NPB Signs Two from Diamondbacks’ AAA Team
Two Reno Aces, Warner Madrigal and Kila Ka’aihue, signed with Japanese teams this week, Madrigal by the Chunichi Dragons and Ka’aihue by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Ka’aihue looks like a perfect fit for an NPB team, but I’m a little surprised the Diamondbacks gave up on Madrigal.
Ka’aihue is a classic 4-A player who looks like a perfect fit for NPB. At age 29 this year, he isn’t particularly likely to get another shot from a major league team no matter what he does in AAA. Ka’aihue got reasonably long shots from the Royals in 2010 and the A’s last year and didn’t hit enough in either opportunity to convince a major league team that he could hit major league pitching well enough to keep him on a major league roster.
Ka’aihue is hitting .313 with a 1.045 OPS this year at Reno. He’s leading the Pacific Coast League with 16 HRs and his OPS is second best in the league. However, Reno is a great place to hit, and the D’Backs obviously didn’t think Ka’aihue’s bat would help them much at the major league level this year.
Ka’aihue couldn’t look better as an NPB import. He’s still fairly young, he’s got power, and he’s hit for average in the PCL. Like any foreign player going to Japan, however, Ka’aihue has to hit from the get-go or his Japanese career will end right quick.
One knock on Ka’aihue is that he’s inconsistent as a hitter, hitting over .310 in the PCL one year and hitting below .260 the next. That’s probably one of the reasons why he hasn’t been able to make the transition to the majors, and it may not bode well for his time in Japan. However, he’s obviously hitting right now, so perhaps that will carry over to Japan this season, and he’ll be able to stick around long enough there to show what he can really do and make some money in the process.
Warner Madrigal is a Dominican who started his professional career as an outfielder and was then converted to pitcher at age 22. He then shot threw the minors and reached the majors with the Rangers in 2008 at age 24. He pitched fairly well in relief in 2008, but pitched badly in 2009 and was returned to the minors. In 2011, Madrigal injured his pitching elbow two appearances into the season, missed the rest of that year and all of 2012 as well.
However, Madrigal appears to be all the way back in 2013. Out of the Aces’ bullpen, he had a pitching line of 36 IP, 21 hits, two HRs and 14 walks allowed and 41 Ks. With the promotion of Joe Paterson to the Diamondbacks this week, Madrigal’s 2.75 ERA was the best on the Aces’ staff.
While Madrigal is the same age as Ka’aihue, I’m surprised the Diamondbacks sold Madrigal to the Dragons. With twelve-man pitching staffs at the major league level, there is always a need for good arms at the AAA level in the nearly inevitable event that someone gets hurt or is ineffective on the major league staff.
If Madrigal’s arm problems are truly behind him, he should be successful in Japan. His minor league records suggest he’s got good stuff and knows how to pitch.