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, and on Twitter @npbtracker.