Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Little Reading

My first contribution to Baseball Prospectus went up today (subscription only). The piece is about baseball in Japan, the status it's afforded, and the importance of accounting for cultural factors in analyzing the style of play when compared to the Majors. It's more of a narrative piece to introduce my work there, but you may enjoy it. If you don't have a subscription, I highly recommend it. I don't say that because I now write for them, as I was a subscriber and a big fan long before this relationship ever began.

Also, I recently posted at Baseball Japan a background piece on Japan's next big hitter. No, not Kosuke Fukudome (MLB ETA: 2008). No, not Norichika Aoki (MLB ETA: unknown). This is a 17-year old phenom named Sho Nakata of Osaka Toin High School. He is a home run machine with size, power, and a rifle arm. He's in the rotation as a sometimes starter and features a 94 mph fastball, a curve, slider, and palm ball.

His favorite player is Daisuke Matsuzaka, but he toured the US a few years ago for the Continental Amateur Baseball Association's 15-Year Old World Series, winning the MVP, and announcing that he wanted to come back in a few years to pitch for the Yankees. With the posting of Matsuzaka, maybe he has his eyes set on the Red Sox now, but the Twins and Mets have scouted him, and he's on the MLB radar. Make no mistake, he's no pitcher, as good as he's been. He is a power hitting right fielder with a super high ceiling. One way or another he'll be a professional next season, either as a starter in the NPB or a farmhand in the US. Watch as this unfolds at Baseball Japan....


At 10:55 AM, Blogger Wayne said...

Mike, if Sho Nakata doesn't sign a contract with a team in the NPB, is he draft-eligible for the MLB? Would he have to "defect" to the US? (I realize that there is no trade embargo with Japan.)

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Hi Wayne. I think Japanese high school players are treated the same as any other international signees. The highest bidder takes all.

As far as I know, international players are not yet subject to the amateur draft in the US, although it might be a positive move in the future.

I also believe that there are no restrictions to the movement of amateur athletes in Japan. The college and high school crop are not obliged to do anything that a Dominican kid wouldn't have to, and as such might prove to be the most fertile breeding ground for future Major League prospects in the world.

Good question.

At 2:42 AM, Blogger William said...


I hope you realized why every Japanese wills to enter Yankees.

Yankees, Giants, and recently, Mariners are the most well-known and probably the only generally-known American teams in Japan.

You know better why...

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard that there is a "gentlemens' agreement" between MLB and NPB, not to draft high school players. I believe the same goes for NPB to draft US high school players, but not 100%.

With this kind of talent, I'm sure this "agreement" would become a public discussion, if Nakata insists on playing in MLB right away.

In any case I am sure is name would be heard in the US at some point in his promising career.

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Tivome said...

Ah.. Osaka Toin is one of my fav schools... Glad to hear he has MLB ambitions. We need some more big hitters from Asia.

At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Takola said...

Hi Mike

As a new poster but long time lurker let me say congrats on your child. When I saw the Twins name I grined as it didnt make sense at the time. I live in MN although im a lifelong member of RSN. The Twins are notoriously known as a cheap team but very good with young talent. If they can manage an end route around the posting system they could lock this young man and others up now at discount prices (thell need it to keep Santana and Mauer). You think the there tring to work around NPB ?


At 10:23 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Thanks Takola.

From what I understand there's a gentleman's agreement between the NPB and MLB that dictates the Major League clubs stay away from trying to sign high school players. I could easily see that being tested in the near future should one of the Japanese kids say, "Screw it. I'm going."

I don't know how likely that is considering Japanese culture, but it might only take one young man to do it to open the floodgates. I'm sure the Twins don't want to be left behind on that. I'm also guessing that their scouts saw Nakata firsthand when he was Stateside as a 15 year old. During his MVP performance at the CABA World Series, I have to imagine that anyone and everyone within a stone's throw of Chicago would have made the trip.

Thanks for the post!!

At 4:20 AM, Blogger Edwin said...

Nakata Sho was a beast. In the games I saw him play at last year's summer Koushien, he looked impressive (not to mention his following). Sure, Osaka Touin lost in the 2nd round to Waseda, but you can't ignore the fact that he hit 50+ HR's last season.

It will yet to be seen if Sho's power can translate after HS, but I agree that he looks to be the next big thing out of high school.


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