Japan 2020 Draft Contributions

April 12th, 2021

The well is deep in Japan. A number of younger players are making an impact in the NPB, especially early as is being shown with the number of players from the 2020 NPB draft that are already contributing to the 2021 season. Below are some of the players myworld is familiar with that are players to watch. There could have been players I missed.

1. Shugo Maki 1B/2B (Yokohama Baystars) - He was the second pick of the Baystars in the 2020 draft but he is a player making perhaps the biggest contribution. A weak arm limits him defensively to second base or first base, but the bat drives in runs. In 15 games he is hitting .389 with four homeruns for a .683 slugging percentage. His .389 batting average and 14 RBIs puts him at the top of the Pacific League leader boards.

2. Taisei Irie RHP (Yokohama Baystars) - He sits in the low 90s with his fastball and has good off speed stuff. The Bay Stars first round pick in 2020 has had two starts and been tagged pretty good. He lost both starts, has worked 10 innings with a 5.40 ERA. He is only 22.

3. Takahisa Hayakawa LHP (Rakuten Golden Eagles) - He was the pitcher everyone wanted in the 2020 draft. He stands just 5′10″ but his fastball hits the mid-90s, sitting in the low 90s. The reports are that he also has great spin on his slider. Early in the season the Eagles find themselves in first place, but they have no qualms about putting Hayakawa in the starting rotation. The injury to Masahiro Tanaka probably helped. In three starts Takahisa is 1-2 with a 2.55 ERA. He has 18 whiffs in 17.2 innings, but has taken half of the Eagles losses. It will be interesting to see if Takahisa stays up with the Eagles when Tanaka returns.

4. Teruaki Sato 1B (Hanshin Tigers) - He is the bat everyone wanted in the 2020 draft. His lack of speed will probably see him playing mostly first base, but he could fit in a corner outfield. It has been a slow start for Teruaki (.196/.375/.207) but he does have three homeruns, one hit out of the Hanshin Tigers stadium. A 1/24 walk to whiff ratio makes me think he is a bit susceptible to chasing pitches out of the strike zone and must curb that aggressiveness if he wants to have success. He came with a lot of hype so he may be a bit too anxious to show he belongs.

5. Ryoji Kuribayashi RHP (Hiroshima Carp) - At 24 years of age the Carp drafted Ryoji in the first round. He has contributed immediately, being inserted as their closer. In seven appearances he has picked up five saves and has yet to give up a run. He has given up just two hits in his seven innings of work, striking out eight.

6. Haruki Ohmichi RHP (Hiroshima Carp) - The Carp were able to pick off Haruki in the third round. The Japanese drafts generally do not go past seven rounds. At 22 years of age Haruki has made an immediate contribution, picking up two holds in his five appearances. He also has not given up a run in five innings, giving the Carp 12 shutout innings from the two rookies in the bullpen.

7. Hiromi Itoh RHP (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) - The 23 year old has pitched well in his two starts. He is 0-1, but he has a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings. Japanese bats have a hard time making contact off him with 19 whiffs in just 13 innings.

8. Shota Suzuki LHP (Chiba Lotte Marines) - At about 5′9″ he comes in a small package, but hitters have a tough time making contact. In three starts he has worked 17 innings, struck out 24 and given up just six hits. Finding the plate has been a challenge with 10 walks.

Three Young Taiwan Pitchers to Watch in the CPBL

April 11th, 2021

Don’t know too much about these pitchers but their stats. One of the challenges the CPBL has is they allow three foreign players on the roster. Most teams sign pitchers to meet that three foreign player slot. That leaves little room for young domestic pitchers to make an impact in the CPBL. Despite these challenges Myworld did notice three pitchers who seem to have been given the opportunity and are doing well in the CPBL.

Jo Hsi Hsu RHP (Wei Chuan Dragons) - We already posted a blog about him for his opening outing. He has had three more starts and is 0-1 with a 2.03 ERA. The incredible stat is that he has only walked one and struck out 28 in just 13.1 innings. The not so credible stat is that he is listed at 177 centimeters, which translates to 5′9″. The 28 whiffs are the most in the CPBL.

Ruei Yang Gu Lin RHP (Uni Lions) - At 6′0″ he is the taller of the three pitchers. He is 2-0, 2.89 with 24 whiffs in just 18.2 innings, but with a little wild streak with 12 walks. You can find video of him pitching for Taiwan against the Southeast team from 2015. The 24 whiffs are second most in the CPBL.

Xi Kai Teoh RHP (Rakuten Monkeys) - At 22 years of age he is the oldest of the three pitchers. He weighs just 154 and stands 5′10″. He is 1-0 with a 2.20 ERA, pitching 16.1 innings with 14 whiffs and 11 walks.

Top Ten 2021 Cuban Prospects in the National League

April 7th, 2021

Randy Arozarena and Ronald Bolanos moved to the American League. Michel Baez is the only player who graduated from the list. Victor Victor Mesa, who got the big signing bonus dropped from the list while his younger brother, who had less credentials remained on the list. Below are the top ten Cuban prospects from the National league.

1. Adrian Morejon LHP (Padres) - Back in 2014 he pitched for Cuba’s 15 and under team, pitching them to a gold medal victory over the United States. He was voted the MVP of the 15 and under World Cup. In 2016 he defected from Cuba and signed an $11 million bonus with the Padres. His journey to the major leagues has been long, but he appears to have found the right path. Arm injuries slowed his ascension to the major leagues but he made his debut in 2019, finishing with an ugly 10.12 ERA. He was better in 2020 (4.66) and he hopes to break out this year with a spot in the rotation. He has some wicked stuff, starting with a mid 90s fastball that can touch the high 90s, something all scouts drool at with lefthanders. His curveball has a nasty bite and his change is a quality pitch. A decent slider gives him a fourth offering. What holds him back is his difficulty finding his spot in the strike zone. Too many meaty pitches in 2020 hit too much of the strike zone leading to seven dingers in just 19 innings. It is not just about throwing strikes, but throwing quality strikes. When Adrian can learn that he can fit at the top of the rotation. He will be in the Padres starting rotation in 2021 until he fails to get hitters out.

2. Jorge Ona OF (Padres) - Myworld did not give Ona a lot of respect last year, keeping him absent from the list, but the names are a bit weak in 2021 so he jumps to number 2. Jorge popped on to the list with his .583 slugging average during his major league debut in 2020, encompassing just 12 at bats. In 2019 he was limited to just 25 games because of a shoulder injury, but he hit .348 with five homeruns. There is some power in his bat, which motivated the Padres to sign him for a $7 million bonus in 2016. He does have some issues making contact, and his defense will probably limit him to left field. Ideally, his best spot could be as a designated hitter. He will start the 2021 season in AAA, but do not be surprised if the Padres trade him for some help in their playoff run. He could also be kept to be their DH when the National League incorporates it in 2022.

3. Andy Pages OF (Dodgers) - Pages was initially traded to the Angels in the first Mookie Betts trade that was called off. Don’t be surprised if he gets offered again to provide the Dodgers with some veteran depth for a playoff run. The Dodgers only signed him for $300,000, a paltry sum when you compare his bonus to other bonuses the Dodgers have shelled out to Cuban defectors. He has some impressive tools, with a strong arm for right field and a loud bat that provides impressive exit velocities when he makes contact. The challenge will be to improve that contact. In 2019 he struck out 79 times in just 63 games but he still slugged .651 with 19 homeruns. The Dodgers will probably start him in High A in 2021.

4. Johan Oviedo RHP (Cardinals) - At 6′5″ and 245 pounds Johan is an intimidating presence on the mound. The Cardinals paid out a bonus of $1.9 million in 2016, the same year they signed Randy Arozerena. As to be expected with that large frame, Johan can whip the fastball toward the plate in the mid-90s. A slider is a pretty good second pitch. What he needs to improve on is finding a third pitch and improving his command. His long arms still prove a challenge for him in finding consistency with his delivery and finding the plate. He made his major league debut last year, putting together a 5.47 ERA. Unlike his 2019 minor league season he did not get a lot of strikeouts per nine innings and he sits around 2.5 walks every nine innings. He will start the 2021 season in AAA and could see the Cardinals toward the end of the season. If his control still fails him and a third pitch is lacking he can always be used in the bullpen.

5. Miguel Vargas 3B (Dodgers) - He played with Adrian Morejon, Lazarito Armenteros and Ernesto Martinez on the Cuban Under 15 team, all of whom are now playing in the minor leagues for major league clubs. He hit .378 with nine RBIs, but unlike the three other players he did not make the all tournament team. His father played on Cuba’s 1992 and 1996 gold medal teams in the Olympics. The Dodgers signed him for $300,000 in 2017. He stands 6′3″ and lacks speed and quickness so a move from third base is possible. If that happens he will have to develop his power, which has not been prevalent in the minor leagues. He does hit for average, draws walks and finds the gaps enough to hit 40 plus doubles. Turning those doubles into homeruns would make the transition easier. Vargas could start the 2021 season in AA and could be offered as trade bait by the Dodgers to acquire veteran playoff depth.

6. Victor Mesa Jr. OF (Marlins) - His father was a superstar outfielder for the Cuban teams that won numerous gold medals in international events. His brother left for the United States to escape the expectations that Cuban fans expected from the son of a superstar. The older brother Victor Victor Mesa signed for $5.25 million. The younger brother Victor Mesa Jr. got a token $1 million bonus. Now it is the younger brother who is the better prospect. While the power is not great he does show the ability to hit for average (.284). Only 14 of his 50 hits went for extra bases. If he could play a rangy centerfield it would be better, but defensively his best fit is for a corner. He may lack the power to fill that position. Victor does make good contact with a 24/29 walk to whiff ratio. Victor should start the 2021 season in Low A where the 19 year old can be moved patiently. His 24 year old brother Victor Victor Mesa could only hit .235 with a .274 OBA in his 2019 minor league season. Missing the 2020 season put him in a bad situation where at 24 he needs to prove himself now.

7. Jose Garcia SS (Reds) - Garcia signed for $5 million in 2017. There is no question that his glove is of major league quality. Despite playing only A ball the Reds still called him up in 2020 to fill the shortstop hole. He struggled with the bat, hitting only .194 with no extra base hits and a 1/26 walk to whiff ratio. His OBA was .206 and his slugging was .194 in 24 games. It is obvious Jose needs some more work with the bat before putting on the Reds uniform. The Reds were looking for a shortstop for the 2021 season, but having failed to acquire one decided to move third baseman Eugenio Suarez to play the position. If he struggles the Reds may have no other choice than to call Garcia up, sacrificing some offense to solidify the defense. Expect Jose to start the 2021 season in AA.

8. Malcolm Nunez 3B (Cardinals) - The Cardinals signing of Nolan Arenado could put a brick wall towards Nunez opportunity with the Cardinals. The Cardinals signed Nunez for $300,000 in 2018. Nunez played with Victor Victor Mesa on the Under 15 Cuban National team in 2016 where he hit .613 with 9 walks. The defense is a little shaky and his speed is virtually non-existent, so if he is going to make it the bat will have to work. The bat did not display a lot of power in his first appearance stateside in 2019 with just two homeruns and a slugging average of .318. That will have to improve. He did slug 13 homeruns with a .415 average and .774 slugging percentage in the Dominican Summer League the prior year. He should begin the 2021 season in Low A.

9. Vladimir Gutierrez RHP (Reds) - The Reds signed Gutierrez the same year they signed Jose Garcia, shelling out $4.75 million for Gutierrez. Vladimir is not over powering with a fastball that sits in the low 90s. His top pitch may be his curve with a decent change, but the curve can be inconsistent. When he struggles to get the pitch over the plate he becomes very hittable. His minor league seasons have been afflicted with the homerun ball, giving up 26 in 2019. That resulted in a poor 6.04 ERA. At best, Vladimir may be an end of the rotation pitcher or a spot starter. He was placed on the 40 man roster in a rebuilding year for the Reds. He should make his major league debut sometime mid-season, provided he stays healthy and is pitching effectively.

10. Daysbel Hernandez RHP (Braves) - The Braves signed Daysbel for $190,000 in 2017. At 5′10″ he is not a big presence, but he can hit the mid-90s on the radar gun with his fastball. A lack of control and a missing third pitch destines him for the bullpen where he has pitched in all 56 of his appearances. In his two minor league seasons in 2018 and 2019 he has limited the opposition to a .193 average. His best season was in 2019 where he picked up 7 saves with a 1.71 ERA. At 24 years of age the Braves must move him quickly. He should start the 2021 season in AA and could see his major league debut with a successful minor league season.

2014 15 and Under All Tournament Team an Impressive Bunch

April 7th, 2021

As myworld was putting together the top 2021 prospects for Cuba, one thing we noted were the names that were selected to the 15 and under All tournament team for the World Cup. These are some of the names:

Catcher - Miguel Amaya from Panama was voted as the top catcher. He is now a top prospect for the Cubs. Another catcher that was selected was Rafael Marchan from Venezuela. He is now a top catching prospect of the Phillies. Marchan hit .531 in that tournament while Amaya hit just .233 so we know Amaya was selected for his defense.

First Base - Ernesto Martinez from Cuba was voted as the top first baseman, hitting .436 with one homerun. While he does not appear on any prospect lists, he now stands 6′6″ and signed with the Brewers.

Second Base - Royce Lewis from the United States. He was the first pick in the 2017 draft but knee surgery will see him sit out the 2021 season.

Shortstop - Isaac Paredes from Mexico. The Tigers signed him and he has out grown shortstop. He is one of the Tigers top ten prospects.

Left Field - Lazarito Armentaros from Cuba has struggled since his arrival in the United States. He hit .462 with five triples to make this list, but he has had issues making contact with breaking pitches since his arrival in the United States.

Center Field - Brice Turang was a first round pick of the Brewers in 2018. He is one of their better prospects.

Right Field - Shu Masuda from Japan hit .556 in he tournament. He was drafted by the Softbank Hawks in the NPB and made his debut in 2019. A wrist injury prevented him from playing in 2020.

Pitcher - Adrian Morejon won the MVP of the torunament beating the United States in the gold medal game. He is now pitchng for the Padres.

That is a pretty impressive list of players. The only position missing is third base, which was won by Ming-Chi Juan from Taiwan, but myworld could find nothing on him.

Addison Russell Signs With Mexican League Team

April 5th, 2021

In 2016 he was an All Star with the Cubs. An injury and domestic violence issues put an end to his major league career. Last year he signed a contract with the Kiwoom Heroes, now the SSG Landers, but his offense was a disappointment. He was not resigned for the 2021 season.

The defending Mexican League champion Monclova Acereros signed Addison Russell to a one year contract. Ex-major league shortstop Pat Listach is the manager of Monclova. Ex-major leaguer Erick Aybar is their current shortstop. Russell may see most of his time at second base and to play some shortstop to rest the 37 year old legs of Aybar.

Who’s Hot in the NPB

April 5th, 2021

The first week of the 2021 Nippon Professional Baseball season is now in the rearview mirror. Who are the players shaking up the league. It is easy to identify hitters since starting pitchers have only appeared in two games at the most.

Central League

Ryosuke Kikuchi (Hiroshima Carp) - As a free agent he offered his services to the major leagues. No team offered him a contract he liked. Now he is hitting .487 for the Carp with three doubles and two homeruns. Kikuchi is noted more for his glove than his bat. If he can do both the Carp will have an All Star. Expect these numbers to drop as the season progresses.

Zealous Wheeler (Yomiuri Giants) - He was acquired from the Rakuten Eagles, who were disappointed in his offense. The Giants signed Justin Smoak and Eric Thames as foreign bats this year, so they had their doubts as well. Quarantine has created a late start for Thames and Smoak, giving Wheeler an opportunity to prove himself. He is hitting .452 with five doubles and one homerun.

Shugo Maki (Yokohama Bay Stars) - The Bay Stars won their first game yesterday. You can’t blame the rookie bat of the 22 year old who will turn 23 this month. In his first year in the NPB he is hitting .405 with one homerun and 10 RBIs. That RBI total is the most in the Central League.

Jerry Sands (Hanshin Tigers) - His bat has cooled off a bit, but coming from Korea has not soaked his power. In his second season with the Tigers he hit three homeruns early in the season. Japanese pitchers seem to fear him, walking him seven times for a .444 OBA. Only the two players named above have a slugging average higher than Sands .704. The nine RBIs put him second in the Central League.

Joe Gunkel (Hanshin Tigers) - Gunkel only saw the minor leagues in the United States. The Tigers liked him and signed him for their bullpen for the 2020 season. It appears he has made the rotation this year and in his two Sunday starts he has won both, giving up just one earned run for a 0.73 ERA.

Ryoji Kuribayashi (Hiroshima Carp) - Another rookie off to a fast start. In his first NPB season Ryoji has been entrusted to the closer role. He has already picked up three saves in five appearances, only allowing one hit in his five innings of work. He has struck out seven of the 16 hitters who have faced him.

Pacific League

Eigoro Mogi (Rakuten Eagles) - Rakuten fans have been waiting for him to have a break out year. Perhaps the 2021 season will be that year. He is hitting .423 with two homeruns and 8 RBIs. He is slugging .731 and his 10 walks have given him an OBA of .583.

Shogo Nakamura (Chiba Lotte Marines) - This is his seventh season with Lotte. His numbers have been indicative of a fourth outfielder, but he starts for Lotte. Shogo inflated his offensive numbers in two games where the team combined for 32 runs. Shogo was 5 for 7 with three walks and four RBIs in those two games. That brought his average up to a Pacific League leading .433 average with 9 RBIs. Shogo drove in eight of his nine runs in a three game span.

Hiroya Miyagi (Orix Buffaloes) - Hiroya only pitched in three games last year. So this is considered his rookie season. Miyagi was a first round pick of the Buffaloes, but only after they had lost out to two other players they wanted to the draft lottery. Now they are glad to have him. Hiroya has started two games and won both, half of the Buffaloe wins this season, giving up only one earned run for a 0.60. He struck out 13 in 15 innings.

Taiwan Born Wu Leads Lions Surge in NPB

April 5th, 2021

Myworld is looking at who’s hot in the NPB. One hitter who is hot is the Seibu Lions Nien-Ting Wu. He was born in Taiwan but went to high school in Japan. His dad played baseball in the Japanese Industrial League. As a high school player Wu was eligible for the draft and was picked in the seventh round. He does not count against the quota of foreign players.

The seventh round is near the last pick in the NPB draft. This is Wu’s fifth season with the Lions. In his first four seasons the most plate appearances he had was in his first year when he stepped to the plate 142 times. Last year he played in a career high 52 games, but that only resulted in 52 plate appearances. His best batting average was in 2017 when he hit .232. He had yet to hit any homeruns coming into the 2021 season.

Wu started the 2021 season in the minors. He is now earning his plate appearances now that he is with the big league club. In 17 at bats he is hitting .462 with a 1.077 slugging percentage. Most starters in the NPB have accumulated 40 at bats this early in the season. Wu has hit two homeruns and two doubles. What is even more impressive is he has driven in 9 runs. That is two off his career high, but more importantly, it is more RBIs than any other Lion player.

If you look at the leaders in the Pacific League, Wu is only one shy of Hisanori Yasuda for the RBI lead. Yasuda drove in nine of his 10 runs in two games over the weekend and we wrote a blog on his two games. Shogo Nakamura is leading the Pacific League in batting with a .433 average and is second in RBIs with 9, but he has 40 at bats, more than twice as many as Wu.

The Lions have been playing Wu at first base after they called him up on March 31 because of injuries. He hit a solo homerun in Sunday’s game to lead the Lions over the Hawks 4-2. In the game on Saturday Wu drove in five runs in the Lions 7-4 win over the Hawks, winning the MVP for the game. He strung together three hits and a walk in five at bats. He has driven in at least one run in the four games he has played.

The Lions swept the Hawks in three games they played over the weekend and are now 6-1-1, atop the Pacific League standings. They will need to find a permanent spot for Wu in the lineup to keep that streak going.

Granma Wins Cuban Championship

April 5th, 2021

Granma defeated the defending champion Matanzas Crocodiles 6-5 to win the Cuban championship in six games. They did it without one of their big bats Alfredo Despaigne, who is in Japan playing for the Softbank Hawks. Guillermo Garcia had the walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth to complete the comeback victory. Granma had won back to back championships in 2017 and 2018 and they can now add a third title to their list. This is also the franchise Yoennis Cespedes played on before he departed for the major leagues.

The two pitchers Noevis Entenza for Matanzas and Leandro Martinez for Granma engaged in a pitcher’s duel to start the game off. Entenza got the win in the previous game by pitching one inning of relief. Martinez got out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning and Entenza put three runners on but was aided by a double play.

The little speedster Roel Santos broke the shutout with a bunt single to lead off the third inning. He then stole second and scored on a hustle double by Raico Santos that was hit down the left field line. That’s the way it stood until the top of the sixth.

Yadil Drake started the sixth inning off by hitting a double into right center. The eruption began. A single by Jefferson Delgado and sacrifice fly to score Drake ended the day for Martinez. The Stallion bullpen could not stop the carnage. Cesar Garcia walked Elise Arruebaruena intentionally and then walked pinch hitter Juan Vazquez not so intentionally to load the bases. Eduardo Blanco lined a single in front of the left fielder Raico Santos. The ball bounced over his head and three runs scored, Blanco advancing to third on the throw home. Yadil Mujica lined a double down the first base line to end the scoring and give Matanzas a commanding 5-1 lead. It did not last.

Granma chipped away getting a run back in the bottom half, started by Guillermo Aviles double over the centerfielder’s head. Guillermo Garcia singled Aviles to third and a double play ground out allowed Aviles to score.

In the seventh the little guy Roel Santos showed he can hit pretty big by pulling a pitch way over the right field fence to up the score to 5-3. Two walks put two more runners on but Carlos Benitez grounded into a double play to end the inning. Entenza left the game after the first walk, going 6.1 innings.

Granma continued to chip away in the eighth. A walk to Guillermo Aviles and a single by Guillermo Garcia started the inning off. Garcia would finish the game 4 for 4. A bunt moved the runners up where Aviles scored on a sacrifice fly. Roel Santos drove in the tying run with a clutch two out singe to left, his third hit of the game.

Joel Suarez could not get anyone out in the ninth, walking Raico Santos and giving up a single to Carlos Benitez. Matanzas called on Jonder Martinez to get out of the jam and allow Matanzas to live a second day. He hit Aviles to load the bases with no one out. Garcia ended the day by smashing a ball over the drawn in right fielder’s head for a walk off single. The celebration began.

Melville Tosses a No Hitter for the Lions

April 3rd, 2021

Tim Melville threw a no hitter for the Uni Lions in a 13-0 win over the expansion team Wei Chuan Dragons. He threw 142 pitches, striking 10 and walking five. The fact that the score was 13-0 with all the runs scored in the first five innings took the pressure off the manager to keep him in the game.

It was the 11th no hitter in the CPBL. You can watch some of Melville’s dance moves to celebrate his no hitter at CPBLstats.com website, as well as three stellar defensive plays that kept the no hitter alive.

Of the 11 no hitters eight have been thrown by foreign pitchers, including the last five. The last no hitter thrown in the CPBL was on October 7, 2018 by Ryan Verdugo.

KBO Openers Rained Out

April 3rd, 2021

The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) was supposed to have five openers Saturday. Rain postponed all the games except the Samsung Lions and Kiwoom Heroes. The Heroes play in Gocheok Skydome, which is indoors.

The Heroes won 6-1 getting seven strong innings from Eric Jokisch. Woo-hyun Song drove in two in a three run sixth to lead the offense.