Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Trio of Yomiuri Giants Toss No Hitter

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

It has been a long season for the Yomiuri Giants. The team was mired in a franchise record 13 game losing streak, which dropped them near the bottom of the Central Division. As a result of that losing streak Giants general manager Tatsuyoshi Tsutsumi stepped down to take responsibility for the poor season. The poor performance has seen attendance at the Giants games drop, one of the few teams who have seen a drop in attendance this year.

Yesterday fans had something to cheer about as three pitchers combined to throw a no hitter against the Softbank Hawks in front of 44,000 plus at the Giants arena. With six walks and one error the Hawks did not have any trouble putting runners on base.

Shun Yamaguchi made his first start of the year for the Giants. He had an extensive career with the Yokohama Bay Stars but signed as a free agent with the Giants in 2017. Shoulder issues prevented him from pitching early in the season but in three starts in the minor leagues saw him weave a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings. That showed the Giants he was ready.

He proved that in his first start of the 2017 season not allowing a hit in six innings, though he walked four, tossing 102 pitchers. This is a different Japan with pitchers not throwing 170 pitches per start, especially after coming back from shoulder discomfort. The problem was that Softbank Hawks pitcher Shuta Ishikawa had not given up a run in the first five innings.

Hayato Sakamoto changed all that with a two run homer in the bottom of the sixth. He also added an insurance run with a solo homerun in the eighth. For the year he now has eight homeruns with a .326 average. He has been about the only shining light on the Giants team. The two run homer was enough motivation to remove Yamaguchi from the game after Sakamoto gave him the lead.

Scott Mathieson was able to throw almost two perfect innings. An error by the third baseman on the first hitter he faced put a runner on. Unfazed, Mathieson struck out the side. He also retired the side in order in the eighth with the infield making all the plays behind him.

Arquimedes Caminero got the responsibility for finishing off the no hitter. He walked the first batter he faced. After he retired the next two Hawks he walked a second hitter to bring the tying run to the plate in slugger Nobuhiro Matsuda. The veteran slugger has 11 homeruns this year and is one shy of 200 for his career. Caminero took a deep breath and went about striking Matsuda out to pick up his 14th save of the season, but more importantly, complete the no hitter.

The Giants still find themselves 9 games below .500. On the bright side they are only three losses away from making the playoffs as the third place team in the division.

2017 Top Asian Prospects

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Not a great exodus of Korean players, which bulked up this list last year. This made the 2017 list tough to put together. Almost all the players who made the list last year are no longer eligible after playing in the major leagues. Kenta Maeda was the top prospect, but his second year has not gone so well. Byung-Ho Park struggled to make contact and has been sent to the minor leagues to get his swing back. Hyun Sun Kim was in a platoon role for the Orioles. His power has not translated to the major leagues and it would surprise myworld if the Orioles resign him. Dae-Ho Lee, the sixth rated prospect is back playing in Korea after one season in the major leagues. The seventh rated prospect Seung-Hwan Ho took over the closer job for the Cardinals but the 2017 season isn’t going as well even though he maintains the closer position.

This whittles the prospect list to five. Rob Refsnyder did not return to the list because of his paucity of tools. Sean-Reid Foley, who was born in Guam jumped up to be the number one rated Asian prospect. Most of the other players are fringe prospects.

1. Sean Reid Foley (RHP) Guam/Blue Jays - Sean was born in Guam to American parents. His brother, who was a catcher in the Dodgers system taught him a curveball, which he broke out last year. That, along with a fastball that sits in the low 90s but can hit the mid-90s and a slider gives him a good selection of pitches to choose from. Last year he had a break out season at Low and High A with 21 starts and ERAs below 3.00. The opposition hit him at less than .200. This year a promotion to AA has not been kind to him. Hitters are slaying him at a .272 pace, his command is off with a walk every two innings pitched which leaves his ERA at a ugly 5.40. It appeared he had turned things around when he pitched six innings of shutout ball on his 11th start, but his last start he was smacked around for 6 runs in three innings. A September call up may have to wait until he turns his season around.

2. Chih-Wei Hu (RHP) Taiwan/Rays - It is rare to see Taiwan pitchers hit the upper 90s with their fastball, but Hu has that ability. He stands only 6′1″ but he mixes his change with his fastball well to stymie AA hitters last year. There are not a lot of strikeouts to his game but an improvement in a breaking pitch could change that. The Rays have moved him to the bullpen after three early starts to begin the season. They called him up for four bullpen sessions with the major league club where he only gave up three hits in his eight innings of work. Expect a return to the major leagues if he continues with his success in the bullpen in 2017. His fastball shows mid to high 90s velocity in the pen.

3. Jae-Gyun Hwang (3B) Giants/Korea - In his last two years in the KBO he hit 26 and 27 homeruns. Prior to that the power did not show. His career average in the KBO was only.286, which is below average for a hitter’s league where almost everyone shoots for .300. His last year he did hit .335. The Giants signed him, but despite their weakness at third base Hwang was sent to the minor leagues. The Giants needs have not really been addressed at the position and Hwang is hitting .291 at AAA. The power is not there with only 6 homeruns and a .478 slugging average. Christian Arroyo struggled in his major league opportunity, hitting just .192. He is hitting better than Hwang in AAA with a .417 average and a .643 slugging. At some point the Giants have to give him an opportunity.

4. Yu-Cheng Chang (SS) Taiwan/Indians - In 2016 Chang made the Carolina League All star team, hitting .259 and showing some pop for the middle infield position with 13 homeruns. This year he is struggling with a .211 average. The power is there with 11 homeruns and a .464 slugging but there are too many whiffs in his game (66 in 54 games). He is also committing too many errors for the shortstop position (12 in 51 games) but a move to third has not reduced those errors (5 in 16 games). Chang needs to improve his contact, become more consistent with the glove and find a position where his power bat can benefit a lineup before he can sniff the major leagues.

5. Hoy-Jun Park (SS) Yankees/Korea - The Yankees are very crowded at short. Park has the glove for the position but his bat is a little too quiet. He has also had trouble with the glove this year with a fielding percentage less than .900. They have played him a little at second base. Unless they trade Gleyber Torres or Didi Gregorius the best spot for Park looks to be second base. His power is not there to play third. This is his second season in Low A. His bat appears to be improved (.250/.349/.370) but his fielding has been more inconsistent and his stolen base percentage has dropped from 32 of 35 last year to just 8 of 12 this year. While his homerun numbers have increased his triple numbers have dropped.

6. Tzu-Wei Lin (SS) Red Sox/Taiwan - The Red Sox shelled out just over $2 million for Lin. His glove is solid and he has some speed, but that is what they said about Hak-Ju Lee who was last seen playing in Japan in the Independent Leagues. The bat needs to start showing some spark if he is to separate himself from some of the other Red Sox shortstops. After hitting just .223 with a .580 OPS in AA last year Lin is back there for the 2017 season. His bat seems to have found some life with a .306 average and a .866 OPS. The Red Sox have also played him a few games in centerfield. If he can keep his offense at this level some team will find a spot for his glove if the Red Sox lack the room.

7. Wei-Chieh Huang (RHP) Taiwan/Diamondbacks - Durability concerns have moved Huang to the bullpen. It could improve the velocity on his fastball, which sits in the low 90s and allow Huang to survive on a fastball/change repertoire. So far so good. In 14 relief appearances his ERA sits at 1.71 with a .177 opposition average. He recently returned from a one month stay on the disabled list.

8. Jin-De Jhang (C) Taiwan/Pirates - Jhang is a defensive catcher who the Pirates hope will develop with the bat. There is some pop in his swing, but that has not showed in games. His big year for the homerun was in 2013 and 2015 when he hit five. He makes good contact and can spray balls into the gap. This year he is struggling with a .197 average with only one extra base hit in his 16 games. The best Jhang can hope for if his bat does not develop is as a back up catcher. Or he can return to Taiwan and play in the CPBL.

9. Daniel Missaki (RHP) Japan/Brewers - He was born in Japan but he pitched in Brazil, playing for the 2013 World Baseball Classic team as the youngest player in the tournament. The Mariners signed him in 2013 after the WBC. He was traded last year to the Brewers in the Adam Lind trade even though Tommy John surgery had ended his 2015 season. Prior to that he had combined with two other pitchers to throw a no hitter. His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the high 80s but his curveball and change are decent pitches. Daniel has not pitched since 2015 and will probably begin his comeback in the rookie league.

10.Shao-Ching Chiang (RHP) Taiwan/Indians - Durability issues have also plagued Chiang. He signed with the Indians in 2011 and saw a delay in the start of his career after Tommy John surgery limited him to two appearances in two games. Last year he did start 27 games, but he is a contact type pitcher with a fastball that can hit the mid-90s but mostly sits in the low 90s. He pitched for Taiwan in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. This year he has started strong with a 7-3, 2.57 ERA in 11 starts. The opposition is hitting him at a .238 clip, which would be the lowest in his career. He still doesn’t get a lot of swings and misses.

2016 Asian Prospects

Norimoto Extends Streak to Eight

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Takahiro Norimoto struck out 12 to extend his consecutive game strikeout streak for double digit strikeouts to eight. He has already broken the NPB record. The eight ties the major league record. Norimoto pitched a full nine innings, allowing two runs. He improved his record to 8-1 in the 8-2 Rakuten Eagle rout over the Yokohama Bay stars.

Eigorio Moji fueled the Eagles offense. He led off the first with a homerun and slugged a two run homer in the fourth. Carlos Peguero also went deep with a solo shot in the third.

The Seibu Lions also extended the Yomiuri Giants losing streak to 13 games with a 13-2 win.

Yomiuri Giants Lose 11 in a Row

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

The Yomiuri Giants are the New York Yankees of Japan. Most of the country reveres the Giants. To buy one of their hats will cost you about $50 in their gift shop. They have won more pennants and Japan series than any team in the NPB.

This year could be a little different. They were playing pretty well before their losing streak with a record of 23-21, which put them right in the thick of the playoff race if they could keep that pace. A Giant record of futility followed, with 11 straight losses that put them near the bottom of their division, with only the Yakult Swallows looking up at them in the standings. No Giant team in the history of the NPB has ever recorded a losing streak of that many consecutive games.

A couple more losses could see them approach the Central League record for consecutive losses in a season, which stands at 16. The NPB record is 18.

Hisayoshi Chono was once considered one of the top players in the game but a .223 average with just two homeruns has put a huge drag on their offense. Injuries limited foreign player Luis Cruz to five games and Casey McGehee is not hitting for a lot of power (6 homeruns) though his average is high (.319). A number of domestic starters have found their averages falling below .220, Seiji Kobayashi (.171), Daisuke Nakai (.213), Soichiro Tateoka (.221) hanging an anchor over their offense.

If the pitching was good they could play small ball to win some games, but their pitching is far from good. Ryosuke Miyaguni (0-6, 5.63) is winless and Kan Otake (4-3, 5.15) and Tetsuya Utsumi (1-4, 6.25) should be winless. Their foreign starter Miles Nikolas (4-3, 3.15) has been good and their two foreign bullpen components Arquimedes Caminero (0-2, 13 saves, 1.90 ERA) and Scott Mathieson (1-0, 1.73, 14 holds) have been solid.

The Giants need to end the losing skid or lose their faithful. Overall attendance is up at Japanese baseball games, except for at the Giants ball park. They are one of four teams that have seen a drop in attendance, the Chunichi Dragons, Orix Buffaloes and Lotte Marines the other three teams. There is one thing these four teams have in common. The four are all below .500.

Xavier Batista in the NPB and Scooter Gennett in the MLB

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Xavier Batista has not hit four homeruns in a game. In the alternative universe which is Japan and the NPB Xavier Batista did something almost as amazing. In his first at bat in the NPB he hit a pinch hit homerun. The Hiroshima Carp gave him another opportunity to pinch hit and he hit another homerun. That made him the first foreign player in the NPB to hit two homeruns in his first two at bats.

The Carp decided to give him a start in left field after his first two at bats resulted in homeruns. He went 0 for 4 in the first game but in game number two he went 3 for 4 with two more homeruns. That is five hits in 10 at bats with four homeruns. That is a nice 2.300 OPS (On Base Plus Slugging Percentage).

So who is Xavier Batista? The Cubs first signed him back in 2008. In five years with the Cubs he never got past Low A ball, spending most of his time in the Rookie Leagues or the Dominican Summer Leagues. During that time his career batting average was .232 with 25 homeruns. He did show some pop in the Dominican Summer League with five homeruns and a .505 slugging percentage. It was not enough for the Cubs to keep him. They released him after the 2013 season.

Xavier was out of baseball for a year and a half. The Japanese team the Hiroshima Carp have a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. Xavier tried his luck there and the Carp signed him as a developmental player. His first year in the minor leagues in 2016 Xavier did not show much promise, hitting just .243 with a .307 OBA. His second year the light bulb went on and he just took off, leading the minor leagues in hitting (.363), homeruns (14), slugging (.692), and RBIs (38). The Carp decided to promote him to their major league club. After his first 10 at bats it looks like he has found a home.

Another player down in the minors Alejandro Mejia, who was also discovered at the Hiroshima baseball academy also appears to be doing well, finding himself second in hitting (.352), first in doubles (16) and third in slugging (.549). The player second in slugging Kyle Jensen (.591) who is also second to Batista in homeruns (10) was also recently promoted to the NPB by the Softbank Hawks. The Carp may have a second player they need to call up soon in Mejia.

Cardinals Ink Cuban Closer Hector Mendoza

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

As the opportunity whittles for signing international players to contracts another Cuban pitcher was signed. Hector Mendoza signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Because of his age (23) and years in professional ball Hector was not subject to the International salary cap. His five years of pro ball in Cuba plus his two years of playing in the NBP exempted him from the salary cap.

Hector was the closer for a couple years with the Cuban National team. Myworld saw him pitch in Puerto Rico and was impressed with his height (6′2″) and velocity. The Yomiuri Giants also liked him and worked with Cuba to sign him to a contract. He pitched mostly in the minor leagues with the Giants, getting in only five games with the major league team in his two years in Japan.

Command has always been a challenge for Mendoza. He is one of the few Cubans that had good velocity on his fastball, sitting in the mid-90s, but he had trouble finding the plate. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals keep him in the pen, where he has always pitched or move him into the starting rotation. He does have three pitches to fit in a rotation, but he has always pitched in the bullpen so converting him to a starter would create durability issues and delay his arrival to the major league team.

Terms of the contract have not been disclosed.

Guerrero Homer Streak in NPB Ends at Six

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Alex Guerrero ended his consecutive homer streak at six games. The record for most consecutive games with a homerun is seven, held by two legends Sadaharu Oh and Randy Bass. The seven homeruns during the streak gave him 16 for the season, tying him with fellow Cuban Alfredo Despaigne for most in the NPB.

Norimoto Sets K Record in NPB; Guerrero Approaching Homerun Record

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Takahiro Norimoto broke the record for consecutive games with at least 10 or more strikeouts by striking out 12 Yomiuri Giants in 8 innings in a 3-2 win to give him seven consecutive games with 10 or more whiffs. He gave up a two run homerun to Shuichi Murata in the fourth inning to fall behind 2-0. In the sixth inning Japhet Amador tied the game with a two run homer and Takero Okajima blasted an RBI triple to give Norimoto the three runs he needed to secure the victory. Yuki Matsui pitched the ninth inning to pick up his 18th save.

Hideo Nomo had held the record with six consecutive games with 10 or more whiffs that he broke in 1991, a record he had set the previous year with five. Norimoto started his streak April 19, striking out 76 hitters in 55 innings. His next goal will be to reach the major league record of eight consecutive games with at least 10 or more whiffs, recently tied by Chris Sale this year.

In another streak developing Alex Guerrero, who had trouble finding playing time with the Dodgers has now homered in five consecutive games. He has hit six homeruns during his streak and now has 15 on the season. Only fellow Cuban Alfredo Despaigne and ex-Yankee Brandon Laird are equal to Guerrero in homeruns in the NPB. Guerrero also has RBIs in seven consecutive games.

Norimoto Ties NPB Record

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Takahiro Norimoto tied an NPB record by striking out ten in a game against Orix. That gave him six consecutive games with 10 or more strikeouts. The only other NPB player to do that was Hideo Nomo in 1991.

Takahiro struck out the side in the eighth inning to reach 10 strikeouts. With the win he improved his record to 6-1 on the season.

Chris Sale recently tied his own record that he also shares with Pedro Martinez by striking out 10 or more hitters in eight consecutive games. Pedro Martinez struck out 10 or more in eight consecutive starts in 1999. Chris Sale tied that record in 2015. He failed to break the record on his next start yesterday, striking out just six in 7.1 innings of work.

Roel Santos to Play for Marines

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Cuban outfielder Roel Santos has signed a contract to play for the Chibba Lotte Marines in the NPB. The contract according to YakyuDB is estimated at $200,000. He will begin the season once he gets a work visa.

Santos does not have any power. He could hit for average which would allow him to use his speed to steal bases. His defense fits the mold of a centerfielder. The Marines currently have the worst record in the NPB. They have not been getting a lot of production from their foreign bats Matt Duffy (.213) and Jimmy Paredes (.174).