4-A Players Japanese Teams Should Consider

Here are a few hitters who, it seems to me, would be an ideal fit for a Japanese NPB team:

1.  Freddie Lewis.  The former Giant and Blue Jay looks like a player who would be perfectly suited to Japanese baseball.  He will be 32 in 2013, which is getting up there for a professional baseball player, but he still runs well, stealing 25 bases in 33 attempts and hitting seven triples in 2012 for the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.  Players who run well age better than players who don’t.

Lewis had only 20 major league at-bats in 2012, and his future MLB prospects look slim.  However, his .862 OPS was the fifth best in the AAA International League this past season, so he’s still got some professional baseball left in him.

Lewis has substantial major league experience and has shown command of the major league strike zone (career MLB on-base percentage of .344), and enough MLB power that he could be a slugger in Japan.

2.  Dan Johnson.  His .880 OPS was third best in the International League in 2012, and he deserves another shot in NPB, although Japanese teams will probably be reluctant to give him the money it would take to get him to leave the U.S.

Dan Johnson hit a feeble .215 for the Yokohama Bay Stars in 2009, but he posted a .791 OPS due to his power and ability to draw walks.  The problem was that the Bay Stars paid Johnson nearly a million dollars for that performance, which is a lot for one of NPB’s second division teams, and he wasn’t invited back in 2010.

The problem with Johnson returning to Japan is that he is probably the best paid minor league player in North America.  He’s a major league veteran who is perennially one of the best hitters in AAA and gets at least a major league cup of coffee every year.  In other words, an NPB team would have to pony up to get him to leave the U.S.

3. Jeff Clement.  Clement will be 29 in 2013, has substantial major league experience (over 400 MLB plate appearances) (MLB experience is a prerequisite for a Japanese team to take a 4-A player seriously).  His .825 OPS was 9th best in the International League (“IL”), and he can play catcher in a pinch, which adds to his value.

4.  Matt LaPorta.  Matt LaPorta will be 28 in 2013, and it seems apparent that he will not have a successful major league career.  He is a 1B/LF with a career .694 OPS in more than 1,000  MLB plate appearances.  He has a career .916 minor league OPS (.891 at the AAA level).  His .825 OPS was the 10th best in the IL in 2012.

LaPorta’s career numbers virtually scream that he should give Japan a try.

5.  Andrew Brown.  The Rockies just outrighted Brown to AAA Colorado Springs, and he should consider taking off to Japan.  Brown will be 28 in 2013, and his .961 OPS was 5th best in the AAA Pacific Coast League (“PCL”) in 2012.

Brown got over 100 plate appearances for the Rockies in 2012 and hit reasonably well (.730 OPS).  However, he’s a corner outfielder, and his age will definitely work against him in terms of an MLB career.  He’s hit well at the AA and AAA level the last four seasons, and he’s definitely worth a shot by an NPB team.

6.  Brendan Harris.  The 32 year old jack-of-all-trades had a .914 OPS for Colorado Springs in 2012, 9th best in the PCL.

Harris didn’t hit a lick in the International League in 2011, but he has a career .701 OPS in more than 1,700 MLB plate appearances, and his ability to play every infield position could make him extremely valuable to a Japanese team.

7.  Cole Gillespie.  A  28 year old corner outfielder (turns 29 next June) with more than 100 major league plate appearances and extremely high on-base percentages at AAA Reno (between .390 and .405) the last three seasons.

8. Josh Fields.  Soon to be 30 years old, Fields failed miserably for the Yomiuri Giants in 2011 (.553 OPS in 40 games), but deserves another shot, possibly with a second division NPB team, in 2013.  He hit .322 with an .880 OPS for the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2012.

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4 Comments on “4-A Players Japanese Teams Should Consider”

  1. Burly Says:

    11/26/12: The Twins just signed Jeff Clement to a minor league deal.

  2. Burly Says:

    11/29/12: I’m behind the curve on Fred Lewis. According to the link below, he signed with the Hiroshima Carp for 40 million yen (roughly $490,000) for 2013, with an option for 2014, on November 9th. At least it’s reassuring to know that at least one NPB team thinks the way I do.
    http://yakyubaka.com/2012/11/09/hiroshima-carp-sign-fred-lewis-to-a-one-year-deal-with-a-club-option-for-2014/

  3. Burly Says:

    The Hanshin Tigers were reported to have some interest in Cole Gillespie back in October if they are unable to sign Kosuke Fukudome, whom they’ve reportedly offered roughly $5 million over two years but has other NPB suitors. Hanshin was reportedly also interested in soon-to-be-28-year-old outfielder Xavier Paul, who hit well in half a season in the International League and in limited playing time with the Reds in 2012.


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