Archive for October 2017

Best Hitting Prospects in Japan’s NPB 2017/2018

October 27, 2017

With the recent end of the 2017 NPB regular season, it’s time for my annual post on the top NPB position player prospects in terms of possible playing in MLB some day.  Here they are:

Shohei Otani (age 23 in 2018; MLB ETA 2018-2020).  Aside from being the best pitching prospect in NPB, I now rank Otani as the top hitting prospect, mainly because he has expressed interest in jumping to MLB this off-season and wants to hit as well as pitch in MLB.  In any event, he will be arriving in MLB no later than the 2020 season, as he will be 25 that year and then able to sign for $100+ million.

An early season hamstring injury limited Otani to 65 games in 2017, in which he slashed .332/.403/.540.  In 2016, he slashed .322/.416/.588 in 104 games.  It’s hard to find anything not to like about Otani as an MLB prospect.

Tetsuto Yamada (age 25 in 2017; 2020-2021).  A year ago, Yamada looked like a can’t miss future MLBer.  Unfortunately, he just plain stunk in 2017, at least compared to the standards he had set the three previous seasons.

Yamada slashed .247/.364./.435 this year.  He had hit over .300 each of the previous three seasons.  His power numbers were well down, and he struck out far more often than he ever had in the past.

Yamada may have had some kind of minor injury or lingering effect from the injury he suffered late in the 2016 season.  However, he played in all 143 of the Yakult Swallows’ games, so he couldn’t have been that badly hurt.  The Swallows were pretty awful this year, finishing dead last, after going to the Nippon Series in 2015.  Yamada may have been trying to do too much, as no one else on the team was hitting, until both he and Wladimir Balentien began to get hot in August.

As disappointing as his 2017 season was, there is still reason for hope.  Yamada still hit 24 HRs and finished with a second best in league 91 walks.  He stole 14 bases in 18 attempts, and he’s a middle infielder.  However, his defensive numbers were down this year compared to 2014 and 2015, suggesting something was just not right with him.

2018 will be an important season for Yamada to show whether 2017 was just a hiccup or if he’s really lost something in his game.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (26; 2020-2021).  Tsutsugo didn’t hit as well in 2017 as he had in 2016, but the drop-off was not as extreme as Yamada’s.  Tsutsugo slashed .284/.396/.513, leading the Central League in walks and finishing second in OPS (.909), third in on-base percentage and fifth in slugging percentage.

I still rank Tsutsugo lower than Yamada because Yamada is much faster and likely has much more defensive value.  Tsutsugo’s best skill is power, which will take a hit coming to MLB.  Still, his on-base percentages are impressive enough and he’ll be eligible for MLB at a young enough age to suggest he could be an MLB starter.

Seiya Suzuki (23; 2023).  After a break-through season in 2016 at age 21, Suzuki’s 2017 slash line of .300/.389/.547 was down across the board.  However, he still led the Central League with a .936 OPS, indicating that offense was down throughout the Central League in 2017 compared to 2016.  Suzuki runs better than Tsutsugo and is probably a better outfielder, but he’s a lot further from his possible MLB future than is Tsutsugo.

Yuki Yanigita (29; 2021-2022).  At this moment Yanigita is an MLB-level starting talent, but he has several more years to go before he will be posted to play in MLB.  In the last four seasons, Yanigita has posted batting averages between .306 and .363 and on-base percentages between .413 and .469.  In the last three seasons, he’s posted slugging percentages between .523 and .631.  Yanigita runs well enough that he may still have something left when he has enough service time to come to MLB.

Hideto Asamura (27; 2019).  I keep listing Asamura every off-season because he had a tremendous season in 2013 at age 22 when he recorded a .942 OPS, tops in the Pacific League, and he could start his MLB career at a relatively young 28.  He’s never been anywhere that good with the bat since 2013, although he’s hit well enough the last two seasons to establish himself as a legitimate NPB star.  However, unless he has a really big year with the bat in 2018, his age 27 season, I don’t think he will draw a great deal of interest from MLB clubs, particularly because his NPB team, the Seibu Lions, didn’t seem impressed with his 2B defense this year, shifting him to 1B late in at least 45 games, presumably in order to get a better defender in to protect a lead.

Hayato Sakamoto (29; ?).  A shortstop, Sakamoto had a career year in 2016 at age 27.  He came back down to earth and his career norms in 2017, slashing .291/.372/.433.  He earned his international free agent option last year, but I haven’t heard anything suggesting he plans to leave the Yomiuri Giants, NPB’s premier club.  I’m doubtful Sakamoto will ever join MLB, but who but Sakamoto knows for certain?

Shogo Akiyama (30; 2018) and Yoshihiro Maru (29; 2019-2020).  Two fine NPB hitters who get on base a lot, the batting skill that best translates for Japanese players coming to MLB.  Their talent levels are probably such that it doesn’t make sense for them to join MLB unless they are determined to test themselves against the best.

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Best Pitching Prospects in Japan’s NPB 2017/2018

October 24, 2017

Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball produces an increasing share of top MLB pitchers.  Here are some prospects (in terms of MLB) I’m keeping my eyes on:

Shohei Otani (age 23 in 2018; MLB ETA 2018-2020).  By now, just about everyone following MLB has heard of Otani, particularly because rumor has it he wants to join MLB in 2018 in spite of the fact that he would make at least $100 million more by waiting two more years until he turns age 25 and is no longer subject to signing bonus/contract limits.  Otani is generally regarded as the next Yu Darvish / Masahiro Tanaka, except that Otani is also a legitimate elite MLB prospect as a hitter.

Otani injured his hamstring running the bases early in the 2017, which limited his pitching efforts to a mere 25.1 innings pitched this season.  MLB teams couldn’t care less, because Otani can command a 102 mph fastball and has a number of other MLB plus pitches.

Otani wants to continue hitting as well as pitching in MLB, and who can blame him.  He slashed .332/.403/.540 in the 65 games he played after coming back from the hamstring injury.  He slashed .322/.416/.588 in 104 games last year.

Did I mention he’s only 23 years old and commands a 102 mph fastball?  The question is which MLB team will win the Otani sweepstakes if he elects to sign this off-season.

Miles Mikolas (29; 2018).  Mikolas is a former MLBer who elected to take guaranteed money to pitch for NPB’s Yomiuri Giants three seasons ago.  It has worked out extremely well for him and his wife, who has also become a celebrity in Japan.  This year Mikolas’ 2.25 ERA was the second best in Japan’s Central League, and he led the six-team circuit with 187 strikeouts in a league-leading 188 innings pitched.

Mikolas now has a combined 2.18 ERA across his three NPB seasons and has steadily improved most of his peripheral numbers.  In particular, he walked only 23 and allowed only 10 home runs in his 188 IP this year.

Mikolas looks to be the next Colby Lewis.  However, an MLB team will likely have to beat the two-year $10 million offer the Yomiuri Giants will likely offer to keep him.  Given what MLB starters are now getting that seems likely.

Yusei Kikuchi (27; 2020-2021)  Kikuchi moves up sharply from last year’s list, because one of last year’s negatives has become a positive.  Prior to 2017, Kikuchi had never pitched more than 143 innings in an NPB season.

This year, at age 26 he led NPB’s Pacific League with 187.2 IP.  He also led the league with a 1.97 ERA and finished a close second with 217 Ks, while allowing only 122 hits.

I rank Kikuchi higher than the next pitcher on this list, because Kikuchi was used so sparingly before the age of 26 and also because at a listed 6’0″ and 220 lbs, he’s got an MLB-sized body.  Kikuchi is also a left-hander, which only adds to his potential appeal.

Takahiro Norimoto (27; 2020-2021).  Norimoto has been every bit as good an NPB pitcher as Kikuchi, but he’s a small right-hander who has been worked hard in his five NPB seasons.  He led NPB with 222 Ks (in a second-best-in-league 185.2 IP).  Norimoto has now struck out 200+ batters four years in a row.

His 2.57 ERA was second best in the Pacific League, and his ERA has improved every year he’s been in his league.  The knock on Norimoto is his size (5’11”, 180 lbs), and the fact that he’s almost certainly thrown more pitches than anyone else in his league over the last five seasons.  If he stays healthy, he should be the next Kenta Maeda when his MLB turn comes.

Tomoyuki Sugano (28; 2022).  Sugano convinced me a year ago that he’s the real deal, and this year he was even better.  He led all of NPB with a 1.59 ERA and struck out a second best in the Central League 171 batters in 187.1 innings pitched.  He’s been too good for too long not to give him his props and rate him as an elite MLB-level talent.

That said, the Yomiuri Giants will not post him before he becomes a unrestricted free agent, he started his NPB career at a relatively old 23, and, if he’s still healthy after the 2021 season, the Yomiuri Giants will likely give him a record setting four year deal of at least $25 million and probably more.  In short, Sugano will only come to MLB if he decides he wants to test himself against the best.

Shintaro Fujinami (24; 2021-2023).  In last year’s post on this subject, I wrote, “The Hanshin Tigers seem determined to burn out their young ace before he ever reaches MLB.”  The Tigers may have done so.

Fujinami had an absolutely brutal 2017 season, making only 11 major league starts and allowing 53 walks and HBPs against only 41Ks in 59 innings pitched.  It’s little short of amazing that he managed a run average below five per nine innings pitched, given the number of base runners he allowed, and probably attests to Fujinami’s abilities as a pitcher.

Has Fujinami’s arm been ruined, or is it a mechanical problem with his motion? It’s hard to say.  On July 29, 2017, he reportedly hit 98 mph on the radar gun in an NPB minor league start, matching a major league pitch Yusei Kikuchi reportedly threw around the same date.  In 61 innings for Hanshin’s minor league club, Fujinami struck out 77 but also walked 31 and posted an ERA of 2.66, but a run average of 3.39.

I would guess that overwork has something to do with it, as his 2016 performance was down from his breakthrough 2015 campaign.  We’ll have a better idea a year from now.

Yuki Matsui (22; 2022).  A small (5’8.5″, 163 lbs) left-handed closer for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Matsui has electric stuff (366 Ks in 303.1 career NPB innings pitched) and what appears to be close to four full seasons of NPB experience through his age 21 season.

As I wrote a year ago, it’s anybody’s guess whether a pitcher this small and this young can hold up to the often high-stress workload of a closer long-term.  He had a 1.20 ERA this season and was almost unhittable, but his strikeout rate was down from 2016.

Takeru Imamura (27; 2020). A reliever who moved into the closer role in 2017, he’s got an MLB-sized body (6’0″, 216 lbs) and has impressed the last two seasons with sub-2.50 ERAs and high strikeout rates.

Kodei Senga (25; 2023-2024).  A very talented young starter who now has a career NPB ERA of 2.52 and 467 Ks in 418 innings pitched.  He’s not real big (6’1″, 189 lbs) and has many more years to put in in Japan before he’ll have an opportunity to pitch in MLB.

Yasuaki Yamasaki (25; 2023).  A small right-hander (5’11”, 187 lbs) who has saved 96 games in his three NPB seasons, has a career 2.35 ERA and 211 Ks in 179.2 IP.

Shota Imanaga (24; 2024).  A small lefty starter who has been good enough his first two NPB seasons to put a bookmark in.

NPB pitchers available this off-season include:  Yoshihisa Hirano (34), Hideaki Wakui , Kazuhisa Makita , Hirotoshi Masui (34), Scott Mathieson (34) and Josh Lueke (33).

The St. Louis Cardinals reportedly have interest in Hirano. Wakui has expressed interest in pitching in the U.S., although I suspect he’ll get better offers from NPB teams.

Makita and Masui are both NPB “domestic” free agents, meaning their teams would have to post them.  Masui has good stuff, but is awfully small (he’s listed as weighing 154 lbs.)  Makita is a ground ball pitcher (46 HRs allowed in 921.1 IP) who might draw MLB interest, if MLB teams think he can prevent MLB hitters from hitting home runs.

Scott Mathieson has had a great NPB career and could potentially return to MLB.  However, I suspect he’s probably just making noises to get a better offer from the Yomiuri Giants.  It looks like Josh Lueke has burned his bridges with the Yakult Swallows, and I don’t know how interested MLB teams would be given his history.

Should CC Sabathia Take a Page from Roger Clemens?

October 22, 2017

I’m not talking about steroids here, I’m talking about starting the season late.

Those who remember the last couple of years of Roger Clemens‘ career know that Clemens decided he didn’t want to pitch in April and the first half of May when the weather was cold.  He had reached a point in his career, in his early 40’s, where he didn’t think he could go through a full season, or he simply no longer wished to.

It seemed to work pretty well for Clemens, and at the time I thought it was a creative way for veteran pitcher to extend his career.  I wonder if 2018 wouldn’t be a good time for CC Sabathia to try the something similar.

Sabathia is coming off his most successful season since 2012, and he pitched great this post-season, last night’s loss to the Astros not withstanding.  I think the fact that CC made only 27 regular season starts and pitched only 148.2 regular season innings had something to do with his success.

Frankly, I’m amazed that a man CC’s size could still be a reasonably effective major league starter in his age 36 season.  I figured that Sabathia would now be at the stage in his career where he had had umpteen knee, back and ankle surgeries and would just be hanging on making half a dozen starts or so a season because he could no longer stay healthy.

I was certainly wrong about that, but I still think that placing CC’s 300 lbs on his joints through 500+ major league starts has to catch up to him eventually.  Why not act proactively, and find a way to reduce Sabathia’s work load going forward?

Sabathia has already made his hundreds of millions, and he wants to stay in New York with the Yankees.  Perhaps CC and the team could come up with something creative that allows Sabathia to reduce his regular season workload, so he’s fresh for the post-season and can extend his career to 40.

It might be something as simple as deciding to start CC in April and May only on dates in which the weather is forecast to be unseasonably warm and balmy, and then limit his September starts in the same way.  At this point in his career, I very much doubt that Sabathia needs to start every 5th game in order to maintain his effectiveness, so I advocate for finding creative ways to keep the regular season wear and tear on his body at a minimum.

Go East, Not So Young Men, Part II: The Pitchers

October 20, 2017

Here are some starting pitchers who seem like good bets to sign with a KBO or NPB team for 2018:

Drew Hutchinson (27 in 2018).  Hutchinson looked like a burgeoning star in 2014 after coming back from Tommy John surgery, but he’s only thrown 24 major league innings since the start of the 2016 season.  He didn’t pitch in the Show at all this year, despite posting a strong 3.56 ERA in 26 starts for the International League’s Indianapolis Indians.

One would think that Hutchinson would be receptive to a guaranteed offer from an NPB club; and one or two strong seasons in Japan could put his MLB career back on track.

Wilmer Font (28).  Font hasn’t pitched much in the majors (7 IP over eight appearances with an ugly 11.57 ERA), but he was dominating for the Pacific Coast League’s Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017.  His 3.42 ERA was the only ERA under 4.00 by any PCL pitcher who threw at least 115 innings, and his pitching line of 134.1 IP, 114 hits, 11 HRs and 35 BBs allowed and a whopping 178 Ks was even better.

Font will have a hard time breaking through with the pitching rich Dodgers, and I would expect a KBO team in particular to make him a strong offer.

Justin Masterson (33), Tom Koehler (32) and Dillon Gee (32).  A trio of veterans with substantial MLB resumes, all three look to be at a point in their respective careers where the Asian majors would be each pitcher’s best option, at least if they want to continue starting.  Masterson, also pitching for the OKC Dodgers, recorded the PCL’s second best ERA at 4.13 and recorded 140 Ks in 141.2 IP, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015.

Koehler pitched well in relief for the Blue Jays late in the 2017 season, but might well get a better offer to be a starter for an Asian team than a reliever for an MLB one in 2018.  Pretty much the same for Dillon Gee.

T.J. House (28).  House was pretty good for the International League’s Buffalo Bisons in 2017, posting a 4.32 ERA and 108 Ks in 133.1 IP.  He also has enough of an MLB track record that he might interest an Asian team.

Anthony Bass (30).  Bass pitched for NPB’s Nippon Ham Fighters in 2016 and pitched pretty well (3.65 ERA in 103.2 IP), although he was not invited back.  This year, he pitched well enough for the PCL’s Round Rock Express (4.18 ERA, 87 Ks in 75.1 IP) to get a two game cup of coffee with the Rangers.  He seems like he’d be a good bet for a KBO team in 2018.

Other starting pitchers who might well get an Asian offer too good to pass up are Williams Perez (27), Cody Martin (28), Michael Blazek (29), Vance Worley (30) and Paolo Espino (31).

The relief candidates for NPB in 2018 (KBO teams only want starters) number as many as 50.  These are the ones I like best.

Louis Coleman, Al Alburquerque and Ernesto Frieri (all 32).  A trio of live-armed, proven MLB relievers who pitched great in AAA in 2017, but aren’t likely to get major league contract offers for 2018.  It’s reasonable to assume that at least one of them will be pitching in Japan next season.

Preston Claiborne (30).  He’s all the way back from Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago, but didn’t get much of a look from the Rangers in spite of a 1.89 ERA and 16 saves at AAA Round Rock.

Bruce Rondon (27) and Blaine Hardy (31).  A couple of Tiger hurlers who may well be non-tendered this off-season, because both are arbitration eligible.

Jack Leathersich (27), Dayan Diaz (29) and Simon Castro (30).  Will they or won’t they receive major league contract offers from their current MLB teams?  That is the question that will most likely determine their receptiveness to any Asian offers.

Other reasonable relief possibilities: Michael Tonkin (28), Alex Wimmers (29), Brandon Cunniff (29), Deolis Guerra (29), Felix Doubront (30), Josh Smith (30), Jason Gurka (30), Zac Rosscup (30), Jeff Beliveau (31), Rhiner Cruz (31), Erik Davis (31), Pat “Switch Pitcher” Venditte (33) and Edward Mujica (34).

Go East, Not So Young Men

October 20, 2017

Every year around this time, I like to do a post regarding MLB-system players who are good bets to be playing in Japan’s NPB or South Korea’s KBO next season.  In the past, these posts typically identify players who had great seasons in AAA, but didn’t get much MLB playing time.

This year, I’ve decided to try to be a little more thorough about the subject, including looking at contract issues more likely to push some players, but not others, to try their luck in Asia.  The biggest factors for a player entering his age 26 or older season in deciding whether to give up the MLB dream and go to Asia are likely whether he has received a major league contract offer from an MLB team and also his personal, subjective belief about his likely future chances of MLB success.

I suspect that a lot players who play in MLB for the first time in September of their age 26 or 27  seasons and play well during that cup of coffee will elect to stay in the MLB system the next season, even if they get a better offer from an NPB or KBO team.  On the other hand, players who received substantial major league playing time in their early or mid-20’s, who then spend the next couple of years mostly at AAA, have a much better idea how tenuous MLB success can be and are a lot more tempted by better offer from abroad.

Here’s my list of some hitters who are good bets to be playing in Asia next year.

Oswaldo Arcia (27 in 2018).  Arcia played in 200 games for the Twins in 2013 and 2014 at the ages of 22 and 23.  Since then, his major league career has gone straight downhill, in large part because he isn’t patient enough, i.e., he doesn’t walk enough and strikes out too much.

At age 26, Arcia led the Pacific Coast League with a 1.049 OPS.  However, he didn’t play in even one major league game because he got hurt on August 30th, right before the September roster expansions.  I wasn’t able to determine the nature of his injury, and injuries have plagued him the last few seasons.  If he’s fully healthy by December 1st, though, he’d be a great bet for an Asian team.

Bryce Brentz (29).  Brentz hit a league-leading 31 home runs (Asian teams want their foreign hitters to hit the long ball) and his .863 OPS was second best in the International League.  Even so, the Red Sox never called him up, even after the rosters expanded in September.  A player can’t get a much stronger message his team doesn’t see him as part of their future than that.

Jabari Blash (28).  Blash has a lot of talent, but through his age 27 season, he hasn’t been able to put it together at the major league level.  If the Padres don’t offer him a major league contract, he should seriously consider any Asian offers he receives.

Leonys Martin (30).  NPB teams love Cubans as much as cigar aficionados do.  Small wonder — Alex Guerrero and Alfredo Despaigne respectively led the Central and Pacific League in home runs this past season.

Martin isn’t likely to hit 35 home runs in a season even in Japan, but he could 25-30 in a season there, and he still runs well. He has more than three full seasons of MLB service time, entitling him to salary arbitration, and will almost certainly be non-tendered by his current MLB club.  I’m guessing his best free agent offer will come from Japan.

Will Middlebrooks (29).  Middlebrooks’ MLB career has gone down the toilet, but he’s the kind of power-hitting 3Bman NPB teams like.

Mark Canha (29).  I could definitely see him getting a $1M offer from the Doosan Bears this off-season, if the Bears decide to replace Nick Evans as their foreign position player.

Cody Asche (28).  Another 3B candidate with power potential in Japan’s smaller ballparks, Asche was the Phillies’ main 3Bman in 2014 and 2015.  Now he’s just another guy coming off a strong minor league season looking for a decent contract going into his age 28 season.  Still, Asian teams love past MLB experience.

Xavier Avery (28).  A center fielder whose .816 OPS was 5th best in the International League, Avery’s only major league experience (32 games with the Braves) came way back in 2012.  You would have to think he’d be receptive to a foreign offer.

Nick Buss and Brandon Snyder (both 31).  A couple of left fielders coming off strong AAA seasons.  Buss led the Pacific Coast League with a .348 batting average, and his .936 OPS was 7th best.  Snyder’s .846 OPS was 3rd best in the International League.  You can guess which of the two AAA leagues is a pitchers’ league and which is a hitters’ league.

Chris Johnson and Eric Young, Jr. (both 33).  Two aging veterans with substantial MLB experience, both played well enough in AAA to suggest they still have something left going into 2018.  Both would provide an Asian team with a certain amount of defensive flexibility.  Johnson is probably more likely to get an offer because he has more power.

In my opinion, age 27 is the ideal age for a foreign MLBer to try his luck at a successful Asian career.  Here is a list of players who will be 27 next season, had great AAA seasons, have at least a little MLB experience, but don’t look likely to receive major league contract offers for 2018: Richie Schaffer, David Washington, Christian Walker, Mike Tauchman, Tyler Naquin, Ji-man Choi, Garrett Cooper, Tyler White, Christian Villanueva, Luke Voit, Max Muncy and Cesar Puello.

Almost all of these guys will elect to stay in the MLB system, but don’t be surprised if you hear that one or two of them have signed with Asian teams later this off-season.  Tyler Collins (28) and Travis Taijeron (29) are a couple of slightly older players who are reasonable possibilities of getting Asian offers.

Will Chris Carter Be Playing in East Asia Next Year?

October 17, 2017

Chris Carter popped into my mind today, possibly having something to do with the Yankees hitting two three-run homers in today’s play-off game.  He has sure fallen a long way since leading the National League in home runs in 2016.  Now he’s just a soon-to-be 31 year old, lead-footed slugger looking for a major league offer.

After the Yankees released him, the Oakland A’s signed him and sent him to AAA Nashville.  He hit pretty well there in 36 games, slashing .252/.357/.512, but he didn’t get a September call-up even though it only would have cost the A’s a pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum salary.  The A’s instead elected to promote Mark Canha, who is two years younger and can also play the corner outfield positions.

He should be a free agent again this winter, since he’s still between four and five seasons of MLB experience, and the A’s surely won’t offer him salary arbitration.  It’s hard to see him getting a guaranteed MLB contract for 2018.

There was talk last off-season about the possibility of a Japanese team signing Carter when he wasn’t immediately able to find an MLB offer to his liking.  Carter would certainly command a $2 million offer from a South Korean KBO team, with maybe a quarter to half of that amount guaranteed; or a guaranteed contract in a similar amount, maybe $2.5M, from an NPB team.

It’s a fun exercise imagining how many home runs Carter might hit in the smaller ballparks of East Asian against a lower level of pitching.  If he’s healthy, I would expect him to be a threat for 60 HRs in the KBO and 50+ in NPB.

His odds of success are much greater in KBO, because NPB is not an easy place for foreign hitters to hit for average, and Carter is already highly challenged in that department.  Still, Japhet Amador was able to stick around all season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles based on only one skill (power), although Amador only cost the Golden Eagles $290,000, and the Eagles probably have some sunken costs in buying Amador’s rights from his old Mexican League team in 2016.

If an NPB team guarantees Carter $2M+, they’ll certainly give him time to adapt to Japanese baseball, before giving up on him.  Also, a big year in Japan could possibly earn him a ticket back to MLB’s prime-time.

The fact that Carter was reported to be seriously considering playing in Japan until the Yankees came up with their $3.5M offer means it’s whole lot more likely that Carter might actually cross the ocean in 2018.  He certainly won’t be seeing an $3.5M MLB offers this off-season.

 

NPB Attendance Up Slightly in 2017

October 14, 2017

Here are the final regular season attendance numbers for NPB’s Pacific and Central Leagues.  NPB attendance was up in 2017, but by less than one percent.

The Yomiuri Giants, Hanshin Tigers and the SoftBank Hawks continue to be NPB’s rich teams, no surprise there. Hanshin drew in more than 3M fans for the first time since 2010.  The Central continues to the rich league, with the last place Yakult Swallows drawing better than four Pacific League clubs.

The Hiroshima Carp, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, and the DeNa BayStars all set attendance records in 2017, with Hiroshima drawing for than 2M fans for the third year in a row.  The Golden Eagles play in a ballpark in Sendai that only holds about 26,000 and they’re filling it most games, and the Yokohama BayStars will likely cross the 2M threshold for the first time in 2018.

The Seibu Lions had their highest attendance since 2005, although that’s not saying much.