New NPB Imports for 2011

Last November, I asked you who should play in Japan this upcoming season. With NPB camps opening and offseason acquisitions basically complete. let’s take a look at who went over. Here’s the breakdown, using the categories I outlined in my original post:

* 6-7 starting pitchers — Brian Bannister (Yomiuri), Carlos Torres (Yomiuri), Anthony Lerew (Softbank), Kelvin Jimenez (Rakuten), Alfredo Figaro (Orix), Chan Ho Park (Orix), Evan MacLane (Orix), Bryan Bullington (Hiroshima), Brandon Mann (Yokohama), Clayton Hamilton (Yokohama)

* 7-8 relief pitchers — Jonathan Albaladejo (Yomiuri), Dennis Sarfate (Hiroshima), Byung-Hyun Kim (Rakuten), Bob McCrory (Chiba Lotte), Brent Leach (Yokohama)

* 2-3 1B/LF/DH types — Micah Hoffpauir (Nippon Ham), Mike Hessman (Orix)

* 2 third basemen — Chad Tracy (Hiroshima)

* an outfielder or two — Wladimir Balentien (Yakult)

* a utility guy — Joel Guzman (Chunichi)

* and possibly a 2B/3B type for Yomiuri — Rusty Ryal (will play 3B for Yomiuri)

Note: I’ve only included players that project as regulars in this summary. Players who were signed with development in mind, like Marcos Vechionacci, were not included.

Some follow up points on this list… Japanese teams signed more starters and fewer relievers than I had anticipated, but those numbers could flip depending on how MacLane, Mann and Hamilton are used by their teams. The other third base opening I identified was at Rakuten, who filled it by re-importing Akinori Iwamura. Rakuten also brought Kazuo Matsui back to Japan, after at eight-year tenure in MLB. I listed Guzman as a utility guy, but he could just as easily be categorized as a 1B/corner OF guy. For the last few seasons, Chunichi has carried a foreign-born utility player, but they’ve been more traditional middle infield types, rather than corner IF/OF players like Guzman.

Three players from my list of 15 signed in Japan this offseason: Torres, Hessman and Bullington. From the community, the prediction of Hoffpauir by commenter Michael turned out to be accurate.



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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at npbtracker.com, and on Twitter @npbtracker.


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syh
Member
5 years 6 months ago

Interesting both Bannister and Bullington have gone to Japan. Not that they have gone, but that they are both coming from the Royals, where, if I’m remembering correctly, they switched rotation spots a couple times.

Jed
Guest
Jed
5 years 6 months ago

Lerew was also a Royal last season.

Lee
Guest
Lee
5 years 6 months ago

Hey Patrick,

Ever been to Osaka? I just watched the No Reservations episode they filmed there… and it looks amazing. It sounds like their three favorite things to do are eat awesome japanese food, drink and watch baseball. It really made me want to visit.

(ps – I guess I am just assuming you live in Japan – I think it read it on your blog? Though I may be confusing you with another hardcore japanese baseball fan/writer. If so, apologies!)

Max
Guest
Max
5 years 6 months ago

“awesome japanese food, drink and watch baseball”

That, coupled with hot Japanese girls, sounds like heaven to me.

Ben
Guest
Ben
5 years 6 months ago

Knowing essentially nothing about NPB, is an adequete MLBer or a AAAA type guy more or less guaranteed some measure of success in NPB, or is the level of competition such that a guy like that may end up looking like a scrub? Excluding players who are injured or have totally collapse, obviously.

KJOK
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

The biggest difference is the ballparks/baseballs, which greatly increases home runs for ‘mid level’ MLB sluggers, and conversely home runs allowed for MLB pitchers. So, being a fly ball pitcher will not play so well in NPB – those pitchers tend to not have any more success than they had in the U.S.

simon
Guest
simon
5 years 6 months ago

Actually, Japanese ballparks being small is a thing of the past. Teams mostly use recently built/renovated stadiums that are similar in dimension to MLB stadiums.

However, the ball was definitely one of the factors. But that’s being unified this year to something that behaves a lot more like an MLB ball, since that’s similar to the standard international baseball.

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