Go East, Not So Young Men!
With the AAA regular seasons over, it’s a good time to look at the not so young players who played well enough in the International or Pacific Coast League to get a shot at making some real money in Japan or South Korea next season. The guys who go to Asia are mostly players too old to be considered prospects for MLB, but who are really too good to remain in AAA. If a player has a big year at AAA in an age 26 through 31 season and has more than a handful of MLB games under his belt, he’s a good bet to play in Asia, if he’s willing to travel across the world to play there.
The most obvious candidates at this moment among the position players are:
Rob Segedin, T.J. Rivera and Stefen Romero. All three will 28 next season, which is nearly the ideal age for foreign players hoping to have a long Asian career, and all have played in more than a dozen major league games. Segedin led the PCL in OPS (.989), Rivera finished fourth (.909) and Romero finished fifth (.902). Romero has the most proven AAA track record and the most major league experience. Rivera probably has the most defensive value.
I rate Jesus Aguilar (27 in 2017), Chris Marrero (28) and Darin Ruf (30) as the most likely hitting prospects for Asian baseball among this year’s International League regulars. Aguilar is young and hit 30 home runs for the Columbus Clippers, but Asian teams may not be impressed with his .247 batting average. Marrero had the IL’s sixth best OPS (.838), and he’s reasonably young.
Darin Ruf is a proven major league hitter, but he hasn’t done much in limited playing time with the Phillies this year. His .885 OPS was second best in the IL, and at 30 in 2017, this would be a good time to cash in with a Japanese team.
Among starting pitchers, Brad Peacock (29), Roenis Elias (28) and Andrew Albers (31) are probably the best bets. Peacock and Elias both have the proven MLB track records Asian teams like, but neither pitched much in MLB this season. Albers bombed in South Korea’s KBO in 2014, but it’s possible he could go back to Asia after a strong AAA season this year.
Among relief pitchers, there are always a tremendous number of possible players who pitch well in AAA and get some games at the MLB level, so it’s very difficult just looking at the numbers to guess which ones are actually interested in playing in Asia for not a lot more money right away since they earn at least a little major league pay each season. However, Oliver Drake (30), James Hoyt (30), and Spencer Patton (29) all seem to be particularly likely candidates based on their ages, their 2016 AAA performances and the fact that none has really broken through at the MLB level this season in spite of their fine AAA performances.