Go East, (Not So) Young Man! Part 2: the Pitchers
Here are some of the minor league pitchers I think mostly likely to be pitching in Asia next season:
Michael Bowden. Bowden turned 29 two days ago and was one of the best pitchers in the International League this year, finishing 3rd in wins (11), 3rd in ERA (2.63) and 10th in strikeouts (99). However, the Twins haven’t given him a September call-up, which suggests he isn’t in the team’s future plans. Bowden has pitched in over 100 MLB games, most notably with the Cubs in 2012-2013. His age and track record would be popular with Asian teams.
Dan Straily. Straily will be 27 next season, and he had MLB success in Oakland in 2013, so he may not be ready to give up his major league dreams. However, his MLB career has gone south in a big way the last two years, and he may be willing to go to Japan if the offer is right. While his 4.77 ERA for Fresno in the Pacific Coast League wasn’t in the top ten, he led the 16-team circuit with 124 K in only 122.2 IP. He certainly looks like he has the stuff to be successful in NPB, if he decides to give it a whirl.
Toru Murata. Murata will be 31 in 2016. He’s a Japanese pitcher who has never pitched in NPB’s Ichi-gun, i.e., major league. He was a first round draft pick by the Yomiuri Giants out of college but they released him after three minor league seasons The Tribe signed him in 2010 after he pitched in the Arizona Fall League in 2009. He made one unimpressive start for the Indians in June, but he pitched well at AAA Columbus, going 15-4 with a 2.90 ERA (6th best in IL) His strikeout rate was not impressive, but he may have pitched well enough to get another shot at NPB if he wants it.
Chris Smith. A smallish right-hander who pitched in 50 major league games before pitching his way out of the MLB system in 2011, he worked his way back through the Independent-A leagues and had a strong season for El Paso in the PCL this year. His 3.60 ERA was 5th best in the league and his 121 Ks was 2nd best. The question is whether an Asian team would be willing to give him a shot in light of the fact that he turns 35 next April.