Japan Prospects

Masahiro Tanaka is having an incredible year in the Japanese Pacific League throwing a 1.24 ERA over 212 innings pitched winning all 24 games he started. This has gotten MLB teams interested in him. This post will list some Japan prospects who had recent success in the majors ending with Hideki Matsui, one of the more famous successful transfers.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro has had a colossal 2013 but his previous years are very good as well.  That  WAA discerns a lot of stats and league averages into a single number it provides an easy way to spot year to year trends.   Everyone varies year to year; the best less so.  How does WAA in the Japanese league translate into WAA for MLB?  It can’t.  They are different leagues.  The next set of tables give an idea as to how other transfers went with respect to WAA.    Since the data pool of Japanese players transferring to MLB is so small it is not possible to determine a statistical average for this difference that makes any sense.  To determine what Masahiro might be worth to an MLB franchise requires good old fashion scouting knowledge, a bit of guesswork, risk management, and some luck.

Year WAA BA/IP OBP/ERA PA/G RBI/W R/L Name_Tm BAT/PITCH
2007 -1.0 186.1 3.82 28 11 7 Masahiro_Tanaka_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2008 1.7 172.2 3.49 25 9 7 Masahiro_Tanaka_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2009 7.9 189.2 2.33 25 15 6 Masahiro_Tanaka_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2010 5.5 155.0 2.50 20 11 6 Masahiro_Tanaka_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2011 9.3 226.1 1.27 27 19 5 Masahiro_Tanaka_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2012 4.9 173.0 1.87 22 10 4 Masahiro_Tanaka_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2013 12.1 212.0 1.27 28 24 0 Masahiro_Tanaka_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH

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Hisashi Iwakuma

Here’s a case of a Japanese pitcher performing in the MLB about equal to his performance in Japanese league.  Being a pitcher might help because he might have a pitching style that MLB batters haven’t seen.

Year WAA BA/IP OBP/ERA PA/G RBI/W R/L Name_Tm BAT/PITCH
2007 0.5 90.0 3.40 16 5 5 Hisashi_Iwakuma_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2008 10.0 201.2 1.87 28 21 4 Hisashi_Iwakuma_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2009 3.2 169.0 3.25 24 13 6 Hisashi_Iwakuma_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2010 5.6 201.0 2.82 28 10 9 Hisashi_Iwakuma_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2011 1.6 119.0 2.42 17 6 7 Hisashi_Iwakuma_Tohoku_Rakuten_Golden_Eagles_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2012 2.5 125.3 3.16 30 9 5 Hisashi_Iwakuma_SEA PITCH
2013 6.3 219.7 2.66 33 14 6 Hisashi_Iwakuma_SEA PITCH

Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish had a slightly above average year his first year in the majors and had a very good 2013 but around half what he contributed to his Japanese league.  A > 5 WAA is a $12+M player to that team.  Perhaps his upside is +10 WAA.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Year WAA BA/IP OBP/ERA PA/G RBI/W R/L Name_Tm BAT/PITCH
2007 8.8 207.2 1.82 26 15 5 Yu_Darvish_Nippon_Ham_Fighters_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2008 10.0 200.2 1.88 25 16 4 Yu_Darvish_Nippon_Ham_Fighters_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2009 10.2 182.0 1.73 23 15 5 Yu_Darvish_Hokkaido_Nippon_Ham_Fighters_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2010 10.6 202.0 1.78 26 12 8 Yu_Darvish_Hokkaido_Nippon_Ham_Fighters_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2011 8.6 232.0 1.44 28 18 6 Yu_Darvish_Hokkaido_Nippon_Ham_Fighters_XYZ_jpl PITCH
2012 0.6 191.3 3.90 29 16 9 Yu_Darvish_TEX PITCH
2013 5.3 209.7 2.83 32 13 9 Yu_Darvish_TEX PITCH

Koji Uehara

He’s MVP of the ALCS.  He has been a consistent +2 WAA player until this year.  Overall I would estimate he halved his value moving to the MLB.  This should be expected however since the average MLB player is higher than that of the Japanese league.

Year WAA BA/IP OBP/ERA PA/G RBI/W R/L Name_Tm BAT/PITCH
1999 9.7 197.2 2.09 25 20 4 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2000 1.1 131.0 3.57 20 9 7 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2001 -0.8 138.2 4.02 24 10 7 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2002 4.7 204.0 2.60 26 17 5 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2003 4.9 207.1 3.17 27 16 5 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2004 7.1 163.0 2.60 22 13 5 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2005 3.6 187.1 3.31 27 9 12 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2006 2.0 168.1 3.21 24 8 9 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2007 3.1 62.0 1.74 55 4 3 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2008 -0.2 89.2 3.81 26 6 5 Koji_Uehara_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2009 0.5 66.7 4.05 12 2 4 Koji_Uehara_BAL PITCH
2010 1.3 44.0 2.86 43 1 2 Koji_Uehara_BAL PITCH
2011 2.6 47.0 1.72 43 1 1 Koji_Uehara_BAL PITCH
2011 -0.0 18.0 4.00 22 1 2 Koji_Uehara_TEX PITCH
2011 2.5 65.0 2.35 65 2 3 Koji_Uehara_TOT PITCH
2012 2.0 36.0 1.75 37 0 0 Koji_Uehara_TEX PITCH
2013 5.0 74.3 1.09 73 4 1 Koji_Uehara_BOS PITCH

Hiroki Kuroda

Here’s a pitcher who started out inconsistent year to year, then settled down and  transferred to MLB with success.  Any team would want a pitcher with this kind of consistency year to year.

Year WAA BA/IP OBP/ERA PA/G RBI/W R/L Name_Tm BAT/PITCH
1999 -5.7 87.2 6.78 21 5 8 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Toyo_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2000 -1.4 144.0 4.31 29 9 6 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Toyo_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2001 3.4 190.0 3.03 27 12 8 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2002 -0.3 164.1 3.67 23 10 10 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2003 5.1 205.2 3.11 28 13 9 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2004 -1.0 147.0 4.65 21 7 9 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2005 5.1 212.2 3.17 29 15 12 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2006 8.6 189.1 1.85 26 13 6 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2007 1.1 179.2 3.56 26 12 8 Hiroki_Kuroda_Hiroshima_Carp_XYZ_jcl PITCH
2008 2.6 183.3 3.73 31 9 10 Hiroki_Kuroda_LAN PITCH
2009 1.3 117.3 3.76 21 8 7 Hiroki_Kuroda_LAN PITCH
2010 3.3 196.3 3.39 31 11 13 Hiroki_Kuroda_LAN PITCH
2011 4.6 202.0 3.07 32 13 16 Hiroki_Kuroda_LAN PITCH
2012 3.7 219.7 3.32 33 16 11 Hiroki_Kuroda_NYA PITCH
2013 2.8 201.3 3.31 32 11 13 Hiroki_Kuroda_NYA PITCH

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Hideki Matsui

I could be wrong about this but as far as my search goes post 2000, except for Ichiro Suzuki Hideki Matsui is the only other Japan batter prospect to have sustained success in MLB.  Here are his jcl stats along with only his first three MLB years to illustrate his initiation into MLB.  He clearly provided value to the Yankees but less than the value he had in Japan Central League (jcl).

Year WAA BA/IP OBP/ERA PA/G RBI/W R/L Name_Tm BAT/PITCH
1999 7.2 0.304 0.416 572 95 100 Hideki_Matsui_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl BAT
2000 10.5 0.316 0.438 589 108 116 Hideki_Matsui_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl BAT
2001 9.2 0.333 0.463 611 104 107 Hideki_Matsui_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl BAT
2002 10.4 0.334 0.461 623 107 112 Hideki_Matsui_Yomiuri_Giants_XYZ_jcl BAT
2003 2.9 0.287 0.353 695 106 82 Hideki_Matsui_NYA BAT
2004 6.0 0.298 0.390 680 108 109 Hideki_Matsui_NYA BAT
2005 7.1 0.305 0.367 704 116 108 Hideki_Matsui_NYA BAT

The next post to this series will examine the rise and fall of Kosuke Fukudome, a batter transferring from a Japan league who never quite made it in MLB.