Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Japan 2020 Draft Contributions

Monday, 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.

2014 15 and Under All Tournament Team an Impressive Bunch

Wednesday, 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.

Who’s Hot in the NPB

Monday, 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

Monday, 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.

A Lotte Marine Two Game Explosion

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

The Lotte Marines started the season 0-5. Hisanori Yasuda looked at the scoreboard and saw a batting average of .058. Not a very good start to the season. They had scored 10 runs in their first five games, which included one 5 run explosion against the Softbank Hawks that they lost 6-5. They were playing their last game of their series against the Rakuten Eagles, who were 4-1 and had only given up one run in the first two games of the series. The nightmare had to end.

In the second inning the Marines exploded for nine runs, just one less run than they had scored in the first five games. They went on to win 16-5, accumulating only 12 hits but drawing nine walks. Yasuda saw his average rise to .136 with a 2 for 5 day. More importantly he had driven in five runs in the game.

The next day was their opener against the Nippon Ham Fighters. The Marines again exploded for 16 runs to win their second game 16-4. Yasuda hit his first homerun of the season and drove in four runs to support the cause. He again went 2 for 5 and raised his average to .185. But with that .185 average his 10 RBIs now led the Pacific League. Leonys Martin hit his third homerun of the year, his second in two days.

Chiba fans would probably like the Marines to save some of those runs for other games. Scoring 32 runs in two games could be distributed more fairly to garner a few more wins, but when you start out the season 0-5, any win is satisfactory no matter how you do it. The gluttony of runs has to end sometime.

NPB Season Openers

Monday, March 29th, 2021

The Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has had their season openers. Myworld was in Pennsylvania focusing on coaching volleyball all weekend so we missed out on reporting the results. Better late than never.

Yomiuri Giants 8 Yokohama Bay Stars 7

The Giants overcame six RBIs from Shunta Tanaka to eke out a victory over the Bay Stars. Tanaka was a compensation pick of the Bay Stars after the Giants signed Takayuki Kajitani. The Giants got a three run homer from Takumi Ohshiro, but it was the lead off walk off homer by Yoshiyuki Kamei in the bottom of the ninth that gave the Giants the win. This year games are only going nine innings so the walk off homer prevented a tie. Almost major leaguer Tomoyuki Sugano did not have a good first outing, giving up three runs on eight hits in six innings.

Kajatani led off in that game going 0 for 3 in the opener. The next night he would hit a grand slam homerun to lead the Giants to a 10-5 win.

Hanshin Tigers 4 Tokyo Swallows 3

The Tigers used two solo shots from Jerry Sands to give them their 4-3 victory over the Swallows. He went a perfect 3 for 3 with one walk and for the weekend hit .500. His solo shot in the eighth inning broke a 3-3 tie. The Tigers used the win to start the weekend 3-0. Sands smashed another round tripper and drove in an additional five runs to give him seven RBIs over the weekend.

The Tigers are still hoping that Shintaro Fujinami can meet his lofty expectations. At one point he was the ace of the Japanese 18 and under team that had Shohei Ohtani in their rotation. He gave up two runs in five innings of work, but what has caused him the most headaches during his career continued with his five walks.

Chunichi Dragons 7 Hiroshima Carp 6

The Dragons over came an early 4-0 deficit to beat the Carp. Dayan Viciedo launched a two run homer in the five run eighth to fuel the rally. Ryosuke Kikuchi went 3 for 5 for the Carp with three runs driven in. He tried to lead a Dragon comeback in the bottom of the ninth as they scored two runs, but it fell one run short. He is also batting .500 for the weekend. Daisuke Sobue got credit for the save despite giving up two runs on three hits.

Rakuten Golden Eagles 8 Nippon Ham Fighters 2

The Eagles were supposed to start recently signed free agent Masahiro Tanaka for the opener, but he injured his calf and will miss probably the first three weeks of the season. The Eagles went with Hideaki Wakui instead and he worked seven shutout innings to give the Eagles the opening day win. The Eagles Ryosuke Tatsumi hit the first 2021 NPB homer of the season with a lead off shot in the first that marched the offense to victory. Daichi Suzuki drove in three runs to lead the charge.

Seibu Lions 4 Orix Buffaloes 3

The Lions scored four early runs in the first three innings and hung on for their victory. Tomoya Mori hopes to have a bounce back year for the Lions and his solo shot in the third was a good sign. He hit another homerun over the weekend, but his two shots are his only two hits over the three games. The Buffaloes got solo shots from Masataka Yoshida and Yuma Tongu, but came up short. Two Buffaloe errors allowed three unearned runs to score and pinned the loss on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who worked seven innings.

Softbank Hawks 8 Chibba Lotte Marines 2

The four time defending champ Hawks started the season off in dominating fashion. The Hawks slugged four homeruns to account for six of their eight runs. The first was a two run blast by Kenta Imamiya in the first to give the Hawks an early 2-0 lead. Ukyo Shuto made it 3-0 after three with his solo shot. Yuki Yanagita went deep with a two run homer in the sixth and Takuya Kai added a solo in the seventh. Shuta Ishikawa went seven innings to earn the victory. The Hawks went on to sweep the Buffoloes over the weekend to start the season 3-0, though the last two games were decided by walk off hits.

Imamiya had a walk off double on Saturday for a 3-2 win. Kenzo Kawashima hit a two run walk off double to give the Hawks a 6-5 win on Sunday. Alfredo Despaigne had hit a two run homer in the eighth to give the Hawks a 4-3 lead. The Buffaloes responded with a two run pinch hit homer from Tsuyoshi Sugano to recapture the lead 5-4.

Foreign Players in the NPB

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

The NPB will begin their season this weekend. It is interesting to note that the starting pitchers have been announced and they are all Japanese pitchers. This is a testament to how good the pitching is in Japan. Taiwan and Korea still depend on foreign pitchers for their rotations. For the most part, Japan uses foreign pitchers to supplement their bullpen.

The good news for Japanese teams is that visa restrictions for work visas have been relaxed to allow teams to bring in their foreign players. Some foreign players who played last year were allowed to enter using visas that were issued to them last year while other players arrived in Japan early once they heard that visa restrictions were going to be put in place.

Foreign players arriving in Japan will be subject to a quarantine. They will also be subject to restrictions once that quarantine has been completed such as no use of public transportation, undergo frequent PCR tests and have limited workouts.

Below is the list of foreign players for each team. Only four foreign players can be listed on the 25 man roster for each game. No more than three of those players can be pitchers or hitters. Teams who have more than four foreign players will have to send any players above four down to their minor league team, unless they have reached free agency such as Wladimir Balentein and don’t count against the foreign allotment.

An * indicates the pitcher throws lefthanded.

Yomiuri Giants

Pitchers - Rubby de la Rosa, Cristopher Mercedes*, Angel Sanchez, Thyago Viera

Position Players - Justin Smoak, Estamy Urena, Zealous Wheeler, Eric Thames

Hanshin Tigers

Pitchers - Raul Alcantara, Jon Edwards, Joe Gunkel, Robert Suarez

Position Players - Jefry Marte, Mel Rojas Jr, Jerry Sands

Chunichi Dragons

Pitchers - Yariel Rodriguez, Randy Rosario*, Raidel Martinez

Position Player - Dayan Viciedo, Mike Gerber

Yokohama Bay Stars

Pitchers - Edwin Escobar*, Michael Peoples, Fernando Romero

Position Players - Neftali Soto, Tyler Austin

Hiroshima Carp

Pitchers - Kyle Bird*, Geronimo Franzua*, Dovydas Neverauskas, Taylor Scott

Position Player - Kevin Cron, Alejandro Mejia

Tokyo Yakult Swallows

Pitchers - Scott McGough, Cy Sneed, Albert Suarez, Rick Vandenhurk

Position Players - Jose Osuna, Domingo Santana

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Pitchers - Nick Martinez, Livan Moinelo, Colin Rea, Dennis Sarfate, Carter Stewart Jr.

Position Players - Yurisbel Gracial, Alfredo Despaigne, Wladimir Balentien

Chiba Lotte Marines

Pitchers - Jose Flores, Frank Hermann

Position Players - Brandon Laird, Leonys Martin

Saitama Seibu Lions

Pitchers - Matt Dermody*, Reed Garrett, Zach Neal

Position Player - Ernesto Mejia, Cory Spangenburg, Brandon Tysinger, Nien-Ting Wu

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

Pitchers - Alan Busenitz, Adam Conley*, Chia-Hao Sung

Position Players - Brandon Dixon, Rusney Castillo

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters

Pitchers - Robbie Erlin*, Bryan Rodriguez, Drew Verhagen

Position Players - Ronny Rodriguez, Po-Jung Wang

Orix Buffaloes

Pitchers - Brandon Dickson, Tyler Higgins

Position Players - Adam Jones, Steven Moya, Stefan Romero

Yang and Yamaguchi Blast From the Past

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Lefthanded pitcher Hyeon-jong Yang recently signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. Shun Yamaguchi was recently released by the Toronto Blue Jays. Yang was the starter for Korea in the Premier 12 finals between Japan and Korea. Yamaguchi was the starter for Japan.

While the game was to determine the qualifications for the Olympics scheduled for 2020 and now postponed to 2021, Japan had already qualified by hosting the games. Korea had also qualified by appearing in the championship. So the game was played mostly for pride and prize money. Yamaguchi was knocked out in the first inning, giving up two homeruns. Japan ultimately won the game 5-3. Interesting how the two pitchers have now entered upon different paths to their major league careers.

The big game was when Mexico defeated the United States 3-2 to qualify for the Olympics. Those pitchers were Cody Ponce and Arturo Reyes. Ponce pitched well tossing five shutout innings. He also made his major league debut in 2020 with the Pirates. Reyes also pitched five shutout innings but has never appeared in a major league game. He has spent a lot of time in the minor leagues. Last year he pitched in Taiwan in the China Professional Baseball League, getting only four starts for the China Trust Brothers.

International Baseball Travel

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

With the corona virus still heavily on our plate, it may not be the best time to write about travel. But there is a website that is hoping to spark the interest of travel to all points of the world to watch baseball. It is Japanball.com and their link is in the lower right hand corner of my blog. You can click on Japanese baseball to find the website.

The trips planned for 2021 include the traditional Japan trip. They also hope to have trips to Europe and South Korea. In the fall the hope is to visit the Dominican Republic to watch some winter league ball and visit a few baseball academies. Myworld has been to all these areas to watch baseball, but it is much more enjoyable when you do it in a group.

Shane Barclay organizes the travel. He runs Zoom calls that have had special guests such as Kim Ng, general manager of the Miami Marlins, Trey Hillman, now coach of the Marlins and the manager of the SK Wyverns in Korea and the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, and Sandy Alderson now with the New York Mets. Shane has also worked for major league baseball helping them organize the World Baseball Classic events. He is no relation to Shane Barclay who is a manager in the Australian Baseball League. Bob Bavasi used to organize the Japan trips but he transferred the business to Shane, who has expanded the trips outside of Japan.

Myworld can tell you of the nightmares we have experienced trying to travel to some of these places. Waiting in long lines to buy tickets and not progressing in the line because ticket buyers are cutting in front of the line to buy tickets or take a place in line so you can buy their place in line. Taking a taxi who takes you a few miles out of your way so he add fare to the ride. Or even have to negotiate with a driver for a rate he feels he can get out of you because you are a tourist. These are some of the challenges my world has faced traveling alone to various countries to watch baseball.

But there are the many joyful experiences. Eating the very different ball park food in the stadiums. Hot dogs can be found but they are not a commodity popular at the international ballparks. Being soaked in beer in Panama because beer is so cheap there and if the home team is winning in the ninth inning everyone buys a cup of beer. When the home team wins the beer is tossed in the air. You can open your mouth at that point and probably get drunk. Empanadas are more popular in Panama than hot dogs.

The bento boxes in Japan that are filled with all sorts of sushi and fish. I could probably eat two bento boxes and still be hungry after the game. And who can forget the beer girls in Japan who carry pony kegs on their backs and pour out beer for you.

Getting strangled by the streamers in Taiwan after a big win. It feels you have been ensnared in a spider’s web, but everyone is screaming for joy that it is a good experience. There are also the cheerleaders in the Dominican Republic and South Korea that are a big part of the game. Don’t know if the Dominican Republic still emphasize the cheerleaders since it has been awhile since myworld has been in that area, but watching the do the merengue is an experience.

You also get to experience the fan enthusiasm in the stadium. In the Netherlands they had an opera singer belt out a tune in the seventh inning. In Japan teams would blow up balloons and let them fly after the end of the top of the seventh. This tradition is now being discouraged because of the health concerns.

There is also the sightseeing that can be done when not at the ballpark. The night markets in Asia, the tulips in Netherlands. In the Netherlands you have a greater chance of being hit by a bicycle than a car when you walk the streets. There are also the beaches in the Dominican Republic and the fish market in Japan. Sumo wrestling was also a common theme for many of the Japan trips. A little sumo in the afternoon and baseball at night.

So if you get the chance and you can afford the coin myworld would recommend you try a trip. What can be better than international travel to watch a baseball game. Just tell Shane that myworldofbaseball sent you.

Spring Training Begins in Japan

Monday, February 1st, 2021

As myworld looks outside at the snow covering my deck there is a bit of comfort in the fact that spring training has started in Japan, despite the upsurge in the corona virus there resulting in discussions the Olympics may be cancelled because of health concerns. Accommodating thousands of foreign athletes for the Olympics is of much more concern than allowing 50 or so foreign imports for baseball. Obtaining visas may be the biggest challenge for foreign players, since Japan was not issuing visas because of the corona virus concerns.

The 12 teams are practicing in empty ball parks. All players, managers, coaches and staff had to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing before reporting to camp. Japan has issued a state of emergency for 11 of the 47 prefectures, which is expected to end February 7. The NPB teams hold their spring trainings in two of the southern prefectures of Okinawa and Miyazaki, which have issued their own emergency declarations.

Preseason games will begin February 23 with the regular season starting March 26. The league hopes to play its full 143 game schedule, with a break in the middle of the season to accommodate the Olympics. If the Olympics are not held it is possible the schedule could be revised.