Archive for October 2018

World Series Excitement

October 29, 2018

You know who was really excited about this year’s Dodgers-Red Sox World Series, aside from Dodgers and Red Sox fans?  Fox Sports.

If it was up to the network broadcasting the World Series, at least every other World Series would feature the Red Sox or Yankees playing the Dodgers or the Mets playing the Angels or Red Sox, with the Giants, the Cubs, the Phillies, the Astros and maybe the Cardinals, Nationals, Rangers and Braves making the Series just often enough to keep MLB fans from getting too bored.

Obviously, teams from across the country playing in the largest markets make for the highest World Series television rantings.  In fact, the top viewership for the last ten years was 2016, when the Cubs made the World Series for the first time since 1945 and won for the first time since 1908.  The viewership in 2004, when the Red Sox won for the first time since 1918, was even better.  However, none of the BoSox’ three subsequent World Series have drawn as well.

The 1986 World Series between the Mets and Red Sox was the most viewed Series since 1984, and viewership has tumbled steadily since the late 1980’s early 1990’s to the present decade.

My proposed solution to declining World Series viewership?  It’s the same as my solution to a number of MLB’s structural problems — expansion.  You have to grow the pie and get MLB in more markets if you want to increase World Series, play-off and regular season major network viewership.

However, while attendance was good for MLB’s top 12 teams this year, it was way, way down compared to recent seasons for the bottom eight teams.  MLB is going to be reluctant to expand if most of the current small-market teams are drawing poorly.

It might also be time for MLB teams to consider building bigger ballparks so that there are fewer home runs and more singles, doubles and triples.  However, history has shown that fans (in terms of overall attendance) prefer more offense over less offense.

World Series Indifference

October 29, 2018

The 2018 World Series is now officially in the books, and I have to admit that I found it hard to get excited about this one, even aside from the fact that it turned out to be pretty one-sided.  As a Giants’ fan, I can’t root for the Dodgers as a team, and as a non-Red Sox fan, I find it hard to root for a team that spends as much money as they do and has enjoyed as much recent success even before this year’s World Series.  Also, with the spate of racist, terrorist attacks this week, baseball seems trivial (although it is precisely because the World is sometimes an awful place that we need distractions and entertainments like baseball).

When I can’t root for the teams, I root for individual players.  However, I can’t say I’m a particularly big fan of many players on either team.  I like Kenta Maeda, because he’s a small right-hander and I sung his praises as a potential major leaguer for years before he signed with the Dodgers.  I like late-bloomer Justin Turner, although I don’t enjoy looking at that ugly, bushy, bright orange hipster beard of his — I don’t like Craig Kimbrel‘s beard either.  I’m eagerly waiting for both the don’t-shave-until-season’s-over baseball trend and the larger hipster trend to finally run their respective courses.

I root for Clayton Kershaw to pitch well in the World Series, so long as it can’t hurt a team I care about, because he’s such a good pitcher, but I root for David Price and Chris Sale for the same reason.  But if they don’t pitch well, my attitude is f@#$-’em, because you got to get it done when it counts the most.

The Red Sox and Dodgers have plenty of bright young stars, but since I don’t root for either team, I haven’t developed any particular fondness for most of them. They’re fun to watch, but that’s about it.

I was also a bit disgusted to see chronic steroids cheat Alex Rodriguez getting paid big money to provide commentary at the end of the games.  I can see why Fox hired Rodriguez — he’s a big name, he knows plenty about MLB baseball, he’s good looking (and relatively light skinned), and he’s reasonably well spoken.  It still rankles me, though, the way that Barry Bonds got black-balled by MLB for being an obstreperous black man, while arguably bigger steroids cheats like AFraud and somewhat less obstreperous white men like Mark McGwire are able to continue drawing big paychecks from the game.

In a just world, Bonds will get into the Hall of Fame before either Rodriguez or McGwire, but I wouldn’t count on it.  See racist, terrorist attacks above.

It must have given Red Sox fans pleasure to watch somebody’s else Manny being Manny for a change.  Machado went 4-for-22 with no extra base hits in the Series, which will probably cost him more this off-season than failing to run out the ball hit off the wall, although it really shouldn’t.  Even great players can have bad World Series.  Mickey Mantle went 3-for-25 with a lone double in the 1962 World Series, but hit 18 home runs in the nine other World Series in which he played regularly.

At the end of the day, though, I still expect Machado to get his $300M+ free agent deal this off-season.  You can’t under-perform in the World Series if you don’t get there in the first place, and Machado improves any team’s chances of making it there.

Manny Being Manny

October 27, 2018

World Series Game 3.  The Dodgers down by two games but up a run in the middle innings.  With two outs, Manny Machado smokes a ball toward the left-field wall.  He hit it so good, he sits there and admires it.  It hits low off the wall, and Manny barely has time to make the turn around first base.  Sigh.

The next batter made out, so the forfeited base probably didn’t matter.  Still, Machado has too much MLB experience and has heard too many times about his sometimes lackadaisical effort not to run that ball out hard from the box.

If the Dodgers go on to lose this World Series, I hope this memory sticks in teams’ minds and it costs Machado at least $10M or $20M on the still ginormous contract he’s going to get this off-season.  Really a bush move from a guy who fully expects a major league team to give him a $325M+ contract a few weeks from now.

It would really be nice if there were still consequences for stupid, self-absorbed behavior.

The Milwaukee Brewers Have to Resign Jonathan Schoop

October 24, 2018

One of the toughest calls this off-season is whether the Brewers offer salary arbitration to Jonathan Schoop.  Schoop is projected by to get $10.1 million through the arbitration process even though he was mediocre in 2018 and absolutely dreadful in the two months he played for Milwaukee.

It’s a tough call, indeed.  Schoop was worth, according to fangraphs, a combined $48.3 million in 2016 and 2017, but only $4.2 million in 2018.  He’s going to be 27 years in 2019, which is the year that major league players as a group peak.  Schoop could be expected to play better in 2019 based on his performance in 2015-2017.

On the other hand, Schoop is a hitter who does not walk at all (98 times in 2,640 plate appearances).  When young, extremely talented players end up washing out in their late 20’s, they are mostly players who can’t learn to draw walks.  Eventually, major league pitchers (and scouts) learn that these players won’t take walks and how to set them up so the money pitch is usually out of the strike zone.

The Asian major leagues are literally awash with extremely talented former MLB major league stars whose inability to take walks when pitchers stop throwing them strikes drove them out of the MLB major leagues.  Wilin Rosario, Jose Lopez, Dayan Viciedo and Oswaldo Arcia are current examples, and there are plenty more.

In short, the odds that Schoop is worth $20M+ in 2019 is about equal to the chances he’ll be playing in Japan’s NPB in two or three years’ time.  That said, I think the Brewers have to role the dice and offer Schoop arbitration.

The Brewers are notoriously a small market team, one of the smallest in MLB.  But they won’t be a low revenue team in 2019.  The Brewers’ attendance was 10th best in 2018, and it’s likely to be even better in 2019, following a season in which they had the National League’s best record and advanced to the NLCS.

$10M on a one year deal is a risk the Brewers have to take and can afford to take in 2019.  If Schoop’s 2019 performance is worth $20M or more, which is a reasonable possibility, it’s something the Brewers will absolutely have to have to repeat their winning ways next season in light of their overall budget constraints.  If Schoop plays as poorly as he did in 2018, I don’t see that the Brewers have any players at AAA knocking down the door.  It just seems to me like an obvious risk the Brewers need to take if they want to compete for the pennant again in 2019.

Top Prospects in South Korea’s KBO 2018/2019

October 24, 2018

There aren’t many obvious prospects for MLB purposes in the KBO this off-season.  We had a flurry of hitters a few years ago who got their shots at MLB, but more of them have returned to the KBO and are too old to be reasonably likely to return to the States.

The best starter in the KBO this year was foreigner Josh Lindblom.  He went 15-4 and his 2.88 ERA led the league.  He also struck out 157 batters (7th best) in 168.2 IP.  I don’t see him as an MLB prospect.  He could move up to NPB, but I expect that he will sign a two-year deal with the Doosan Bears for about $3.5M total now that foreign players can be signed to multi-year contracts.

Kim Kwang-hyun and Yang Hyun-jong continue to be the KBO’s best domestic starters, but their window for moving up to MLB has passed.  Jung Woo-Ram led the KBO in saves again, but he’ll be 34 next season.

Keyvius Sampson had the highest strikeout rate among KBO starters (10.9/9IP) and he was only 27 in 2018, but his command needs work before he can return to MLB.

Ham Duk-joo was a top closer in 2018 and he’ll only be 24 in 2019.  He’s small but he’s a lefty, so it doesn’t matter as much.  Shim Chang-min is young (26 next year) and has been effective, so he’s also a prospect.  Park Sang-won had a terrific bullpen season, but he has less than two years of service time through his age 23 season.

Two KBO youngsters who impressed with high strikeout rates were Choi Chung-yeon (22 in 2019) who posted a 3.60 ERA and 101 Ks in 85 IP and Yoon Sung-bin (20) who struck out 65 in 50.2 IP but recorded an ugly 6.39.  Yoon has no idea where the pitches are going, but he’s extremely young and obviously has good stuff.  I’m not sure how long Choi will last pitching 85 relief innings in a season well before the age of 25.  KBO teams work their top set-up men hard, much harder than their closers.

Among position players/hitters, there isn’t anyone likely to join MLB in the near term, but there are a few good youngsters.

18 year old rookie Kang Baek-ho (19) slashed .290/.357/.524, which is mighty impressive, even in a hitters’ league.  20 year old sophomore Lee Jung-hoo (21) was better than he was as an impressive 2017 rookie, slashing .355/.418/.477 this season.  Lee has no power yet, but he’s young enough to develop some.  Both Kang and Lee are corner outfielders, so they better hit in order to move up to a better league.

SS Kim Ha-seong (23) didn’t hit as well in 2018 (.835 OPS) as he did in 2017, but he’s young and a middle infielder, so he’s still got a chance to be the next Jung-ho Kang.

Catcher Yoo Kang-nam had a good 2018 season, and he’s got about four years of service time going into his age 26 season.

Koo Ja-wook (26) was the only player younger than 28 who finished in the top 30 in OPS in 2018.  His .927 OPS was 19th best.  That was a little better than his 2017 season, but not quite as good as his first two KBO seasons in 2015 and 2016.  Koo has been remarkably consistent in his first four KBO seasons, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, since one would like to see more improvement from a young hitter.




The Best Hitting Prospects in Japan’s NPB 2018/2019

October 23, 2018

Offense was way up in Japan’s NPB in 2018, as, perhaps, “launch angles” have reached Japan.  Anyway, there was more hitting in NPB in 2018 than in recent past seasons.  That may be a good thing, because it might get some of the best Japanese hitters more interest from MLB clubs.  There are more potential NPB position players who could be MLB starters now than there were a few years ago, and it may be time for MLB teams to look to NPB for more than just pitchers.

Here are the best position player prospects for MLB this off-season as I see it:

Tetsuto Yamada (26 years old in 2019; MLB ETA 2019-2021).  A speedy 2Bman, Yamada bounced all the way back from a disappointing 2017 season, slashing .315/.432/.582 in 2018.  He also stole 33 bases in 37 attempts.  Because offense was up this year, Yamada arguably hit better in 2015 and 2016 than he did this year, but he was good enough.

Yamada plays for the small-market Swallows who are likely to post him when the time comes, and he’ll be young when that happens, most likely next off-season.

Hideto Asamura (28, 2019).  Another 2Bman, Asamura also had a bounce back year with the bat in 2018, putting up his best offensive numbers since 2013, when he was primarily playing 1B.  Asamura slashed .310/.383/.527.  Here’s some video of Asamura playing SS in high school, which gives you a good idea why he became an NPB star.

There are better hitters lower down this list, but Asamura is an NPB domestic free agent this off-season, and he’s still in the prime years of his career.  Asamura plays for the small market Seibu Lions, so he’ll either be posted this off-season, or he’ll sign a three or four year deal with one of NPB’s three rich teams for roughly 400-500 million yen ($3.6M-4.45M) per season.

I don’t have any real idea of how good Asamura’s or Yamada’s second base defense is — the raw numbers look good, but there are probably more ground balls hit in NPB than in MLB.  Obviously, how well Asamura and Yamada pick it and turn the double-play will have a big impact on MLB teams’ interest.

Yoshihiro Maru (30, 2019).  Maru had a tremendous season in 2018, slashing .306/.468/.627, finishing first in the Central League in on-base percentage and second in slugging percentage.  He drew 130 walks in only 125 games, and he also earned his domestic free agent option this year.

Maru plays center field in Japan but would almost certainly be a corner outfielder in MLB.  That, and being two years older is why I have him rated below Asamura.  Even so, I’m convinced that Maru would get on base enough in MLB to be a Nori Aoki with more power.

Maru plays for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.  The Carp are now one of the middle four teams in NPB that now routinely draw around 2 milllion fans a year.  However, the Carp are notorious tight-wads, so I expect that either Maru will be posted or he will end up signing with the Yomiuri Giants or Hanshin Tigers this off-season for 4 years and 2 billion yen ($17.8M).

Dayan Viciedo (30, 2019).  Former MLBer Dayan Viciedo had an eye-opening 2018 season in Japan.  He led the Central League with a robust .348 batting average and finished sixth with both a .419 on-base percentage and a .555 slugging percentage.

The knock on Viciedo as an MLB player was his inability to get on base.  He improved that ability dramatically in Japan in 2018, and he’s still young enough to return to MLB.  Of course, one great year is only one great year, and in his 2016 and 2017 seasons in Japan, he looked like the player who wasn’t quite an MLB every-day player when he left for Japan.

Seiya Suzuki (24, 2022-2023).  Suzuki slashed .320/.438/.618 in his age 23 season, which roughly matched his breakout season in 2016.  He’s a corner outfielder, and with only four stolen bases in eight attempts, he did not run as well as he did the previous two seasons when he stole a combined 32 bases in 49 attempts.  He can hit, though, and he’ll be young when he becomes available to major league teams.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (27, 2020-2021).  One of NPB’s top sluggers, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo slashed .295/.393/.596 in 2018.  He’s a corner outfielder who doesn’t run well, and his power numbers would drop in MLB, but he’s enough of a hitter and he’ll be young enough that he should draw MLB interest when the time comes.

Kensuke Kondo (25, 2020-2021).  Kondo is a former catcher who now plays the corner outfield positions.  He slashed .323/.427/.457 in 2018.  In other words, Kondo doesn’t have much power, but he really gets on base.  His career NPB on-base percentage of .397 is extremely impressive for a player this young.  He runs well for a former catcher.

The ability to get on base is the ability that best translates for NPB hitters trying to make the jump to MLB.  That, and Kondo’s tender age relative to his NPB service time, are the reasons why I like him.

Tomoya Mori (23, 2022-2023).  Moyi is a true catcher who slashed .275/.366/.457.  That’s actually a slight drop-off from his career .288/.369/.465 slash line.  If he can stay healthy at catcher, he could be an MLB player when the time comes.

Yuki Yanigita (30), Hayato Sakamoto (30) and Shogo Akiyama (31) are three NPB players with MLB-level talent we may never see in MLB.  Yanigita, who slashed .352/.431/.661 leading NPB’s Pacific League in all three categories and has a career .422 on-base percentage, still has two more years to play on his current three-year deal with the NPB-wealthy SoftBank Hawks.  When his contract ends, he’ll be 32 and past his MLB window, as I’ll explain below.

Hayato Sakamoto is NPB’s best SS and has long since achieved his international free agent option.  However, he’s shown no signs of wanting to leave the Yomiuri Giants.  Sakamoto slashed .345/.424/.537 in 2018.

Despite ten full years of NPB service, the Yomiuri Giants, NPB’s richest team, paid Sakamoto only a reported 350 million yen ($3.2M) in 2018, which seems criminally low.  However, as an ethnic Japanese, Yomiuri Giants superstar, Sakamoto likely makes more money in endorsements than any MLB player.  There aren’t any basketball and football player in Japan to take the big endorsement money away from baseball players and specifically, ethnic Japanese, Yomiuri Giants superstars.

Shogo Akiyama isn’t as good as Yanigita or Sakamoto, but he did slash .323/.403/.534 in 2018 and has an OBP above .400 and an SLG above .500 over the last four NPB seasons in which he’s played every single game.  However, he has one season left on his three-year contract with the Seibu Lions, and he’ll be 32 in 2020.

I don’t think that any NPB position player once he reaches his age 32 season is worth being signed by an MLB team, unless he’s willing to play for less guaranteed money than he’d make staying in NPB.  Hitters, in particular, are on the decline once they reach their age 32 seasons, and almost all NPB players with the talent to make the jump to MLB successfully do so in their age 27 to 29 seasons.

Kosuke Fukudome is a case in point.  He came to MLB as a 31 year old rookie on an MLB market rate four-year $48M contract.  Fukudome was decent major league regular, but he wasn’t worth anywhere near the contract the Chicago Cubs gave him, which was far, far more than any NPB would ever have given Fukudome.  Had the Cubs signed Fukudome for four years at $30M, Fukudome would still have made more money than any NPB team would have given him, and his MLB career would not be remembered as such a disappointment.

Best Pitching Prospects in Japan’s NPB 2018/2019

October 20, 2018

With the MLB success of Shohei Ohtani, Miles Mikelos and Yoshihisa Hirano in 2018, I think we’ve reached a point where MLB teams realize they need to look to Japan’s NPB as a source of potential prime talent every off-season.  Without further ado, here’s a list of Japan’s top pitching prospects for MLB purposes, as I see it:

Yusei Kikuchi (28 years old in 2019).  Kikuchi is clearly the top NPB prospect for MLB this off-season.  He’s a left-handed starter with stuff, he’s got an MLB sized body (6’0″, 220 lbs), and his NPB team, the Seibu Lions, have already announced that they are willing to post him this off-season.

After a break out season in 2017, when he was arguably NPB’s best pitcher (he lost the Eiji Sawamura Award to Tomoyuki Sugano, who is listed two spots down), Kikuchi was merely very, very good in 2018.  He finished 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA, which was second best among qualifiers in NPB’s Pacific League.  He struck out 153 batters, good for fourth in his league, in 163.2 IP.

Kikuchi hit 98 mph with his fastball in a regular season game in late July or early August 2017, but I didn’t see any reports of him matching that number in 2018. provided a good scouting report on Kikuchi when the Seibu Lions announced they were willing to post him.

Takahiro Norimoto (28; 2020-2021).  Norimoto is a small right-hander (5’10”, 180 lbs) with tremendous strikeout stuff, who could be described as Kenta Maeda with more strikeouts or NPB’s answer to Tim Lincecum.  The problem with Norimoto is whether he can last any longer than Lincecum did.  (In fairness to Maeda, he’s got that harder to define “ability to pitch,” which produced better NPB ERAs than Norimoto without the same strikeout stuff.)

Norimoto had a mixed 2018.  He went 10-11 with a 3.69 ERA, sixth best out of nine Pacific League qualifiers, but he led the league with 187 Ks in 180.1 IP.  His walks and home run rate were up, and his strikeout rate was down (although still excellent).  However, he also became the fifth fastest pitcher to reach 1,000 NPB career strikeouts this year, and three of the four who accomplished the feat faster pitched in MLB.

We will have a better idea a year from now, which may well be when he gets posted, if his 2018 season was just a blip or an indication that he’s been pitched too many innings over too many years at a young age in Japan.

Tomoyuki Sugano (29; 2022).  Sugano is a virtual lock on winning his second consecutive Eiji Sawamura Award (NPB’s Cy Young) in 2018.  He’s a tremendous pitcher who led NPB in ERA (2.14), innings pitched (202) and strikeouts (200).  He threw eight shutouts in the regular season (NPB starters only pitch once a week, so teams let a starter go deeper in the game if he’s pitching well) and a no-hitter in the first round of the play-offs, a game in which he was one walk away from a perfect game.

Alas, his team, the Yomiuri Giants, have never posted a player in their history, and it’s unlikely they will start with Sugano.  That means he won’t come to MLB before his age 32 season.  However, I’ve read reports that Sugano does want to pitch in MLB eventually.  Maybe he can be the next Hiroki Kuroda.  He’s got the talent for it.

Kodei Senga (26; 2023-2024). Senga is not real big (6″1″, 185 lbs), but he’s not real small either.  He’s not one of NPB’s top tier starters, but he’s consistently very good and has the kind of strikeout rates you want to see in an MLB prospect (630 NPB career Ks in 559 IP).

In 2018, Senga went 13-7 with a 3.51 ERA.  He struck out 163 batters in 141 innings pitched.  He’s just good enough every year that, if he stays healthy, at least MLB team will look to him as a low cost, high upside sign when his time comes.

Shintaro Fujinami (25; 2021-2023).  I don’t have enough information to know what’s wrong with Fujinami.  He’s a tremendous talent, who may or may not have been overworked to the point where he is no longer a good NPB pitcher.

Fujinami had his second suck-ass season in a row, but it’s unclear whether the criminal overwork the Hanshin Tigers put him through early in his career has taken it’s tole, or he’s just lost the ability to throw strikes.  On July 29, 2017, he hit 98 mph with a fastball in an NPB minor league game.  This year, he had a major league 5.32 ERA with 70Ks, but 47 walks, in 71 IP.  This was actually an improvement in his command compared to 2017.  In the NPB minors this year, he had a 1.14 ERA with 60Ks and only 23 walks allowed in 63 IP.

Fujinami is still young enough and talented enough that he has to be on this list.  It remains to be seen whether he can regain the success he experienced in 2015, when only Shohei Ohtani’s star shown brighter.

Yuki Matsui (23; 2022).  A small (5’8.5″, 163 lbs) left-hander with electric stuff (457 Ks in 370 career NPB innings pitched), Yuki Matsui was used in a variety of roles by the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2018.  He started the season as the team’s closer, was apparently demoted to a set-up role and then late in the season was used as a starter.  His 3.65 ERA was high, but so were his 91 Ks in 66.2 IP.

As I wrote two years 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 (or however the Golden Eagles elect to use him) long-term.  If his arm holds up, he’ll be young when his time to get posted arrives.

Naoyuki Uwasawa (25, 2022).  A right-handed starter big enough (6’2″, 196 lbs) to interest MLB teams, Uwasawa had his best season so far in 2018.  His 3.16 ERA was third best among Pacific League qualifiers, and he struck out 151 batters in 165.1 IP.  He had a strong rookie season in 2014, but this year was the first time he had the kind of strikeout rate you’d like for an NPB pitcher to be a legitimate MLB prospect.

Yasuaki Yamasaki (26; 2023).  A small right-hander (5’11”, 187 lbs) who has saved 133 games in his four NPB seasons and has a career 2.44 ERA and 274 Ks in 236 IP.  My guess is that he would be a set-up man in MLB.

Pitchers available this off-season include Yuki NIshi, Spencer Patton, Jay Jackson and Geronimo Franzua.  Yuki Nishi will be 28 next season, and he earned his domestic free agent option this season. He reportedly asked his team, the Orix Buffaloes, to post him this off-season, but the Buffaloes reportedly refused.  Nishi is a good pitcher, but he’s a small right-hander (5’11”, 176 lbs) whose strikeout rates don’t match most of the Japanese pitchers who go on to MLB success.  The Buffaloes are reportedly likely to offer him a three or four year deal this off-season, and that might well be his best option financially.

I like Spencer Patton’s chances of returning to MLB as an inexpensive set-up man at the two-year $4M amount that Chris Martin signed for with the Texas Rangers last off-season.  Martin’s 2018 performance was not particularly impressive on paper, but fangraphs says it was worth $4.4M, which means Martin has already paid off his full contract amount with another season to go.

Patton had an ugly 6.26 ERA in 54.2 MLB career innings pitched, but he also struck out 58 batters.  There’s no question that he has major league stuff, but his lack of command hurt him in the past.  His command seems to have improved in Japan, where over two NPB seasons, he struck out 133 batters in 116 IP while walking only 35.  Patton will be 31 next season.

Jay Jackson will also be 31 next year, and he’s put in three strong seasons as a reliever in NPB.  Jackson doesn’t have as strong an MLB system track record as Patton, but MLB teams might be interested in signing Jackson if the price is right.

Geronimo Franzua is a left-hander who washed out of the Dominican Summer League years ago, but caught on with the Hiroshima Carp through a try-out in the Dominican Republic.  (It was a good year for the Carp in this regard: they signed another low minors castoff, Xavier Batista, at a tryout, and he hit 25 HRs for them in only 302 plate appearances this season.)  Franzua had a 1.66 ERA mostly in a relief role and struck out 81 batters in 65 innings of work.  He only just turned 25, so he could well appeal to MLB teams.

It’s possible, however, that the Carp have Franzua signed to long-term, low-salary deal, to take into account that the team would have to develop him at the minor league level when they signed him.  MLB teams might also want to see Franzua do it two years in a row in NPB before shelling out to bring him back to the Americas.

Bookmark “EmShinnosuke Ogasawara (age 21 next season), Naoya Ishikawa (22), Katsuki Azuma (23) and Haruhiro Hamaguchi (24) are some young, talented NPB pitchers who still have many seasons in which to blow out their arms before they might become available to MLB teams.  I’ll be keeping an eye on them going forward.

As a final note, Takayuki Kishi and Hirotoshi Masui are two excellent NPB pitchers we’ll probably never see in MLB.  Both are small right-handers who are well over 30 and in the middle of multi-year contracts with their current NPB teams.


October 20, 2018

Don’t be surprised if Josh Hader pitches three full innings for the Brute Crew tomorrow.  He hasn’t pitched since his one inning appearance on Tuesday, so he’s ready.

Hader threw 3.0 no-hit innings on July 3, his only appearance that long of the regular season.  Oh, he’s ready for his spotlight moment.  The beauty of baseball is that he does it, or the Dodgers get to him for a couple or three crucial runs.

In an era when post-season over-management is the norm, I’m extremely pleased to see that the Brewers have set themselves up to get the most out of their most unhittable pitcher with all the money on the line.

The Brewers are planning to start Jhoulys Chacin on four days rest.  I’m a big fan of Chacin, because I correctly called a few years ago (and for about two off-seasons) that he was wildly undervalued.  That said, Chacin is no Clayton Kershaw, and short rest is no recipe for post-season performance, even though Chacin only went 5 and 5.1 innings in his first two post-season starts.

The Brewers have set themselves up that the moment Chacin gets in trouble, they can go to Hader and get innings.  That’s more foresight than I’ve seen from any play-off team in a couple of seasons, even if the Dogers win tomorrow.

CPBL’s Wang Po-Jung to Be Posted This Off-Season

October 18, 2018

The CPBL’s Lamigo Monkeys will be posting their best player, CF Wang Po-Jung this off-season to NPB and MLB teams.  It is most likely, in my opinion, that Wang will be playing in Japan’s NPB next year.

Wang had tremendous seasons in 2016 (his rookie year) and 2017, when he hit well over .400 (that’s right — .400) and completely dominated the four-team circuit’s batting stats.  With an enlarged strike zone in 2018, batting numbers across the CPBL came down somewhat, and Wang put up 2018 numbers that were merely among the league’s best.

Specifically, Wang slashed .351/.446/.547, which was good for 4th/1st/4th among qualifiers.  He also led the CPBL with 248 total bases and stole nine bases.

Wang projects as a corner outfielder at the MLB major league level, which hurts him as an MLB prospect.  He could be ready however to step right into a starting outfield position with an NPB team, although there he is hurt somewhat by the four foreign player roster slot limit on each NPB major league team.  If Wang were to sign with an NPB team, I think the odds are good that he’d start on the team’s minor league club, where there are no effective roster limits on foreign players, so that he could then prove he’s too good to keep off the major league roster.  I would expect Wang to start at AA or AAA if signed by an MLB team.

I think that Wang, who is now 25 years odd, would have more value right now to an NPB team than an MLB team.  It makes more sense to let him sign with an NPB club, because if he can prove he’s a great player there, he could still leave Japan for MLB as soon as his age 27 or 28 season, at which point he will be lot more projectable as an MLB player.

I’m glad to see that reported on this weighty topic, citing to CPBL Stats, a website that has become a go-to place for English language news on the CPBL.

[An aside — one of my pet peeves is that Baseball Reference does not provide stats for CPBL play, even though the CPBL is a better league than many, many leagues for which Baseball Reference provides stats.  The CPBL’s website provides the entire league’s history of stats, but can be difficult to navigate because it uses Chinese characters.  Fortunately, the stats, once you find them, are easy to figure out, although the names of the Taiwanese players are not.]

Wang may be the first of several CPBL position players we might see posted over the next few off-seasons.  The Uni-Lions soon-to-be 25 year old SS Chen Chieh-Hsien could be posted during the 2019-2020 off-season.  He doesn’t have much power, but he’s a middle infielder who gets on base.  The Lamigo Monkeys 20 year old catcher Liao Chien-Fu could be posted as soon as the 2020-2021 off-season.  Again, I would expect that the greatest interest if these players are posted in due course would come from NPB teams.

Winter League Baseball

October 18, 2018

The Winter League seasons in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela started a few days ago, and I’m excited!

I got interested in the Winter Leagues last year, in part because I’ve gradually become more interested in Taiwan’s CPBL.  As far as I can tell, CPBL teams currently base their decisions on which foreign players to sign (each CPBL team can sign three players, all pitchers in recent years, to play at the major league level and a majority of CPBL teams sign a fourth pitcher in case a major leaguer gets hurt or is ineffective), on summer performance, which makes sense.  But they still value Winter League performance, which shows both that the pitcher is healthy enough to at the end of the summer season and that the pitcher is willing to pitch in a foreign league and perform there.

The ability to perform in a foreign league is a bigger factor in pro baseball than most people realize.  Some players can do it, some players can’t, and it matters a great deal if you are trying find the best possible players at your league’s pay scale.

The Winter Leagues are the best pro baseball that people in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and (probably) Mexico get to see, and the best teams in each of these leagues then play in the Caribbean Series, which is major event (and attended and paid for in ticket prices as such) for Latin American baseball fans.  In an era where MLB major league players are enormously compensated, the Winter Leagues aren’t what they once were, since major league players (and top AA and AAA prospects) no longer are allowed to play there, lest they get hurt.  Even so, the Winter Leagues mean a lot to local fan bases, and the baseball played is worth watching.

Players play in the Winter Leagues for a number of reasons, which, aside from domestic players who get to be big stars in their home countries, mostly relate to salaries and a possibility that good performance will be rewarded with a promotion to a better summer league.   For MLB minor league players who have not yet played in the major leagues, the Winter Leagues offer a chance at a living wage playing baseball (at least for the 2.5 months of the Winter League season).  For MLB minor league players over the age of 28 or 29, the Winter Leagues provide a chance to prove the player is still good enough to play in AAA another season and thus be one only step away from the MLB majors.

For native players from the Winter League countries, they can potentially earn enough money in the 2.5 month Winter League season (at least in the Dominican Republic and Venezuala) to support themselves and their families for the whole year.  The Indy-A Atlantic League’s 2018 batting average leaders were dominated by over age 29 Dominican players who, in my opinion, were trying to keep their skills sharp for the Dominican Winter League.