Jim Albright / the japanese insider
The 2010 Review of NPB Free Agents, Posted Players, and Players to Watch
2009 Review / 2008 Review / 2007 Review / 2006 Review / 2005 Review
By Jim Albright
Note: I am not doing salary levels this year, as the contracts have already been signed. Central League pitchers are evaluated at National League numbers and Pacific League pitchers at American League numbers, as Japan also has one league with the DH and one without. Doing it this way keeps the players in context. The source for player data are the player pages at Japanese Baseball.com
Another Note:I find that the most accurate assessment I can make of pitchers is by looking at their five year averages rather than any individual year. I'd suggest you do the same.
A. 2010 NPB Free Agents
The guys in this section are either former major leaguers who are free agents, at least arguably played at a major league starting level, are free agents under the age of 35, or have given serious indications they want to go to the majors. As you shall see, it's a small class this year.
He's been really good the last two years after returning from injury. That makes him a reasonable risk to take.
His major league projections look decent, but 35 year old pitchers with this kind of performance are hardly sure things. If you had a hole to fill or needed a lefty starter, though, he was worth taking a chance on.
B. NPB Players Posted for 2010 MLB Season
None at this time
C. NPB Players to Watch
The players in the preceding sections are either free agents, have been posted, or at least have a commitment from the NPB team they play for that they will be posted. The following players aren't going to the majors in 2009.
The standards for a player to make this section are that first, the player must be less than 30 years old on April 1, 2010, and earn at least 1-oku yen last season (100 million yen). The first standard eliminates those players who are too old to be regarded as hot prospects for the majors in 2010 or after. The second set of requirements are designed to ensure that the players selected are rather high quality talents in Japan. Of course, salaries are hardly perfect measure, but they'll have to do. Many thanks to Michael Westbay for his help in compiling this list.
I will be including the number of seasons each player has played in Japan. They can be posted at any time if the team wishes, but there's little incentive for them to do so until the player is nearing free agency, at which time he could go to the majors without the Japanese team receiving any compensation. Since free agency is nine years service time (usually a bit more than actual seasons, due to short seasons played in early years in the player's career plus time lost to injury) under the current rules in Japan, players aren't likely to be posted until they've played at least 7 and probably 8-9 seasons.
I will not be including salary information for these guys, as they are far enough away from the majors that such information isn't terribly useful at this point. They're all earning about a million dollars a year or more now, and if you want more data, see the player pages at Japanese Baseball.com
He dropped off a bit in 2009. It wouldn't worry me greatly if he rebounds in 2010, but another dropoff would cause me to wonder about his chances of success in the majors. Still, he hit acceptably for a centerfielder.
He's still pitching at an exceptional level. My main concern remains how well he'll hold up under such heavy usage at this age. Otherwise, he's got MLB stardom written all over him.
His record continues to suggest he could be a star closer in the majors. One concern is that my projection doesn't deal with Japanese park effects due to the lack of the data needed for doing so, and he works in one of the traditionally most pitcher-friendly of Japanese parks.
He'll be 30 in August. He's a second baseman and hits OK for that position,
but unless he's a glove wizard, he wouldn't be someone I'd think the majors
would be overwhelmed with. The fact he hasn't won any Gold Gloves in Japan
doesn't suggest he's that kind of fielder. If a team was short on options
at second, he might keep the position from being a hole dragging down a team
for a couple of years, though.
He's won Gold Gloves in Japan, which should translate to good defense at
third. If he can get his average into the .280 range, he's worthwhile with
the glove and the bat despite little home run power and taking few walks.
On the other hand, if he hits .250 or below, I'd think someone of his age
and that little offensive production wouldn't be too attractive to the majors.
The bottom line for me is, I wouldn't have much interest unless he proves
he can keep the average up (or adds to his offensive game in some other way).
His major league projections look like a fourth starter type in the majors
the past few years. That's enough to mean he bears watching.
He looks like a third or fourth starter type in the majors, and there's a demand for guys who can fill the role as well as his projection suggest he can.
He's a second baseman, but even for that position, his on base percentages
aren't very good. He needs to improve in that area to be very attractive
to the majors.
He definitely had a dropoff in 2009. If he rebounds, I'd continue to be quite interested in a shortstop who hits in the .280 or better range and up with some power by middle infielder standards. If he turned in another season like 2009, though, I'd be far less enthused.
He had a lost year in 2009, and he'll have to reestablish himself in Japan to garner much interest in the majors. Even before that unproductive season, he didn't look any better than a decent middle relief type, and last season calls even that view into question.
This is a first baseman who hasn't demonstrated 20 HR a year type power for
the majors and has middling on base percentage numbers. To top it off, he
had a bad year in 2009. If he hit like he did in 2007 or better, he might
have some value. Otherwise, forget it.
This Pacific League pitcher will be 29 next December, and he's at least 2-3 years from getting a shot at the majors, if not more. I don't like his dip in innings pitched in 2008 since I'm not sure why it happened. His drop in performance in 2009 looks like an additional red flag. I'm not too sold on his major league chances right now.
He's a corner outfielder, and with a bat like that, it really won't matter that he's soon eligible to come to the majors.
Through 2008, he had shown steady improvement in both his isolated power and average--and he'd shown decent power for a third sacker. Unfortunately, it looks like injuries slowed him in 2009. So long as he rebounds, I wouldn't worry about it. If he doesn't, then I'd be far less enthusiastic about his chances of success in the majors.
He's good enough to fill some role in a major league bullpen, but I'm thinking setup man or middle relief rather than closer. Except for 2009, his strikeouts per IP have been right around a projected one per inning, so he might have the kind of stuff to close.
His 2009 season was not quite as good as his 2008 season, but he held on to the vast majority of his improvement as a hitter. His averages have been good for the past four seasons, and he has shown more power than most middle infielders. He's definitely someone to watch.
He improved in terms of plate discipline in 2009. However, otherwise he went backwards with the bat. He's young enough to bounce back, and if he can hit .260 or better while showing the other skills the projection credits him with, he could be interesting.
He's been good the past three years, and four of the past five. The only exception was 2006. If he keeps up this level of performance, he'll get a fair amount of attention.
He's won several Gold Gloves at second, and that means even at 2009 levels
he could help some teams in the majors. If he can recover some of the power
he showed in 2008, he'd be much more impressive.
He's looked like a middling starter by major league standards, but that's
enough to get himself a nice payday if he can keep it up.
He's been a solid hitter for a shortstop, and if he can sustain the 2009
improvement in power, it would be a nice plus.
He's performed well, and being a lefty only increases his value. He's definitely someone to watch, though I am a bit wary of whether he'll hold up under these kinds of workloads at his age. We'll see.
This lefty pitches in the Pacific League and is 29 in February as I write this. He's likely 2-3 years away from a shot at the majors. He had looked mostly like a lefty inning eating type pitcher, which would have real value. However, the fact he had a dramatic drop in innings in 2009 makes it questionable whether he could fill that role. He's got to be more durable than he was in 2009 to have much value to the majors.
He'd fit nicely into the middle of many rotations in the majors, and that fact makes him someone to watch.