Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Future Major Leaguers from Each NPB Pacific League Team

Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Last Sunday we looked at the more popular Central League. This Sunday myworld will take a look at the Pacific League. Despite its lack of popularity it is still considered the better conference. In interleague play the Pacific usually wins the majority of the games.

Seibu Lions (34-21-0)

During the 1980s the Lions won five NPB championships in 10 years and started the 90s with three championships. They went fallow after that but still brought the major leagues players like Kaz Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kazuhisa Ishii. The money from those posts have revitalized the franchise and they returned to the championship in 2004 and 2008 but also qualifying for the playoffs in a couple of those years. The last four years the team has been short of the playoffs, but this year they have gotten off to a strong start.

Yusei Kikuchi LHP - Before Ohtani it was Kikuchi who created controversy by declaring his intent to avoid the Japanese draft and bolt to the major leagues. As a high school lefthander he had scouts drooling with his 96 mile per hour fastball. It has been a struggle for Yusei but last year he had a career year with a 16-6 record with a 1.97 ERA. He struck out 217 batters in 187.2 innings. The 2018 season is his eighth in the NPB. He has started that season 7-0 with a 2.95 ERA with 54 whiffs in 55 innings. He can request to be posted after this year or pitch one more year and become an international free agent for the 2020 season at 28 years of age.

Sosuke Genda 2B - Last year he was voted rookie of the year in the Pacific League hitting .270 with three homeruns and 37 stolen bases. This year he has raised that average to .288 with 19 stolen bases with zero homeruns. As his stats tell you he has very little power but lots of speed. Those kind of players usually do not transfer over to the major leagues unless they have batting title numbers like Ichiro Suzuki.

Hotaka Yamakama 1B - Last year in 78 games he seemed to have a breakout season hitting 23 homeruns. This year he is showing the 2017 season was no optical illusion, already slugging 18 homeruns in 55 games. He is just four RBIs short of his 61 RBIs from last year. He will be 27 years old after the end of this season and will need to be posted to have any major league dreams meant. If he waited for his nine year free agency he would be too old for any team to take an interest in him.

Nippon Ham Fighters (32-25-0)

They finished in last place last year with Shohei Ohtani. This year they are playing better without their star hitter and pitcher. The year before the Figthers won their third Japan Series. Yu Darvish has been their big major league contributor. It may be awhile before another player crosses the Pacific to play in the major leagues.

Naoyuki Uwasawa LHP - An elbow injury forced the 24 year old to miss the 2016 season. It is now 2018 and Uwasawa is a pitcher to watch. He is 5-2, 2.10. He may not be able to hit like Ohtani but his lefthanded arm has put the Fighters back into the playoff race.

Kensuke Kondo C - It is tough to sign a catcher because of their inability to communicate with the pitching staff. Only one catcher has come from the NPB to play in the major leagues and he made a minimal impact. Last year Kondo hit .413 in 57 games with an OBA of .567. This year he is at .347 with his bat getting him in the lineup every day. At 24 years of age the power is now restricted to the gaps but it could give him double digit homerun power.

Softbank Hawks (29-27-0)

Since they won a championship in 1999 they have replaced the Giants as the most consistent NPB team. They have won five more championships since then while the Giants have won four. The Hawks have also won their conference 8 times while the Giants managed to take the Central seven times. The Hawks have won the championship three of the last four years, losing to the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2016. Put them in the American League Central and they would be very competitive. They had the only catcher Kenji Johjima to jump to the major leagues.

Yuki Yanagita OF - He may to be best position player in the NPB. He was voted the MVP of the Pacific League in 2015 and the MVP of the Japan Series that same year after hitting .363 with 34 homeruns and 32 stolen bases. He has hit over .300 his last four years and this year he is at .353 with 14 homeruns and 13 stolen bases. Yuki has yet to have a 100 RBI season but has had two 99 RBI seasons. At 29 years of age he is ripe to start in the outfield for any major league team.

Nao Higashihama RHP - Last year the 28 year old was the ace of the staff going 16-5, 2.64. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff but he throws strikes. This year has been a struggle with his 1-5 record and 4.88 ERA. With those numbers he may have to wait until the 2019 season before any positing.

Kodai Senga RHP - The 25 year old pitcher has had two consistent seasons winning over 10 games with ERAs around 2.60. He strikes out more than a batter an inning. This year he is 4-2, 3.27, which would be his highest ERA since his first year in 2012 when he pitched only two games.

Orix Buffaloes (29-28-1)

The fact that the Orix Buffaloes are above .500 is an accomplishment. The last time the Buffaloes were in the playoffs was in 2014 when they made it as a wild card team. The last time they won a Japan series was in 1996 when they were called the Blue Wave. In 2004 they merged with the Kintetsu Buffaloes to form one team. They currently split their home games between the two franchises stadiums. Ichiro Suzuki played for the Blue Wave.

Masataka Yoshida OF - The 25 year old outfielder appears to have earned a starting spot this year with the Buffaloes after hitting in double digits in homeruns the last two years as a part time player. This year he has started with a .299 average and 9 homeruns. He is a player to watch.

Daiki Tajima LHP - The 21 year old rookie has started his rookie season 5-2 with a 3.08 ERA. He is one of the reasons the Buffaloes find themselves over .500.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto RHP - The 19 year old made five relief appearances last year. This year he has appeared in 21 games with 11 holds and one save with a 1.29 ERA. Soon, the Buffaloes may consider him for the starting rotation.

Lotte Marines (26-29-0)

Bobby Valentine managed the Marines to a 2005 Japan Series championship, their first since 1974 when they were called the Lotte Orions. They also won another championship in 2010 without Bobby, becoming the first third place team to ever win the Japan Series. The 2005 season is the last year in which they have won the Pacific. Hideki Irabu pitched for the Marines.

Shogo Nakamura 2B - Not a lot to get excited about on this roster. Nakamura is hitting .302 with 14 stole bases. There is not a lot of power in the bat but he is only 26 years old.

Rakuten Golden Eagles (19-37-1)

They are the newest Japanese team. After struggling with a number of last place finishes after their formation in 2005 they finally won a Japan Series in 2013. This came two years after an earthquake and tsunami severely damaged their stadium in 2011. This was also a year after their star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma left as a free agent for the major leagues. Their new ace Masahiro Tanaka led the team to a Japan Series when he finished an incredible 30-1 when you count his post season appearances.

Takahiro Norimoto RHP - One of the more prolific strikeout pitchers in the NPB. The last four seasons he has struck out more than 200 batters. In 2014 against major leaguers in an exhibition game he pitched five perfect innings in what turned out to be a combined no hitter. At 5′10′ he is not a tall pitcher but he does hit the mid-90s with his fastball. In a down season this year for the last place Eagles, Norimoto is 4-6 with a 3.59 ERA. This would be the year for the Eagles to post him.

Future Major Leaguers From Each NPB Central Team

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

The Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankee game got rained out today so this gives myworld an opportunity to look at each NPB team and identify a major leaguer from that team. This restricts players to age 30 or less.

Hiroshima Carp (29-20-1)

The Carp have been the class of the Central for a couple years now, winning the Central League in 2016 and 2017. Alfonso Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda and Kenta Maeda are three players developed by the Carp that played in the major leagues. The Carp have a facility in the Dominican where they were the first team to sign Soriano. Despite their good play of late their last Japan Series win was in 1984.

Seiya Suzuki is a 23 year old outfielder for the Carp that could play outfield for many major league teams now. His last two years he has hit 29 and 26 homeruns with batting averages over .300. In 2016 his OPS was 1.016 and in 2017 .936. He has fallen just short of 100 RBI marks for both seasons (90 and 95). This year his consistency continues with a 1.011 OPS. He may be a more consistent hitter than Shohei Ohtani and he can provide solid right field defense, with an arm that threw 90 plus from the mound.

From the mound right handed pitcher Daichi Osera is coming into his own. He was a first round pick of the Carp in 2013 and in 2014 was voted the Central League rookie of the year. Last year he started to earn a position as an ace of the rotation with a 10-2 record with a 3.65 ERA. This year he has gotten out of the gate fast going 8-2, 2.49. Last year he averaged about six innings per start while this year he has upped his outings to close to 7. The downside with him is he is not overpowering with a fastball in the high 80s to low 90s. He relies on changing speeds and locating pitches, a right handed version of Maeda.

DeNa Yokahama Bay Stars (23-23-2)

In years past the Bay Stars used to be the bottom feeders of the Central. Not in the last couple years. The Bay Stars made it to the playoffs the last couple years as the wild card team and beat the Yomiuri Giants (2016) and Hanshin Tigers (2017) to advance to the Central League championships. They have not won a Japan Series since 1998.

The one player all scouts drool over is 26 year old outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. The Bay Stars made him their first round pick in 2009 after he bashed 69 homeruns during his high school career. It was not until 2014 when he broke out with the Bay Stars slugging 22 homeruns with 77 RBIs. In 2016 he mashed 44 homeruns with 110 RBIs. This year he is off to a hot start with 14 round trippers in his first 48 games. A lack of speed and average arm restricts him to left field with a move to first base a possibility, but his bat is one of the best in the NPB.

On the mound two pitchers to watch. Rookie lefty Katsuki Azuma has started the season 4-2 with a 2.07 ERA. If he continues that pace the 2018 rookie of the year award should be his. Azuma pitched eleven innings of shutout ball last year against the United States national collegiate team, striking out 18 batters. He was the Bay Stars first round pick last year. Yasuaki Yamasaki has been the Bay Stars closer since his rookie season in 2015 when he saved what is still a career high 37 games. This year he has saved 11 games with a 0.95 ERA, striking out 32 percent of the hitters he has faced. He is not completely Japanese with a mother from the Philippines.

Hanshin Tigers (24-25)

One of the more beloved teams in the Central the Tigers were once equated with the Boston Red Sox when both franchises were consistent losers. Like the Red Sox they have changed their losing ways and have been in the Central League playoffs four of the last five years. Despite that success the last time they have won a Japan series was in 1985. Cecil Fielder played for the Tigers early in his career before returning to the Detroit Tigers.

A couple years ago the big pitcher to watch was Shintaro Fujinami. He was the ace of the 18 and under team , rated ahead of Shohei Ohtani. He was drafted in the first round by more teams than Ohtani (though Ohtani had declared his intention of playing in the major leagues). His rookie season in 2013 he started out strong (10-6, 2.75) but it all came crashing down on Fujinami last year when his challenge of finding the strike zone became more pronounced. A 45/41 walk to whiff ratio and 4.12 ERA tells the tale when compared to his 2015 season with a 82/221 walk to whiff ratio and a 2.40 ERA. His fastball crosses the plate in the mid-90s and his large frame is what major league scouts look for in a pitcher. The 2018 season still finds him struggling to locate the strike zone so until he does that major league scouts will pass on taking a chance with him.

With Fujinami struggling Takumi Akiyama took over the ace role for the Tigers (12-6, 2.99). This was a surprise considering what he had done in the past, never appearing in more than 8 games or having his ERA south of 3.35 since his arrival in the NPB in 2010. This year his wins are not as prevalent (4-5) but his ERA is still rocking (2.18). He was a fourth round pick of the Tigers in 2009.

Yomiuri Giants (24-26-1)

They are the class of the NPB, the New York Yankees of the major leagues, but parity has hit the Central League and the Giants do not win as often as they did in the past. They brought to the major leagues Godzilla (Hideki Matsui) and Koji Uehara. Koji is back pitching with the Giants. The top homerun leader in baseball Sadaharu Oh played for the Giants,

One of the best players in the league is their shortstop Hayato Sakamoto. At the end of the season he will turn 30 so this could be his last year on this list. The Giants will do everything they can to keep him from bolting to the major leagues. While he plays a solid defensive shortstop in Japan, his lack of speed may limit his range forcing a move to second base in the major leagues. His power is double digits in homeruns, but again that may not translate well in the major leagues. This year he is hitting .345 with six homeruns, which is equivalent to his 2016 season when he hit .344 with 23 homeruns. Because he plays for the Giants the fans refer to him as the “Derek Jeter of Japan”. Hayato became the first player to start a season opener under the age of 20 since the great Hideki Matsui. When he was in Little League he was the ace pitcher of his team with his catcher being a gent by the name of Masahiro Tanaka (according to his Wikipedia page).

All the major league teams would love to have Tomoyuki Sugano on their team. The power pitcher with a mid-90s fastball won the Sawamura award last year (equivalent of the Cy Young) with a 17-5 record and a 1.59 ERA. He also struck out 171 batters in 187 innings. This year has started out just as strong (6-3, 1.99). He will turn 29 at the end of the season and it is questionable the Giants would post him. While he does not throw as hard as he did when he pitched in college, impeccable control makes it tough to make hard contact against him.

A player to watch is rookie first baseman Kazuma Okamoto. The 21 year old started play with the Giants in 2015 and played in 35 games the next three years. This year he has earned a starting job with the Giants and is hitting .327 with 10 homeruns. He became the first Giant under 22 years old to bat cleanup since the same gent Hideki Matsui in 1995 (according to Yakyudb).

Chunichi Dragons (23-28-1)

The Dragons have been one NPB team that has fallen on hard times. They have not been in the NPB playoffs since 2012. Prior to that they won the NL Central in 2010 and 2011. They last won a championship in 2007. Wei-Yen Chen was a pitcher for the Dragons.

The only player myworld could find attractive to major leaguers is last year’s rookie of the year, shortstop Yota Kyoda. Since he is a rookie he has a long way to go to pursue a big league career. In his rookie season Kyoda hit .264 with 23 stolen bases. At 24 years of age he will not be a young player when he becomes free agent eligible. This year Kyoda is hitting .245 with 12 stolen bases. Speed and good defense is what he will provide. The bat appears to be a bit soft.

Yakult Swallows (21-27-1)

The Swallows had a brief run in 2011 and 2012 when they were a playoff team, but normally they are bottom feeders. Wladimir Balentien created a stir when he broke the NPB season homerun record of 55 when he bashed 60. Nori Aoki played for the Swallows and has returned to the team for the 2018 season. It has been 1997 since the last time the Swallows won the Japan Series.

Other than the injury prone Balentien the star on the Swallows is second baseman Tetsuto Yamada. His defense may not be stellar, but his bat is explosive. In back to back seasons he hit over 30 homeruns and stole over 30 bases (2015 38 homeruns and 34 stolen bases and 2016 38 homeruns and 30 stolen bases), winning the Central League MVP award in 2015. He fell off a bit last year (24 homeruns and 14 stolen bases) but the 2018 season has seen him back on the horse with 13 homeruns and 14 stolen bases. That would project to his third 30/30 season in four years. His batting average has declined since he hit over .300 for three straight years between 2014 - 2016 but his OBA is above .400 (.412) this year. At 25 years of age he could play second or third base for any team in the major leagues.

Toritani Streak Ends at 1939

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Takashi Toritani had his consecutive games streak end at 1,939. It is the second longest streak in Japan behind Sachio Kinugasa (2,215). Cal Ripken holds the major league record at 2,632 consecutive games. Like Cal, Takashi started his career with the Hanshin Tigers as a shortstop.

Toritani was no longer a starting player for the Hanshin Tigers this year having started in only 13 of their first 44 games. The manager was able to find a spot for him in the lineup in those first 44 games. In the 45th game there was no room for him in their 1-0 loss to the Softbank Hawks, even as a pinch hitter. In his last five games he had pinch hit and gone 1 for 4 with a walk.

Toritani had expressed an interest in playing major league baseball in 2014 at the ripe old age of 32. He could not come to any agreement with any major league team and returned to the NPB.

Samurai Japan to Play Major League All Star Team

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

The Japan National Team will play a major league All Star team in a six game series in November. The series will begin November 9 and be played in Tokyo Dome (three games), Mazda Stadium (Hiroshima for one game) and Nagoya Dome (Chunichi for two games).

Major league baseball has also stated that two major league teams, the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, will open their season in Japan next year at the Tokyo Dome (home of the Yomiuri Giants). The two teams will play exhibition games prior to their openers against two Japanese teams. The Athletics and Mariners also opened their season in Japan in 2012.

Daisuke Matsuzaka Gets First Win Since 2014

Monday, April 30th, 2018

The 37 year old Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-1 win over the Yokohama Bay Stars. Daisuke worked six innings and gave up just the one run. While he only gave up three hits he had trouble finding the plate, walking seven hitters. The Dragons gave him an early cushion scoring all three of their runs in the first inning.

The last win for Matsuzaka was with the Mets back in June 10 of 2014, a 6-2 victory. For the NPB his last win was in 2006 before he left to join the Boston Red Sox. He returned to Japan for the 2015 season but injuries have limited him to just one inning when he pitched for the Softbank Hawks. In his first two starts for the 2018 NPB season he took the loss, though he pitched well. He has a 2.00 ERA in three starts, but in 18 innings he has given up 15 hits and 12 walks.

Yanagita Hits for Cycle

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Cycles are not common in Japan. In a 5 for 5 performance Yuki Yanagita was the first player to hit for the cycle in the NPB since July 30, 2016 when ex-major leaguer Kosuke Fukudomo accomplished the feat. It was the first cycle by a Pacific League player since 2007 (Julio Zuleta). Yuki hit a homerun in the first inning, singled in the fourth, doubled in the fifth and achieved the hardest hit with a triple in the eighth. Yanagita drove in four runs in the Softbank Hawks 10-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Yanagita could probably start in the outfield for any team in the major leagues. In 2015 he hit 34 homeruns with 32 stolen bases with a .363 average. As a result of those numbers he was voted the Most Valuable Player in the Pacific League. As he has gotten older his steals have gone down but his power still exists with 31 homers last year. It is probably too late in his career for him to make an impact in the major leagues since he turns 30 in October of this year. If he is going to make a break it will have to be next year.

Foreign Players NPB Central

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Below are the foreign players on NPB rosters in the Central League. Teams can use four foreign players but a maximum of three can be position players or pitchers. Teams can not use all pitchers or all position players for their four foreign player allotment. On the 70 man roster teams may have more than four foreign players, but only four of them can be included on the active 28 man roster. For each game three players on that 28 game roster must be inactivated, so most teams eliminate the starting pitchers from the day before and the starting pitcher for the next day from the 28 game roster. The four foreign player restriction applies to the final 25 man roster.

Hiroshima Carp

Leonel Campus (RHP) - Pitching down on the farm. Has a 4.50 ERA but given up three homeruns in six innings.

Jay Jackson (RHP) - This is his third season in a setup role for the Carp. Strung together over 30 holds his first two seasons and has seven holds in 9 appearances this year. He has given up six walks and two homeruns in just nine innings but has a 2.00 ERA.

Kris Johnson (LHP) - His fourth year starting for the Carp. Kris won in double digits his first two years but injuries last year limited him to 13 starts. This year he has gotten off to a good start (2-1, 2.37) with only one walk in 21 innings.

Brad Eldred (1B) - The streaky hitter is the Carp’s power bat. In a 144 game season he has yet to play more than 118 games. This year he is hitting .195 with three homeruns.

Xavier Batista (OF) - He played in a part time role last year (61 games) but hit 11 homeruns. This year he has only gotten into four games with a .214 average. In the minors he has bashed six homeruns in 22 games. Playing time limited by the foreign restriction.

Hanshin Tigers

Rafael Dolis (RHP) - The Tigers closer saved 37 games last year. This year he has saved seven games with a 2.00 ERA.

Yen-Ching Lu (LHP) - Down on the farm he has appeared in one game, pitching one inning and giving up three runs.

Marcus Mateo (RHP) - He was the Tigers closer until Dolis arrived on the scene. In his third Tiger season he is the setup man with 36 holds last year and four this year, but an unkind 5.40 ERA.

Randy Messenger (RHP) - In his ninth season with the Tigers and now considered Japanese he is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA. He has 87 career Japanese wins.

Diego Moreno (RHP) -Toiling in the minor leagues waiting for an opportunity.

Wilin Rosario (DH) - After destroying pitchers in the KBO Wilin is finding the NPB a bit more challenging, hitting .242 with just one homerun.

Yokohama Bay Stars

Edison Barrios (RHP) - After pitching four seasons with the Hawks, with 2015 at 30 appearances his most activity, Barrios chose to sign with the Bay Stars for the 2018 season, moving from bullpen to starting rotation where he is 2-1, 2.76 ERA.

Edwin Escobar (LHP) - His first year was split between the Fighters and Bay Stars. In nine appearances he has walked six hitters in seven innings, putting his ERA at 3.86.

Spencer Patton (RHP) - The setup man has four holds but a 6.35 ERA. Last year he strung together 27 holds and a 2.70 ERA.

Joe Wieland (RHP) - Pitched last year for the Bay Stars, getting 21 starts, winning ten games with a 2.98 ERA. Rehabbing in the minors to begin the 2018 season.

Jose Lopez (2B) - In his sixth season, the first two with the Yomiuri Giants. His bat has come to life with the Bay Stars with 64 homeruns his last two seasons. This year he has slugged three with a .323 average.

Yomiuri Giants

Arquimedes Caminero (RHP) - The hard thrower has been thrown in their closer role. Winning has not come often so his opportunities to close this year have been limited (2 saves). This is his second season with the Giants.

Taylor Jungmann (RHP) - The first year player is seeing life in the minor leagues waiting for a foreign slot to open.

Jen-Lei Liao (RHP) - Another minor league arm being used in the bullpen.

Scott Mathieson (RHP) - The hard throwing Canadian righty is in his seventh season with the Giants. He has bounced around between being a closer and setup man, but has settled into the role as setup. He has not given up a run in four appearances.

Casey McGehee (3B) - His first year he played with the Rakuten Golden Eagles and in his second year with the Giants. Last year his production dropped from 93 RBIs to 77. This year he is scuffling with a .239 average and two homeruns.

Alex Guerrero (2B/outfield) - After failing with the Dodgers, the Cuban played for Chunichi last year and led the league in homeruns (35). This year his power has been quiet (two homeruns) with a .281 average.

Chunichi Dragons

Onelki Garcia (LHP) - Another Cuban who failed with the Dodgers and White Sox. He is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in three appearances covering 12 innings for the Dragons.

Dillion Gee (RHP) - The Mets rotation was a bit crowded so Dilllon signed with the Dragons. In three starts he is 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA but the last couple years the Dragons have had trouble winning.

Raidel Martinez (RHP) - A developmental player pitching well in the minors (0.75 ERA).

Dayan Viciedo (DH) - The Cuban slugger is hitting .259 with three homeruns. The last two years with the Dragons he has hit 40 homeruns. He needs to pick it up more or Steven Moya will be given more of an opportunity.

Steven Moya (OF) - In his first year in Japan he got into his first game yesterday and hit .800 in five at bats, with three RBIs. Down on the farm he was hitting .377. That bat needs to get in the Dragon lineup more consistently.

Yakult Swallows

David Buchanan (RHP) - His second year with the Swallows he is 2-0, 1.61 ERA in four starts.

Matt Carasiti (RHP) - Taking on the closer role in his first season in Japan. Matt has picked up three saves with a 2.00 ERA, but walked five hitters in nine innings.

Dave Huff (LHP) - His first season in Japan has not been kind with an 0-2, 7.71 ERA in three starts. He has struck out 16 in 16 innings, but he also has given up four homeruns.

Wladimir Balentien (OF) - Wladimir has had trouble staying healthy but he broke the Japanese homerun record in 2013 with 60, playing in 130 of the 144 games. In his eighth year he is good for thirty plus homeruns per year. This year he is hitting .234 with three homeruns.

Foreigners on NPB Rosters (Pacific League)

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Below are the foreign players on NPB rosters in the Pacific League. Teams can use four foreign players but a maximum of three can be position players or pitchers. Teams can not use all pitchers or all position players for their four foreign player allotment. On the 70 man roster teams may have more than four foreign players, but only four of them can be included on the active 28 man roster. For each game three players on that 28 game roster must be inactivated, so most teams eliminate the starting pitchers from the day before and the next day from the 28 game roster. The four foreign player restriction applies to the 25 man roster.

Softbank Hawks

Livan Moinelo (RHP) - A reliever purchased from the Cuban League he has had trouble finding the plate resulting in a 6.00 ERA in 8 relief appearances.

Dennis Sarfate (RHP) - The Hawks closer, the last four years his save totals have increased from 37, 41, 43 and 54. This year he has five but leg problems may limit his appearances early in the season.

Rick Van den Hurk (RHP) - The well traveled Dutch righthander won 13 games last year. This year he has started 2-1, 2.84 in three starts.

Yurisbel Gracial (Infield) - Another player purchased from the Cuban League he has spent most of his time in the minors, appearing in just two games but hitting .600 (3 for 5). In the minor leagues he is hitting .423.

Alfredo Despaigne (Outfield) - Probably the best player in Cuba on loan to the Hawks, makes it tough for Gracial to get any playing time with the three pitchers and Despaigne on the roster. Despaigne is struggling with a .167 average and three homeruns in his 16 games. Those three homeruns are his only extra base hits.

Seibu Lions

Fabio Castillo (RHP) - Decent ERA in his three starts (3.24) but his 13/12 walk to whiff ratio in 16 innings is cause for concern.

Neil Wagner (RHP) - Struggling in 6 relief appearances with a 5.06 ERA.

Brian Wolfe (RHP) - This is his 9th year in Japan, the first four with Nippon Ham, the next two with Softbank and his third season with Seibu. He has struggled in his three starts (6.57 ERA) coughing up 19 hits in his 12 innings.

Ernesto Mejia (1B) - Blocked by Freddy Freeman, this is the fifth year for Mejia in Japan. Last year was his least productive year with just 19 homeruns. This year has been a slow start with his .172 average and one extra base hit (a double) in his 10 games.

Nien-Ting Wu (Infielder) - The Taiwanese infielder has yet to play this year but his first two years carried a .202 average in 58 games.

Rakuten Golden Eagles

Josh Corrales (RHP) - Spent most of his time on the farm. In his one appearance he walked six in three innings for a 15.00 ERA.

Frank Herrmann (RHP) - Second year of bullpen work for the Eagles. 33 holds last year. He has been a bit more hittable this year (4.50 ERA) with 10 hits in six innings.

Japhet Amador (DH/1B) - Signed out of Mexico, this is his third season in Japan. The Astros signed him but when he did not make the major league roster in his second season he was returned to Mexico. Last year he hit 23 homeruns but a .234 average. This year he is hitting .254 with three homeruns.

Zealous Wheeler (3B) - The journeyman minor leaguer has found a home in Japan. His homerun numbers have increased from 14 to 27 to 31. In his fourth season with the Eagles he is hitting .268 with one homerun.

O’Koyea Dickson (OF) - Still has not played in the minor or major league team.

Carlos Peguero (OF) - In his third year with the Eagles, Carlos has gotten off to a slow start with a .185 average with 29 whiffs in 16 games.

Orix Buffaloes

Andrew Albers (LHP) - The Canadian is in his first year in Japan with two wins and a 2.25 ERA. He has struck out 16 in his 16 innings.

Brandon Dickson (RHP) - Brandon is a veteran of six years with Orix. The starting pitcher has never won more than nine or lost less than eight. This year he is 0-2 in his first three starts with a 3.06 ERA.

Chris Marrero (1B) - The former first round pick is in his second season with Orix. Last year it was an abbreviated season with 20 homeruns in 82 games. This year he has slugged five but is only hitting .203. His 15 RBIs is among the league leaders.

Stefan Romero (OF) - His rookie season last year Stefan slugged 26 homeruns. This year he is hitting just .188 with two homeruns.

Nippon Ham Fighters

Nick Martinez (RHP) - In his first year the rookie pitcher is 2-2 with a 1.74 ERA in four starts. He has two complete games.

Bryan Rodriguez (RHP) - Only appeared in one game but got winged for 9 hits and 8 runs in just two innings (30.85 ERA). Bryan has not been very effective in the minors (18 hits in just 10 innings).

Michael Tonkin (RHP) - Michael has two saves and two holds in his eight appearances in his first year in Japan (3.52 ERA).

Brandon Laird (1B/3B) - The slugger has hit over 30 homeruns in his three years for the Fighters. This year he has three with a .212 average. In two of his three years he has hit .229 and .231.

Oswaldo Arcia (OF) - In his rookie season he is hitting .295 with one homerun.

Lotte Marines

Mike Bolsinger (RHP) - In his rookie season he is 1-1 in three starts with a 2.04 ERA.

Kuan-Yu Chen (LHP) - This is the fourth season for the pitcher from Taiwan. In his only start this year he got blasted for 11 hits in four innings, three of them homeruns for a 13.50 ERA.

Edgar Olmos (LHP) - His first year in Japan has been spent in the minors (0.79 ERA) waiting for a foreign opening.

Tanner Scheppers (RHP) - In his first season Tanner could provide that opening (6.75 ERA) picking up one save and four holds in his nine appearances.

Matt Dominguez (3B) - His first year is also being spent in the minors waiting for a foreign opening (.250, 4 HRs).

Tu-Hsuan Lee (utility) - Played three years for the Hawks from 2012 - 2014. Four years later he is hitting .200 for the Marines.

Francisco Peguero (OF) - He has spent his first year in the minors hitting .295 with three homeruns.

Countries Established for Women’s Baseball World Cup

Friday, March 30th, 2018

The Women’s Baseball World Cup will be held at Space Coast Stadium in Vierra, Florida from August 22 -31. The following teams have qualified to compete in this tournament. Japan is the class of the group (rankings in parenthesis).

Asia - Japan (1), Taiwan (6), South Korea (7), Hong Kong (10)

Americas - Canada (2), United States (3), Venezuela (5), Cuba (9), Dominican Republic (NR), Puerto Rico (NR)

Europe - Netherlands (8)

Oceania - Australia (4)

Japan Sweeps Australia

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Japan started off strong with an opening 2-0 win over Australia. Japan starter Kodai Senga struck out all six hitters he faced and Yuki Yanagita ended a 0-0 tie with an RBI single in the sixth. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo drove in Yanagita with a double for the second run in the sixth inning. Both Yuki and Yoshitomo would be quality offensive players in the major leagues.

Travis Blackley pitched well for Australia tossing five scoreless innings and striking out six. Travis pitched briefly for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2014. Steve Kent gave up the two runs, retiring only one of the four hitters he faced, that on a sacrifice bunt. Five Japanese pitchers struck out 16 Australian hitters before the day was done. A little over 33,000 came to watch the game.

Japan again showed superior pitching in the second game shutting out Australia 6-0 in front of a crowd that was close to 28,000. Takahiro Norimoto, the top strikeout pitcher in Japan over the last couple years got the start and struck out five in his two innings of work. Go Matsumoto was the big hitter for Japan driving in three runs. Trent D’Antonio tried to end the shutout streak in the ninth inning but his long fly ball hit the right centerfield wall.

The rosters for Japan and Australia:

Japan

PITCHERS (13): Yuki Matsui, Takahiro Norimoto, Yuhei Takanashi (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles), Shinji Tajima (Chunichi Dragons), Nao Higashihama, Sho Iwasaki, Kohdai Senga (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), Yasuaki Yamasaki, Shota Imanaga, Haruhiro Hamaguchi (Yokohama DeNa Baystars), Tsuyoshi Ishizaki (Hanshin Tigers), Mizuki Hori (Hokkaido Nippom Ham Fighters), Kazuto Taguchi (Yomiuri Giants)

CATCHERS (3): Seiji Kobayashi (Yomiuri Giants), Tatsuhiro Tamura (Chiba Lotte Marines), Takuya Kai (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks)

INFIELDERS (7): Kosuke Tanaka, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Ryoma Nishikawa (Hiroshima Toyo Carp), Hideto Asamura, Shuta Tonosaki (Saitama Seibu Lions), Kenta Imamiya (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), Yusuke Ohyama (Hanshin Tigers)

OUTFIELDERS (5): Go Matsumoto (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters), Yuki Yanagita, Seiji Uebayashi (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh (Yokohama DeNa Baystars), Shogo Akiyama (Saitama Seibu Lions)

Australia

PITCHERS (12): Tim Atherton, Travis Blackley, Sam Holland, Ryan Searle, Matt Timms (Brisbane Bandits), Steve Kent (Canberra Cavalry), Cameron Lamb (Perth Heat), Greg Mosel, Matt Williams (Adelaide Bite), Sam Street, Josh Tols (Melbourne Aces): Todd Van Steensel (Sydney Blue Sox)

CATCHERS (3): Allan de San Miguel (Melbourne Aces), Alex Hall (Perth Heat), Kyle Perkins (Canberra Cavalry)

INFIELDERS (9): Trent D’Antonio (Sydney Blue Sox), Darryl George (Melbourne Aces), Robbie Glendinning, Luke Hughes (Perth Heat), Boss Moanaroa (Canberra Cavalry), Mitch Nilsson, Davi Sutherland, Logan Wade (Brisbane Bandits), Zac Shepherd, Yacob Younis (Sydney Blue Sox)

OUTFIELDERS (3): Andrew Campbell (Brisbane Bandits), David Kandilas (Canberra Cavalry), Tim Kennelly (Perth Heat)