Archive for the ‘KBO’ category

Winter League Notes

November 9, 2018

With the free agent market yet to heat up (CC Sabathia re-signed with the Yankees for $8M, but that’s about it), I’ve been following players in the Caribbean Winter Leagues.  Here are a few I want to note.

The Nationals’ Victor Robles is lighting it up in the Dominican Winter League.  Youngsters of Robles’ talent and closeness to the majors usually don’t get to play in the Caribbean Winter Leagues unless they were hurt during the summer season, which Robles was.  He played in only 73 summer season games, so the Nats are letting him get some live game reps in the the Dominican Republic this winter.

Robles’ winter season may well end after only 20 or 25, like Eloy Jiminez last winter, because his MLB team doesn’t want to risk injury.  However, the Nats may want to give him reps since he’s definitely a candidate to make the Nationals’ roster out of Spring Training if/when Bryce Harper leaves for the big money.

Every baseball blogger, I suspect, is looking for players who are much better than anyone else seems to realize.  One of the players I’ve been watching in this regard is left-handed starter Tyler J. Alexander.  For several years he pitched his summers for Fargo-Moorhead in the Indy-A American Association and winters in the Mexican Pacific League.  He was consistently good with high strikeout rates, but couldn’t seem to catch anyone’s attention.

Alexander shook things up in 2018, starting the season with the Sussex County (New Jersey) Miners of the Can-Am League.  The Can-Am League isn’t any better than the American Association, but it probably gets more scouting because it’s on the East Coast.  He pitched well enough there to finally get a contract to pitch in the second half of the Mexican League (Summer) season.

This winter Alexander has elected to pitch in the Dominican Winter League, rather than the Mexican Pacific League, I think because he’s hoping to finally get someone’s attention in a league that pays a real wage.  He’s been great through his first five starts with a 2.13 ERA and 25 Ks in 25.1 IP.  If he can keep it up the rest of the winter, maybe somebody (besides me) will finally take notice.

Two Dominican Winter League pitchers who have done a lot to keep their high-paying summer league dreams alive are Esmil Rogers and Tommy Milone.

Esmil Rogers had a more than $1M contract to pitch in the KBO in 2018, but he broke his hand about half-way through the season and got cut, probably losing roughly the second half of his $1M+ contract.  He currently has a 2.53 ERA after five DWL starts.  If he can keep it up, a KBO team will play him at least $500,000 to pitch in South Korea in 2019.

Tommy Milone was a marginal major leaguer in 2018, his age 31 season.  He’s pitching in the DWL to prove that he’s worth a split AAA/major league contract in 2019.  So far, so good — Milone hasn’t allowed an earned run or a walk in his first four starts, while striking out 19 in 22 IP.  That’s what a soon to be 32 year old player of Milone’s caliber needs to do to show MLB teams he’s worth bringing back for another season as AAA insurance.

 

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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 Foreign Pitchers in the History of South Korea’s KBO

October 14, 2018

We are currently in what amounts to the Golden Age of foreign starters in South Korea’s KBO, with most of the leaders listed below still active.  The KBO has decided that what it needs in terms of foreign players is starting pitchers.  Two of every KBO team’s current three roster spots for foreign players are held by starting pitchers, with the third spot typically going to a power hitter, only because under current KBO rules provide that third foreign player cannot be a pitcher.  As a result, the all-time leader boards for foreign pitchers is changing on an annual basis.

Wins

1.  Dustin Nippert   102-51

2.  Danny Rios   90-59

3.  Andy VanHekken   73-42

4.  Henry Sosa      68-60

5.  Eric Hacker      61-37

Dustin Nippert looked like his KBO career might be over last off-season, when the Doosan Bears decided he was too expensive for his likely 2018 performance.  Nippert caught on with the KT Wiz for a lot less money and pitched well enough that he should return in 2019 if the price is right for the Wiz.

Andy VanHekken, like Danny Rios in 2008, tried jumping to Japan’s NPB in 2016 immediately following his strongest KBO season.  As with Rios in 2008, it did not work out for VanHekken.  He was able to return to the Nexen Heroes, but they weren’t going to show him much loyalty once they decided he’d gotten old.  VanHekken spent most of 2018 in the Atlantic League, but finished the season with his second stint (the first in 2007) in Taiwan’s CPBL.

Henry Sosa had a very strong 2018 campaign and will almost certainly be back in 2019.  Eric Hacker was released before the 2018 season, but caught on with the Nexen Heroes after highly paid Esmil Rogers got hurt.  If Hacker is willing to accept a modest contract amount ($500K to $600K) the notoriously tight-fisted Heroes could bring him back in 2019.

ERA (800 Career Innings Pitched)

1.  Danny Rios    3.01

2.  Andy VanHekken  3.56

3.  Dustin Nippert    3.59

4.  Eric Hacker    3.66

5.  Chris Oxspring    3.90

6.  Henry Sosa 4.32

As far as I am aware, these six are the only foreign pitchers to reach my 800 career innings pitched cut-off in the KBO’s history.  There should be more in the next few seasons.

Stikeouts

1.  Dustin Nippert   1082

2.  Henry Sosa    963

3.  Andy VanHekken   860

4.  Danny Rios   807

5.  Eric Hacker 675

6.  Merrill Kelly 641

7.  Brooks Raley  615

Kelly and Raley should join the Wins and ERA lists next off-season, as both pitched well enough to return to the KBO in 2019, although neither is likely to get much of a raise on his 2018 salary.

Saves

Jose Cabrera   53

With a limited number of roster spots for foreign pitchers, KBO teams want starting pitchers, not relievers.  Of the 23 foreigners to pitch in the KBO in 2017, Henry Sosa was the only one to record even one save, the first and only one of his KBO career.

The best season by a foreign reliever was Scott Proctor‘s 2012, when he had a 1.79 ERA and saved 35 games.  However, he returned to the U.S. in 2013 to play at AAA.  The KBO has yet to have a foreign closer last more than a couple of seasons and none in the last few seasons.

Hector Noesi, Ryan Feierabend and Josh Lindblom could be added to my lists after the 2019 season, although Noesi will likely have to take a significant pay cut from his $1.7 million 2018 salary to return to the Kia Tigers (and even if released by the Tigers can’t sign with any other KBO team for more than $1.0 million per new league rules).   Josh Lindblom will probably be the best paid foreign pitcher in the KBO in 2019, as his 2018 salary was already well over $1M, and he was the circuit’s top starter on the best and wealthiest team in the league. I would guestimate that Lindblom will make at least as much next year as Noesi reportedly made this season and maybe a little more.

The Best Foreign Pitchers in the History of Taiwan’s CPBL

October 14, 2018

This is the post-2018 season update on an article I published a year ago.  I have not published a piece on foreign hitters because no foreign position players have played in the CPBL since the end of the 2015 season.

WINS

1.      Osvaldo (Ozzy) Martinez  108-85     MiLB, WiL Stats and more MiLB Stats

2.      Jonathan Hurst       76-52     MLB, NPB, MiLB Stats

3.      Mike Loree                72-41     MiLB, Indy-A stats

4.      John Burgos             58-34     MiLB, Indy-A Stats

5.      Jose Nunez                56-25     MLB, NPB, KBO, etc Stats

6.      Mark Kiefer               55-27     MLB, MiLB, KBO stats

7.     Joe Strong                  47-33     MLB, MiLB, Indy-A Stats

8.     Orlando Roman       44-28     MiLB, NPB Stats, WiL

9.     Gabriel “Gab” Ozuna     43-39     MiLB Stats

Martinez and Hurst are the only long-term veterans among pitchers I could find in my search of the CPBL website.  Martinez pitched nine seasons, Hurst pitched seven.  Burgos had a terrific 4.5 seasons, Kiefer had four terrific seasons, and Nunez had an even better than either three seasons.  Kiefer won 34 KBO games over three seasons later in his career.

Mike Loree is the most successful foreign pitcher currently pitching in CPBL or since Oswaldo Martinez’s and Jonathan Hurst’s CPBL careers ended after the 2005 season.  Loree didn’t pitch as well in 2018 as his 2017 season, in which he won his second pitching Triple Crown (2.18 ERA, 16 wins, and 154 Ks) in only four full seasons, but he was still an ace (one of the four best starters in a four-team circuit) and enhanced his credentials as one of the CPBL’s best foreign hurlers ever.

Joe Strong was a 37 year old MLB rookie in 2000 for the Florida Marlins, but he pitched better in the Show in limited use in 2001.  He pitched professionally through his age 41 year old season.

ERA   (650 IP)

1.      Jose Nunez               2.13

2.     Jonathan Hurst       2.56

3.     Joe Strong                 2.71

4.     Mark Kiefer              2.82

5.     John Burgos             2.84

6.     Gab Ozuna                3.16

7.     Osvaldo Martinez    3.20

7.     Enrique Burgos   3.20     MLB, MiLB Stats

9.     Mike Loree               3.26

10.    Orlando Roman     3.78

I set the 650 IP limit because I wanted to include both Nunez (687) and Roman (691).  Nunez won 56 games over three seasons, before moving on to greener Japanese NPB pastures.  He also pitched in the Taiwan Major League (TML) in 1998, during that competitor league’s six-year history before it folded/merged into the CPBL after the 2002 season. But, no surprise, I haven’t been able to find the stats for the TML on line.

In this extreme hitter-friendly era of the CPBL, Mike Loree’s and Orlando Roman’s higher ERAs are at least equivalent to what the best foreign pitchers accomplished in different, less offensive eras than today, based on their W-L records, the fact that Loree has been arguably the league’s best pitcher in each of his four full CPBL seasons, and the fact that Roman used the CPBL as a springboard to a four year NPB career, where he won a total of 18 games and saved another six, before returning to CPBL in 2016.  Alas, Roman’s CBPL career ended after the 2017 season.next season.

STRIKEOUTS

1.     Ozzie Martinez      1,286

2.     Mike Loree             797

3.     Jonathan Hurst     779

4.     Enrique Burgos     736

5.     Michael “Mike” Garcia      651     MLB, MiLB, KBO etc Stats

6.     Orlando Roman   564

7.     John Burgos          541

8.     Mark Kiefer           532

9.     Jose Nunez           511

10.    Gab Ozuna           508

Enrique Burgos had some of the best strikeout stuff CPBL had ever seen, but it didn’t translate into his W-L record.  He finished his CPBL career an even 36-36.

SAVES

1.     Mike Garcia             124

2.     Ryan Cullen           70     MiLB, Indy-A, WiL Stats

3.     Brad Thomas        59     MLB, NPB, KBO etc Stats

4.     Alfornio (“Al”) Jones     50     MLB, MiLB Stats

5T.   Dario Veras           49     MLB, MiLB, KBO etc Stats 

5T.   Tony Metoyer       49     MiLB, Indy-A Stats

Mike Garcia is far and away the best foreign closer in CPBL history, and certainly one of the best in league history overall, second only in career saves to Yueh-Ping Lin.  He pitched five seasons in Taiwan (1996-1998, 2004-2005) in between which he was a 31 year old MLB rookie for the 1999 Pittsburgh Pirates.  His career CPBL ERA is an even 2.00.  He last pitched professionally at age 39.

Ryan Cullen pitched 3+ seasons in Taiwan, saving a then record-setting 34 games for the Brother Elephants in 2010 and recording a career CPBL ERA of 1.60.  Cullen is best remembered for his final CPBL game, when he threw a pitch, felt pain in his throwing shoulder, and walked off the mound and off the field without motioning to the dugout and waiting for the manager to take him out of the game.  He was released the next day.

Cullen said he didn’t intend to disrespect anyone, but it does not appear that he ever played professional baseball again.  Since he was only 32 and still pitching effectively at the time of his release, I suspect that he may have just decided that he’d had enough of pro ball.

Brad Thomas is an Aussie who pitched professionally in at least seven countries on four continents, concluding his baseball odyssey with 2.5 seasons in Taiwan.  Tony Metoyer pitched parts of seven seasons in the CPBL, where he was used as both a closer and spot starter.

Unfortunately, the CPBL doesn’t hire foreign relievers much any more.  However, Werner Madrigal saved 16 games for the 7-11 Uni-Lions as recently as 2015, and in 2014 Miguel Mejia saved a record-setting 35 games and posted a 1.24 ERA for the Lamigo Monkeys, although that record was bested in 2017 by Chen Yu-Hsun, who recorded 37 saves for a Lamigo Monkeys team that set a league record for wins in a season.  Right now, though, CPBL teams seem to have decided that starting pitchers are just too valuable for their three available foreign player roster spaces, even though there are almost always some good relievers in the Mexican League to choose from.

It’s hard for a foreign player to have a long career in the CPBL.  If the player has a bad year or even a bad half-season (most foreigners initially receive half-season contracts), he’s too expensive to keep around and too easily replaced.  There are a lot of players of the age and talent level to whom the CPBL salary scale is highly appealing, so CPBL teams can pick and choose their foreign players.

If a foreign player has a great full season or two, he typically moves on to NPB, KBO or back to MLB AAA.  However, a lot of departing foreign players come back to the CPBL a few years later for another go ’round when it’s their last best chance to make a substantial wage playing summer baseball.

In its early days, the CPBL appears to have recruited heavily among Latin American players who put up successful seasons in the winter leagues, which makes a lot of sense, since the Latin American winter leagues are pretty good and pay accordingly.  However, with the CPBL season now longer (it has climbed from an initial 90 game season to 120 games today), fewer Latin players are interested in playing in Taiwan, because it interferes with their ability to play winter league ball in their home countries.  In recent years, the independent-A Atlantic League has been a major source for CPBL teams looking for in-season pitching help, and the (summer) Mexican League has been a prime source for off-season signings.

The Best “Foreign” Pitchers in the History of Japan’s NPB

October 13, 2018

This is the post-2018 season update on a topic I’ve been writing about and updating for the last few years, when the all-time leader boards change. The post lists the best “foreign” pitchers (see discussion below) to have pitched in Japan’s NPB in terms of career NPB wins, ERA (800 innings pitched minimum), Strike Outs and Saves.

WINS

1. Tadashi Wakabayaski 237-144

2. Taigen Kaku (Tai-yuan Kuo) 117-68

3.  Genji Kaku (Yuen-chih Kuo) 106-106

4.  Gene Bacque 100-80

4. Joe Stanka 100-72

6. Randy Messenger 95-77

7. Jason Standridge 75-68

8. Nate Minchey 74-70

9. Jeremy Powell 69-65

10. Seth Greisinger 64-42

11. D. J. Houlton 63-39

One of the things you learn when blogging is that the answers to seemingly simple questions often aren’t that simple at all.  Who exactly qualifies as a “foreign” player for NPB purposes?  For some players, that is an extremely complicated question.

Tadashi Wakabayashi was a Japanese American born in Hawaii. He played in NPB from 1936 until 1953. He originally held duel citizenship but renounced his Japanese citizenship in 1928, but then renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1941 and became a Japanese citizen again, shortly after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

On the other hand, Victor Starrfin, who went 303-176 as one of NPB’s all-time great aces, while being born in Russia, emigrated to Japan after the Russian Revolution in 1917 when he was a small boy. He grew up in Japan and went through Japan’s education and baseball systems, before becoming NPB’s first 300 game winner.  And what about NPB’s all-time wins leader, Masaichi Kaneda (born Kim Kyung-hong), a Korean citizen born and raised in Japan who was not allowed to become a citizen?

Wally Yonamine, another great Nisei star of NPB, clearly seems more “foreign” to me for NPB purposes than Wakabayashi because Yonamine had a professional sports in the U.S. before going to Japan, and he died in Hawaii as well as being born there.

Wakabayashi played high school ball in Hawaii and then went on a playing tour in Japan, where his pitching earned him a scholarship at a top Japanese University (Hosei University). That certainly makes Wakabayashi less “foreign” than Yonamine — even today foreign players who play at Japanese Universities for four years before going pro are not considered “foreign” for NPB roster-limit purposes.

Is Wakabayashi more foreign than Micheal Nakamura, mentioned below, who was born in Japan, but graduated from high school in Australia, played college ball in the U.S. and then had a long U.S. minor league career before joining NPB?  A comment to the original post said that Nakamura was treated as “Japanese” for NPB roster-limit purposes, presumably due to his Japanese birth.

Ultimately, I have decided this year to continue treating Wakabayashi as a “foreign” player, because he was born and raised in the United States.  But I have left Starffin and Kaneda off my lists because, they were products of Japan’s baseball system, even if they were denied equal treatment due to their ethnicities.  I have left it up to you, gentle reader, to make your own determination on this perhaps not very significant question.

Tai-yuan Kuo and Yuen-chih Kuo, known in Japan as Taigen Kaku and Gengi Kaku, respectively, were Taiwanese pitchers both of whom starred in NPB in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  The two Kuos/Kakus were the best pitchers to come out of Taiwan prior to Chien-Ming Wang breaking through to have MLB success in 2005.

Gene Bacque and Joe Stanka were two Americans whose Japanese careers roughly overlapped in the early and mid-1960’s.  Stanka was a marginal major leaguer of the type typical among players from the Americas who try to make a go of it in NPB.  He pitched in two games for the Chicago White Sox in 1959 at the age of 27, and apparently realized he had little chance of future major league success, and somehow got a job with the Nankai Hawks (now the Softbank Hawks) in 1960.

Gene Bacque was a mediocre minor league pitcher who got cut by the Hawaii Islanders of the AAA Pacific Coast League after only two relief appearances early in the 1962 season.  What he had going for him was the fact that he was still only 24 years old and apparently the physical proximity to Japan when his minor league career ended.  Japanese Hall of Famer and Hanshin Tigers teammate Masaaki Koyama taught Bacque how to throw a slider, and he also improved his knuckleball and became a star.

Bacque and Stanka both had their best NPB seasons in 1964.  Bacque went 29-9 with a 1.88 ERA and 200 Ks in 353.1 innings pitched, while Stanka went 26-7 with a 2.40 ERA and 172 Ks in 277.2 IP.  Bacque was awarded the Eiji Sawamura Award, NPB’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award, becoming the only foreign player ever to win that honor.

Bacque and Stanka faced off against each other in the sixth game of the Japan Series that season, which Stanka won, throwing a complete game shutout.  Stanka’s team, the Hawks, won the series in seven games, and Stanka was named the Series MVP.

Randy Messenger, the most successful foreign starter of his generation in career terms, managed to earn his NPB domestic free agent option with eight full seasons of NPB service earlier this year.  This means he will no longer be considered a “foreign” player in terms of NPB roster limits, thus increasing his value, since he will no longer be taking up one of the valuable four foreign player roster slots.  It is expected that he’ll return to the Hanshin Tigers for his age 37 season in 2019.

Jason Standridge’s very successful NPB career ended in 2017.

ERA (800+ IP)

1. Tadashi Wakabayashi 1.99

2.  Gene Bacque 2.34

3.  Glenn Mickens 2.55

4.  Joe Stanka 3.03

5. Randy Messenger 3.05

6. Seth Greisigner 3.16

7.  Taigen Kaku 3.16

8.  Genji Kaku  3.22

9.  Jason Standridge 3.31

Offense was up in NPB in 2018, and Randy Messenger’s career NPB ERA dropped below Joe Stanka in spite of a successful 11-7 season.  However, Messenger moved up to the number one slot as foreign strikeout king, at least so long as I don’t consider Masaichi Kaneda (4,490) and Victor Starffin (1,960) as “foreign” pitchers.

STRIKE OUTS

2.  Randy Messenger 1,420

3.  Genji Kaku 1,415

4.  Taigen Kaku 1,069

5.  Tadashi Wakabayashi 1,000

6.  Joe Stanka 887

7.  Jeremy Powell 858

8. Jason Standridge 844

9.  Gene Bacque 825

SAVES

1. Dennis Sarfate  234

2.  Marc Kroon 177

3.  Chang-yong Lim 128

4.  Eddie Gaillard 120

5.  Rod Pedroza 117

6.  Genji Kaku 116

7.  Micheal Nakamura* 104

8.  Dong-yeol Sun 98

9. Tony Barnette 97

Foreign relief pitchers have had quite a bit of success in Japan, going back to the late 1980’s, starting with Genji Kaku who both started and closed at different times in his NPB career.  Marc Kroon was an American with a high 90’s fastball, who didn’t throw enough strikes in the U.S. to have MLB success, but was dominating in NPB.

Dennis Sarfate broke Marc Kroon’s career saves record and NPB’s single-season save record (among everyone) in 2017.  His 54 saves broke the old record by seven.  Unfortunately, Sarfate hurt himself badly a month into the 2018 season, tearing something in his right hip requiring surgery, and he didn’t pitch again in 2018.  He has two years left of his deal with SoftBank, so hopefully he’ll be pitching again in 2019.

Dong-yeol Sun and Chang-yong Lim, like Seung-hwan Oh who saved 80 games in NPB in 2014-2015 before jumping to MLB, are products of South Korea’s KBO.  Sun and Lim were probably good enough to be successful MLB pitchers, but ended up starring in NPB instead.

Go East, Not So Young Men!

October 11, 2018

A couple of days ago mlbtraderumors.com posted a list of recently announced players who have elected free agency after being out-righted off of teams’ 40-man rosters and accepting minor league assignments during the season.  It’s a virtual who’s-who of players who should seriously consider playing in Asia in 2019 if any Asian teams will have them.  Players who might look particularly appealing to Asian teams based on age, past major league success and 2018 performance on this list are 1B Tommy Joseph (27 in 2018), SS/2B Dixon Machado (27), RHP Drew Hutchison (28), RHP Mike Morin (28), RHP Casey Sadler (28), RHP Chris Rowley (28), RHP Ryan Weber (28), RHP Jacob Turner (28), RHP Mike Hauschild (29), LHP Danny Coulombe (29), RHP Kevin Quackenbush (30), RHP Jhan Martinez (30), LHP Buddy Boshers (31) and LHP Tommy Milone (32).

A player I have thought for the last several years should take his talents to Asia is Jabari Blash.  He’s 29 now, hit a ton in the Pacific Coast League, but failed to take advantage of another major league opportunity with the Angels this season.  It’s not too late to become a star in Asia, Jabari, you certainly have the raw talent.

Slugging 1Bman Dan Vogelbach turns 26 in December, and he’s out of minor league options.  After a season in he hit at AAA but only hit .207 with a .691 OPS in 102 major league plate appearances, his best offer might come from Asia.  Socrates Brito is another out of options 26 year old with significant, but not yet successful, major league experience who could appeal to Asian teams.

1B/corner OF Jordan Patterson turns 27 in February.  He still appears to have options left, but hasn’t played in the majors since a 10-game cup of coffee in which he hit well for the Rockies back in 2016.  Despite solid, if unspectacular, AAA performance the last two seasons, he doesn’t appear to be in the Rockies’ future plans in any serious way.

Mike Tauchman, who turns 28 in December, has done much in a couple of brief major league cups of coffee, but he could likely be a starting center fielder in Asia.  Corner IF/OF Patrick Kivlehan who turns 29 in December got significant major league playing time with the Reds in 2017, but spent most of 2018 back at AAA.

Another soon to be 29 year old I root for is 2B Nate Orf.  He got a his first cup of coffee with the Brewers this year, which vastly improves his chances at interesting an Asian team.  Orf turns the double play well and has a career minor league .387 on-base percentage.  Unfortunately, he has little power, and Asian teams want their foreign players to hit for power.

Jose Fernandez was a 30 year old rookie 1Bman for the Angels in 2018 with a .697 OPS in 123 plate appearances, after joining the MLB system in 2017 following a long career in Cuba.  Asian teams have come to love their Cuban imports, who have had a great deal of success, particularly in Japan.

UT Danny Santana (28), UT Drew Robinson (27), and OF Noel Cuevas (27) are three more position players who may well both be available and draw interest from NPB and KBO teams.

Starting pitchers who fit the bill are (lefties in parentheses) Austin Voth (27), Adrian Sampson (27), Alec Mills (27), William Cuevas (28), Manny Banuelos (28, LHP), Daniel Corcino (28), Casey Kelly (29), Aaron Brooks (29), Drew Gagnon (29), Eric Jokisch (29), Asher Wojciechowski (30), Deck McGuire (30), Chris Bassitt (30), and Casey Lawrence (31).

Relievers I could see making the move to NPB (KBO wants starters only, thank you) are Joely Rodriguez (27, LHP), Jake Barrett (27), Tyler Duffey (28), Andrew Kittredge (29), Scott McGough (29), Chris Smith (30), Liam Hendriks (30), Neftali Feliz (31) and Josh Edgin (32, LHP).

Needless to say, most of the 48 currently marginal major leaguers I have listed above will be pitching in the MLB system in 2019 and at best I’ve named only half of the 2018 mlb system players who will be playing in the Asian majors at any time in 2019.  For example, I haven’t even identified most of the arbitration eligible players likely to be non-tendered when the time comes in November.  There are an awful lot of these guys every off-season for the Asian major league teams to choose from, and no more than half of them are willing to pitch in Asia in the first place.

Asia Pro Baseball Notes

September 28, 2018

With the KBO regular season approaching its close, attendance is down for the first time in five years.  Average per game attendance this year so far is 11,073 compared to 11,447 in 2017.  Factors for the decrease are poor air quality (South Korea is subject to brutal dust storms), a lop-sided pennant race (the Doosan Bears are 11 games up on everyone else with fewer than 10 to play), and possibly lingering effects from South Korea’s poor performance at that 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The KBO’s players’ association is also considering a proposal by the teams to change the league’s free agency rules.  Teams want a hard limit of four year maximum contracts (no big deal — I’m not aware of any free agent receiving more than a four year deal in recent years) and a hard 8 billion won (approximately $7.2 million) contract cap (a very big deal, as the richest KBO free agent contracts blew past 10 billion won during the 2016-2017 off-season).

Teams have offered to shorten the service time requirements for reaching free agency, as a sweetener.  However, the Yonhap article I read is not clear how much the service time requirement would be reduced.  I can’t see the players agreeing to hard caps without a significant service time reduction.

In Taiwan’s CPBL Elih Villanueva threw a no-hitter today, the second in the CPBL this season and only the 9th in the CPBL’s 29 season history.  Nick Additon threw the season’s first no-hitter back in June.

Two grizzled NPB veterans, Hiroke Iwase and Kazuo Matsui, have announced that they will be retiring at the end of the 2018 season.  The 43 year old Iwase is NPB’s all-time saves (407) and games pitched (1,000) leader.  The now 42 year old Kaz Matsui will retire with at least 2,703 major hits, 615 in MLB and 2,088 in Japan.

Tomoyuki Sugano threw his seventh shutout of the season today.  NPB starters only make one start a week and are given more opportunities to finish their games.  Unfortunately, I do not think it is highly likely that Sugano will one day pitch in MLB.  The Yomiuri Giants don’t post their players, and being a top veteran star for Yomiuri comes with endorsement deals that can’t be matched by all but the top one or two baseball stars in the U.S.