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  1. Impressive crop. What do the international free agents look like this offseason?

    Comment by Scott — August 14, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  2. It’s hard to say what Cuba will offer — guys like Chapman, Cespedes and Soler either appear or don’t appear on the other side of the border.

    Japan will have at least Nakajima coming over, as well as a few others. But this is a situation where — unless the player is a legit free agent like Nakajima — it takes three to tango (the player, the NPB team, and an MLB team). And after the Rangers — who likely overpaid in the first place — got a less-than-bustout season from Darvish, we might see a number of postings go unheralded or without bidding altogether. Also, the new limits on international spending will also put a damper on this field, meaning would could see way more NPB players choosing to stay home.

    A guy like Patrick Newman (@npbtracker) — on the merit of his language skills and location — has a better finger on the pulse than I do when it comes to players interested in playing in the MLB.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 14, 2012 @ 11:40 am

  3. Kyuji Fujikawa – Closer for the Hanshin Tigers. Closest thing Japan has had lately to a Mariano Rivera type. He’s 32, but will be a full free agent, so won’t require a posting fee. Expensive teams that forgot to buy a bullpen should look at him *cough* Angels *cough*.

    Comment by Nate — August 14, 2012 @ 11:45 am

  4. Jim Hendry had his faults, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t give Fukudome a contract with $21 mil AAV.

    Comment by Aaron — August 14, 2012 @ 11:47 am

  5. I’d agree that Cespedes has been a pleasant surprise, particularly because he seems to be a much better all round hitter than was expected.

    I’m much less sure about this statement, “[He] also has the makings of a strong center fielder.”

    His advanced defensive stats are not good. I know the sample is much too small, but he hasn’t passed the eye test whenever I’ve seen him. His range looks like it will be below average even in LF, so how he would be a strong CF is beyond me.

    Comment by Nohd — August 14, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

  6. yes, I believe there was a post about this within the last week, even soliciting input from those who have watched him. His routes are questionable at best, comically bad at worst. Perhaps they will improve / are improving.
    One plus to his fielding (from my watching)- great arm strength.
    An amusing juxtaposition to Coco Crisp…

    Comment by Tim_the_Beaver — August 14, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

  7. also, in re-reading your comment, I’d add that his issue with range (which I somewhat disagree with) is definitely not a speed issue.

    Comment by Tim_the_Beaver — August 14, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  8. I’ve always been a little puzzled about why speed is not pretty much the only thing that determines range. Having suffered watching Corey Patterson, Eric Thames and Rajai Davis in LF for the Blue Jays the last couple of years, I have seen plenty of evidence to convince me that speed can only do so much to make up for bad reads/routes.

    I would have thought that with enough professional coaching and experience that reads/routes would be of a uniformly very high standard in the Majors, but it seems there’s more variation there than I expected.

    That was a rather long way of saying that I still don’t think Cespedes will become a strong CF.

    Comment by Nohd — August 14, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  9. True! Fukudome’s contract was actually $48M, plus a $4M signing bonus. That’s a $12M AAV, $13M if you include the bonus.

    Of course, that’s still a LOT more than the Brewers are paying Aoki for similar production, so I think the author’s point still stands.

    Comment by Ian R. — August 14, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  10. I actually wrote that article. And the impression I got from the readers is that he has struggled with his routes, but by his own admission he is still getting accustomed to the much larger American stadiums that have higher lights the he is used to in Cuba.

    Either way, he’s not even a full year into his UZR stats, so I’m not will to say he is a true talent bad center fielder. If anything, his gun arm and great speed suggest he will — perhaps with better coaching — at least be a serviceable center fielder.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 14, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

  11. Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed now.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 14, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

  12. *that article meaning the one soliciting input about his defense

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 14, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

  13. “much larger American stadiums that have higher lights the he is used to in Cuba.”

    That’s interesting. However, the following article gives some indication that Cuban stadium dimensions are pretty similar to MLB stadiums, at least in the outfield.

    Struggling with the lights sounds plausible. It’ll be interesting to see if he can improve with more experience. Do you know if there’s any precedent for international players to make significant defensive improvements in the outfield after a year or two?

    Comment by Nohd — August 14, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

  14. I know Alexei Ramirez went from yuk! second baseman to elite shortstop between his first and second seasons. Not sure about outfielders, though.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 14, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

  15. I consider watching Nori Aoki to be an honor and a privilege.

    Comment by Toasty — August 14, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

  16. The read and above all the jump are what separate outstanding out_fielders_ from toolsy ball corrallers. A great deal of this is vision, being able to see by the trajectory of the pitch and the swing path of the batter what is about to happen. It’s been observed many times down the years that some of the best outfielders will break on the jump even before the ball is hit: they can see it coming. Reading the fall off the bat is also critical; is there backspin, was it not hit square and so likely to die, does the bat path suggest the ball will hook? And so on. Coaching can’t (so far) give one better visin. Coaching only makes a limited impact on the desire of the player to learn his pitching staff, learn the opposing batters and focus like a laser beam on every pitch. Great fielders have that desire, but plenty of other guys don’t so much.

    Then there’s the whole thing with running optimal routes. Coaching will impact that some, but a lot there is also in the neuro-visual cortex of the player. Some guys never get the sense of the proper angle, while for others they’re born with it.

    Then there’s the issue of ‘run back under the ball and wait for it to come down,’ where some guys who are in principle fast don’t have the kind of flexibility to get that blink-quick turnaround and go.

    The point is that some guys will _never_ be good outfielders; they simply lack the vision and neurological skills to put it together, physical tools regardless. It’s not a question of being stupid, though, to be clear. Regardless, the common assumption that ‘anyone can play leftfield’ or any outfield position doesn’t walk. A team may be willing to accept atrocious defense from a player, but that’s the not the same thing. If Cespedes hasn’t been able to learn to run routes by the age of 27, I wouldn’t suggest anyone plan on him ever running routes well. Center is probably not his position, but his tools might play better in a corner.

    Comment by Balthazar — August 15, 2012 @ 2:20 am

  17. @Nohd.

    Yeah, it’s a bit counter-intuitive that speed and range aren’t more closely correlated, but when you think about it, it makes sense.

    Hitting, after all, should be only about strength, and bat speed… But not really. Hitting is about seeing the ball, figuring out where it’s going to go, and having the strength and bat speed to get the bat where the ball’s going to be.

    Fielding is the same. You have to see the ball off the bat, figure out where it’s going to be, and have the speed to get the glove there. Cespedes, so far, hasn’t shown much skill in judging the trajectory of a ball, but he runs really really well. If he can figure out how to judge the ball better, he could become a great center fielder, but he really isn’t much of a defensive outfielder while he’s having such a tough time figuring out which direction to run.

    Comment by rory — August 19, 2012 @ 8:55 am

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