Mike Loree Sighting and Other Top Performers in Taiwan

Two years ago I wrote a post about pitcher Mike Loree, who was coming off a 2011 season in which he was the best pitcher in the Independent A Atlantic League.  The article focused on the question of how old Loree is, given that some baseball websites list his birth year as 1984, while others list it as 1986, and how important age is in terms of a player’s future prospects.  Loree was almost certainly born in 1984.

Anyway, his fine 2011 performance got him a late-season look by the Pirates at their AA club in Altoona, PA. Loree also pitched extremely well there in limited playing time (1.17 ERA with 11 Ks in 7.2 innings pitched).  However, the Pirates apparently didn’t feel he was worth holding onto, because Loree was back in the Atlantic League in 2012.

Loree came back down to earth in a big way in 2012, posting a poor 4.92 ERA and giving up a lot of home runs to Independent A league hitters.  However, his strikeout and K/BB rates were still good, apparently good enough to get him a contract with the Lamigo Monkeys of Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League (“CPBL”) this past season.

Loree returned to his 2011 form in 2013.  His 3.40 ERA was second best in the four-team CPBL and his 150 Ks (in a league-leading 211.1 IP) led the small circuit by a wide margin.

Loree is now 29 years old, so his best professional prospects going forward are probably moving up a step to South Korea’s KBO, where contracts for foreign players are roughly double the size of those in the CPBL.

Meanwhile, Andy Sisco, who pitched briefly for the Royals and the White Sox between 2005 to 2007, led the CPBL with a 2.70 ERA, while striking out 91 batters in 133.1 IP as a member of the EDA Rhinos.  He’d pitched in the Atlantic League and the Mexican League in recent years before going to Taiwan, a fairly typical back-story for North Americans playing Taiwan.

The best young pitcher in Taiwan is probably Yu-Ching Lin, who at age 24 finished third with a 3.42 ERA and second with 125 Ks (in 157.2 IP).  He’s a smallish right-hander for the Brother Elephants.  Perhaps some day he’ll have a career in Japan’s NPB.

The CBPL’s top closer in 2013 was big Australian lefty Brad Thomas, who long ago pitched for the Minnesota Twins and also for the Detroit Tigers as recently as 2011.  He led the league with 26 saves and posted a 1.57 ERA.  He just turned 36, so the CBPL is probably his last career stop, except perhaps for winters playing in the new Australian Baseball League, which started play in the winter of 2010-2011.

The CBPL’s two best hitters this past season were Yi-Chuen Lin, who led the league in batting (.357) and home runs (18), and Kuo Hui Lo, who finished second in both categories (.350 and 14).  The league’s top three hitters in terms of batting average all played for the EDA Rhinos, so I suspect the Rhinos play in a hitters’ park.

Lin is a veteran CBPL star, while Lo began his professional career in MLB’s minor leagues, reaching as high as AA ball in 2010 and again in 2011.  Lo didn’t hit badly in his second stint at AA, but it seems clear the CPBL is somewhere below a AA level of play, insofar as he immediately became a star on his return to Taiwan.  Both Lin and Lo just turned 28, so it’s likely they’re at their performance ceiling now.

While it seems fairly certain we’ll never see any of the players mentioned here in MLB at any time in the future, I thought you might be interested to learn who the top half dozen players in Taiwan were this past season.

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3 Comments on “Mike Loree Sighting and Other Top Performers in Taiwan”

  1. Burly Says:

    The KT Wiz, an expansion team that plays in South Korea’s minor league in 2014 and starts play in South Korea’s major league (KBO Champions League) in 2015, announced that they signed Mike Loree today. Apparently, the Wiz want to get a jump on their eventual entry into the Champions League by having Loree pitch in KBO’s Futures League this upcoming season. If I had to guess, I’d say the Wiz are probably paying Loree about $200,000 this year, since he likely made about $150,000 pitching for the Lamigo Monkeys of Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League last season.

    • Burly Says:

      First, I probably overstated Mike Loree’s salaries in both in Taiwan and Korea. Loree’s 2013 salary in Taiwan may have been more like $60K to $100K, and his 2014 KBO salary something better than that, but probably not as high as $200K.

      Second, Loree had a good season in KBO’s minor league in 2014, but it looks like he got hurt at some point in the season. The KT Wiz’s website indicates that Loree pitched in 16 games, going 7-0 with a 3.63 ERA, which lead the team’s starters. However, he finished third on the team in innings pitched, and it appears to me Loree missed seven or eight starts, compared to the team’s two leaders in innings pitched.

      I don’t know when Loree got hurt or whether he’s already recovered from it. If so, he’s got a good shot at starting the 2015 playing for the Wiz in what will be their first KBO major league season. If not, he may be forced to return to Taiwan or the U.S.

  2. Burly Says:

    The best young Taiwanese hitter I could find (the CPBL’s Chinese language website is difficult for an English-only speaker to navigate) is Chih-wei Teng, an infielder for the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions. At age 24 last season, he batted .308/.357/.478.


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