Top Ten Foreign Players

Myworld is bunking for the night in Clovis, New Mexico as we head east to Virginia.  We drove through the White Sands and Roswell, New Mexico.  Since there is not a whole heck of a lot to do in Clovis myworld thought we’d put out a top ten foreign players list.  These are players who we watched and admired because of their ability to perform in the clutch or over a season.

1. Nelson Figueroa (Puerto Rico) RHP - He doesn’t hit 90 miles per hour on the radar gun with his fastball and his major league career is pretty spotty, but he has pitched in some pretty big games in his career.  He was also born in Brooklyn, New York, but is of Puerto Rican descent.  He is a hero in the Dominican Republic, Taiwan and Puerto Rico because of the big games he has pitched there.  It started in 2007 in Taiwan where he won three games in the Taiwan Series to give the Uni-President Lions the CPBL championship.  That same year he went to the Dominican Republic and pitched Aguilas to the Dominican championship but couldn’t participate in the Series del Caribe because he had pitched for a team in Mexico earlier in the year.  In the 2013 World Baseball Classic he shutout the United States for six innings in Puerto Rico’s 4-3 win to eliminate the United States from advancing to the final four.  Finally, like bookends he pitched a complete game for the Uni-President Lions in their 4-1 win over the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the 2013 Asian Series played in Taiwan.

2. Rob Cordemans (Netherlands) RHP - Rob Cordeman is another right handed pitcher who is unable to break 90 miles per hour with his fastball.  Call him the Cuban slayer.  With perhaps the best changeup in baseball he beat the Cubans in the championship game of perhaps the last World Cup of baseball.  He also played for the Uni-President Lions in Taiwan in 2007 but did not have the success of Figueroa.  His success in the Netherlands is unprecedented.

3. Seong-Yeop Lee (Korea) 1B - No Korean has hit more than the 500 plus homeruns he has hit between the KBO and the NPB.  While those homeruns are impressive, it is the homeruns he hit in the WBC, the NPB playoffs and the Olympics to win ball games that are the most remembered and those don’t count in his career total.  Lee hit homeruns in the semi-final and finals of the 2008 Olympics to defeat both Japan and Cuba to give Korea the last gold medal of the Olympics.  He negotiated with both the Yankees and the Dodgers to play in the major leagues, but contract details could not be agreed to so he never achieved his goal of playing in the major leagues.

4. Hisashi Iwakuma (Japan) RHP - He pitched for the expansion team Rakuten Eagles, competing with Yu Darvish for the best pitcher in Japan.  In 2008 he won the Sawamura award to distinguish himself as the best pitcher in Japan with a 21-4 record and an ERA of 1.87.  He was posted by his club in 2010, with the Oakland Athletics bidding the highest price for his services.  They showed no real interest in signing him and the next year he became a free agent and signed with the Seattle Mariners.  In 2013 he finished third in the American League Cy Young voting.  He would have looked good in an Oakland Athletics uniform last year when they were in the playoffs.

5. Aroldis Chapman (Cuba) LHP - He pitched for the cellar dwelling Holquin Dogs, but he had a fastball that hit above 100 miles per hour.  He had major league scouts drooling at his velocity in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  He defected in 2009.  The criticism was that he only had one pitch, lacked command and was not coachable.  He has developed an effective slider, which makes him a good closer.  In 2010 he threw a fastball 105.1 miles per hour, a speed no pitcher has reached since pitches have been clocked.

6. Masahiro Tanaka (Japan) RHP - He replaced Iwakuma as the ace of the Rakuten Golden Eagles.  He has lived up to that billing, especially last year when he finished 24-0, 1.27.  No pitcher in any professional baseball league has won 24 games in a season without taking a loss.  He also won 26 consecutive regular season games between 2012-2013, another feat no professional pitcher in any league has accomplished.  If Rakuten allows it and Japan and the major leagues can come to a posting agreement he will be playing in the major leagues in 2014.

7. Alfredo Despaigne (Cuba) OF - He is the biggest homerun hitter in Cuba.  Jose Abreu may have more power and Yoenis Cespedes may have the bigger name because of his accomplishments in the major leagues, but year after year Despaigne battles for the homerun titles.  He plays for the Granma Stallions in Cuba which is noted for being a hitters park.  Yoenis Cespedes also played for Granma and was considered the second best hitter on that team.

8. Warwick Saupold (Australia) RHP - We noticed him in the Australian League and liked him when we witnessed him pitch for the Perth Heat in the Asian Series in 2011.  No major league team had signed him yet.  The Detroit Tigers eventually signed him and his two year minor league career is 11-9, 3.22.  He pitched in AA last year.  Another good season and he could be in the major leagues in 2014.

9. Wladimir Balentien (Curacao/Netherlands) OF - He’s always had tremendous power, but struggled when playing for the Mariners and Reds in the major leagues.  In his second year in Japan he broke the Japanese record for most homeruns in a season with 60.  This in a year when he played only 130 games, missing the first couple weeks of the season because of an injury suffered in the 2013 WBC.  Myworld witnessed him hit his 55th homerun, tying the Japanese record.

10. Chris Colabello (Italy) 1B - He is not really Italian, but he played for Italy in the 2013 WBC and myworld couldn’t think of a tenth player.  Talk about not giving up.  Chris was not drafted by any major league team when he finished playing college ball.  He played Independent ball from 2005 to 2011 still without a major league nibble.  At 28 years old the Twins finally saw something in him they liked and signed him to a minor league contract.  He played for Italy in the 2013 WBC and made his major league debut on May 22, 2013.

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