for some time now, we’ll see if this is the year he breaks through.

Keijiro Matsumoto (OF, Yokohama BayStars) — Developing young talent should be a high priority for a Yokohama team that can’t realistically expect to compete this year. But ‘Hama has started the season with an outfield of Termel Sledge, Hichori Morimoto, and Yuki Yoshimura, and to get playing him he’ll have to take it from one of those guys. Matsumoto hit for average at ni-gun last year, but without many walks or home runs.

Wirfin Obispo (P, Nippon Ham Fighters) — Obispo has always had a good arm, and showed a lot of promise in 2009 with Yomiuri. In Hokkaido he’ll be a part of a deep pitching staff, but won’t have to compete for a roster spot with more established foreign veterans, so he should get a few more innings at the top level.

Takashi Ogino (SS, Chiba Lotte Marines) — Ogino’s not strictly a breakout candidate, given that he performed extremely well prior to his injury last year. But he’s new to shortstop and if he stays healthy, he should be a lot of fun to watch.

Yusei Kikuchi (P, Saitama Seibu Lions) — After a disappointing rookie season, Kikuchi had a strong spring and made Seibu’s opening day roster, in a middle relief role. I only saw him pitch one inning this spring, and while his velocity topped out around 142 kmph, his mechanics were smooth and he kept the ball down in the zone. There’s no doubt about his talent.

Hideto Asamura (IF, Saitama Seibu Lions) — I’m cheating on this one a little bit, as Asamura has started Seibu’s first two games at first base. I first saw Asamura this spring, in an exhibition game against Yomiuri, where the announcers were describing him as a potential successor to Hiroyuki Nakajima. I was impressed at how much confidence he showed at the plate against Brian Bannister. That swagger has apparently carried over to the regular season as he’s 5-9 so far.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Offseason Changes: Nippon Ham Fighters

» 06 February 2011 » In npb » 8 Comments

Coming: Wirfin Obispo, Yuki Saito, Micah Hoffpauir, Kenta Matsusaka, Tomohisa Nemoto

Going: Hichori Morimoto, Hideki Sunaga, Toshimasa Konta, Yoshinori Tateyama, Takayuki Takaguchi, Kazunori Yamamoto, Buddy Carlyle, Tomochika Tsuboi

Staying: Yu Darvish, Kazuhito Tadano, Kensuke Tanaka

Summary: Did anyone else hear that Yuki Saito is on his way to Hokkaido? Yes? Believe it or not, there was news concerning other members of the Nippon Ham Fighters this winter. While the Fighters welcomed two new foreign players this offseason, said goodbye to one, and saw a fan favorite slip away, the most anxiety surrounded the fate of their ace.

Despite some ominous sounding tweets from Yu Darvish saying that his “situation had changed,” it hadn’t from a baseball standpoint. The Fighters’ ace and most important player is staying in Sapporo for at least one more season. He reeled in a JPY 500m contract, NPB’s top salary, as we welcomed in 2011. Carrying the load behind him will be Bobby Keppel and Masaru Takeda, who make up the top of a stingy staff that was arguably the best in Japan in 2010.

The back of the rotation faces some uncertainty, though, as Hirotoshi Masui comes into spring camp proclaiming that he wants to be the #4 starter. Throw newcomer Wirfin Obispo and incumbent Tomoya Yagi into the mix along with perhaps Saito and some other worthy candidates, and you have a full-on battle. We’ll have to see how it shakes out.

One name who won’t be in the mix this year is Buddy Carlyle. The man who was once traded for Marc Kroon in America finds himself back in the States… along with Kroon, as fate would have it. Joining them on the other side of the ocean will be Yoshinori Tateyama, who skipped town as a free agent to join the Texas Rangers.

Lovable goofball Hichori Morimoto took his talents south to Yokohama. It’ll be strange for a while seeing him donning a blue and white uniform. Coming into the lineup to hopefully supply more pop will be self described “doubles hitter” Micah Hoffpauir. The left-handed veteran of the Chicago Cubs system will presumably play first base; he’ll try to match or surpass the 22 home runs he hit at AAA last year.

In my assessment, despite having a power starved lineup, their pitching should get them into the playoffs. They nearly made it wast year, being edged out by 1/2 game in a frantic scramble. They need Hoffpauir’s bat to be what they hope it is, and could really use a big contribution from Sho Nakata, in what could be a make-or-break year for him. Players like Atsunori Inaba, Makoto Kaneko and Tomohiro Nioka aren’t getting any younger, and 2011 may be their last chance (and Darvish’s) to bring Hokkaido another title. While I don’t see them finishing atop the Pacific League, I think a playoff spot is theirs to lose.

Continue reading...

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

Offseason Changes: Yomiuri Giants

» 27 January 2011 » In npb » 6 Comments

Coming: Brian Bannister, Hideki Sunaga, Toshimasa Konta, Jonathan Albaladejo, Carlos Torres, Rusty Ryal, Adam Bright

Going: Masahide Kobayashi, Seung-Yeop Lee, Wirfin Obispo, Marc Kroon, Edgar Gonzalez, Toru Murata, Noriyoshi Ohmichi, Soichi Fujita, Noel Urena

Staying: Seth Greisinger, Dicky Gonzalez

Summary: The top three teams in the Central League (Chunichi, Hanshin, and Yomiuri) all finished the 2010 season within one game of each other in the standings. While the order of finish might be different, it doesn’t look like any of the three will falter and miss the post-season party in 2011.

While the Giants failed in their quest for a fourth straight pennant last season, there were many positives. Owners of NPB’s most powerful lineup, only the Tigers were able to outpace the Giants’ 711 runs scored. Yomiuri’s stars like Alex Ramirez and Michihiro Ogasawara aren’t getting any younger, but both still put up terrific numbers. Ogasawara defies the laws of nature each season, staying remarkably consistent at the plate. Shinnosuke Abe set career highs with 44 home runs and 303 total bases. Hisayoshi Chono and Hayato Sakamoto have emerged as superb young hitters, offsetting a potential future offensive decline.

Once heralded but now out of favor, management decided that Seung-Yeop Lee’s time as a Giant would end this off-season. Since joining the team five years earlier, both Lee’s numbers and playing time steadily decreased each season. Edgar Gonzalez was not retained; the infielder hit .263 with 12 home runs in 2010.

The plan right now seems to be one of replacing the holes that were created by off-season departures. Rusty Ryal spent 2010 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’ll battle with for time at third base, as it looks like Tatsunori Hara will slide Ogasawara over to first base. Taishi Ohta and Yoshiyuki Kamei will undoubtedly be squeezed for playing time at ichi-gun if Ryal sticks; the latter is transitioning to the infield this season.

On the pitching side, closer Marc Kroon and Masahide Kobayahi departed.  I expect former New York Yankee Jonathan Albaladejo to fill Kroon’s spot as the 9th inning man. He might have some competition from Tetsuya Yamaguchi or Daisuke Ochi, but I believe Albaladejo will win the role barring injury or severe early underperformance.

As for the rotation, Shun Tohno and Tetsuya Utsumi are set, then the Giants brass has to figure out how to cobble together a winning rotation from Shugo Fujii and a gaggle of foreigners. New arrival Brian Bannister should be part of the rotation, and Seth Greisinger will also get a look after an abbreviated 2010 campaign. Dicky Gonzalez (5-13, 5.29 ERA), who couldn’t come remotely close to his 2009 performance (15-2, 2.11 ERA), was also invited back and is an option. The odds are longer for hurlers such as Chih-Lung Huang or Carlos Torres to win a regular rotation spot, but hopes are high for 2010 top draft pick Hirokazu Sawamura.

Of note, Hideki Sunaga and Toshimasa Konta arrived in a trade with Nippon Ham, as Wirfin Obispo was sent to Hokkaido in exchange. Toru Murata departed for the American minor leagues, but the aforementioned Greisinger took a harsh pay cut to stay with the Giants.

The positional battles, newcomers, and high-powered offense should be fun to watch this spring. We’ll see if it all goes according to plan for the Kyojin when the games count in a few months.

Continue reading...

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

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.

Continue reading...

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

NPB-KBO Club Championship Notes

» 14 November 2009 » In international baseball, kbo, npb » 3 Comments

If you missed the NPB-KBO Club Championship, you can watched a Korean broadcast archived on justin.tv here: http://www.justin.tv/wkwlxjf#from-21.00,November-13-2009.

If you don’t see any video, try tweaking the time and date at the end of the url.

In a nutshell, Yomiuri beat Kia 9-4. It was a decent game until the 7th, when Yomiuri put seven runs on the board. Yakyu Baka has a write-up of the game, so I’ll limit my comments to a few observations. And here they are

  • This game failed to sell out Nagasaki’s rather small stadium. I wonder why they played in Nagasaki rather than the beautiful new stadium in Hiroshima?
  • The game felt like a spring training game spiked with a competitiveness, but the Giants did play all their starters. Last year, Seibu gave their foreign players the series off and let a number of their ni-gun kids play.
  • Kia’s starter, Yang Hyeon-Jong, was pretty good. He seemed to work mostly off of his breaking pitches, but seemed to have a respectable fastball, which I think he could have used more. In any event, I hope to see more.
  • Taishi Ohta pinch-hit at the end of the game, but looked completely fooled by You Dong-Hoon, who was otherwise hittable.
  • Wirfin Obispo is more of a “thrower” than a “pitcher”.
  • Tatsunori Hara took receipt of a huge trophy for his team’s victory.
  • Next year, the organizers are looking at bringing back the four-team format, and hosting the series in Taiwan. Good idea, in my opinion. I don’t think continuing to centralize this on Japan is in the best interest of Asian baseball.

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top Dominican Prospect Reportedly Considering Japan

» 30 September 2009 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

Here’s a developing story: a couple of weeks ago, a baseball source indicated to me that Dominican prospect Rafael Depaula is considering starting his professional career with a Japanese club. Depaula is considered a top prospect, but the rub is that he’s currently barred from signing with an MLB club due to irregularities found in his age investigation.

Depaula, 17, is a righthanded pitcher who compliments a mid-90’s fastball with a change up and slider. A brief video of him shows clean mechanics, and a commentor at River Ave Blues was kind enough to hand-translate a Spanish-language article about him (or you can check out the machine-translation). I asked Ben Badler about Depaula’s status as a prospect, and he confirmed to me that he would command a healthy bonus even if turned out to be older than 17.

So is Japan a viable option for Depaula? Aside from the foreign player limit hurdle (which is significant) I don’t see why not. The Hiroshima Carp have certainly brought a number of guys over from their Dominican Academy, and we’ve seen the Giants have some success developing Wirfin Obispo. Yakult also occasionally bring young players over from Brazil, though we have yet to see any of them really stick with the top team. And we do see NPB teams go toe-to-toe with MLB clubs over top amateur talent from Taiwan.

This story has the potential to become an interesting counter-point to the Yusei Kikuchi situation. We’ll keep an eye on it.

Continue reading...

Tags: ,