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Foreign NBP Players to Watch For in 2015

I’ve introduced 30 best NPB players who have chances to play in the big leagues in the near or distant future. In this post I’m going to dig deeper into the NPB mine, but this time for non-Japanese players. There are a number of former minor league journeymen, washed up prospects, and diamonds in the rough we’ve yet to know. I believe that some of these guys could be the cores of your dynasty teams.

Randy Messenger, RHP, Hanshin Tigers

The 33-year old right hander last pitched in the majors in 2009, has been a member of the Hanshin Tigers since then. It was lack of whiffs that prevented him from being a productive big leaguer, as he struck out just 5.8 per 9 in 184 career innings at the MLB level (and 6.0 in the minors). In 5 years with Hanshin, Messenger has shown improvement in the area. His K/9 has gone from 5.4 in 2010 to 9.8 in 2014. He’s also cut down a full walk per 9 in the NPB compared to his MLB days, gone from 3.9 to 2.9 BB/9. His current contract expires after 2015, and rumor has it that some MLB teams are looking after him. We may see him in the back end of an MLB rotation this time next year.

Seung-hwan Oh, RHP, Hanshin Tigers

Not only does he share a last name with the best hitter in Asian baseball history, but also he throws a blazing heater that touches 97 MPH. Throughout his career between NPB and KBO, the Korean flamethrower has struck out more hitters than innings pitched and issued a very few free passes. He recorded an out standing 5.21 K/BB (625/120) and a microscopic 1.69 ERA in 510.0 IP with 277 saves in 9 years in Korea before signing with the Tigers and putting up a 6.23 K/BB, 1.76 ERA in 66.2 IP while saving 39 games. Like his current teammate Messenger, Oh’s contract will expire after the 2015 season. The words aren’t clear about his future, but if he chooses to cross the Pacific, he’d be a potential MLB late inning guy.

Wily Mo Pena, DH , Rakuten Golden Eagles

Ernesto Mejia, 1B, Seibu Lions
Mauro Gomez, 1B, Hanshin Tigers

#RightHandedPower has been a trend in the majors the past couple of years. If this trend continues, these guys may get their chances.

We all know about Wily Mo’s ridiculous raw power. He struggled with injuries in 2013, though, in 2012 and 2014, the years he stayed relatively healthy, he mashed 21 and 32 long balls respectively.

Despite joining the Lions in mid-May, Mejia blasted 34 bombs in just 450 PA in order to share the Pacific League’s HR title with his teammate Takeya Nakamura (who also had 34 in just 466 PA), although it came with a poor 45/156 BB/K. The 29-year old Venezuelan had played 10 years in the stateside minors before coming over to Japan, including parts of 3 seasons in the International League with Gwinnett, where he hit .279/.341/.513 with 59 HR in 1198 PA, save for a less-than-ideal 89/306 BB/K.

In first year with Hanshin in 2014, Gomez hit .283/.369/.492 with 26 HR in 616 PA and was a huge part of the Central League pennant winning squad. Like Mejia, he has a problem with his approach at the plate, posed a 67/166 BB/K. He tasted a cup of big league coffee with the Red Sox in 2012, in which he posted a .275/..324/.422 line in 111 PA.

Alfredo Despaigne, OF, Chiba Lotte Marlins  

Finally, a potential significant contributor. The long-time member of the Cuban national team played over the course of final 2 months of the NPB season for the Marines last year, where he slashed .311/.374/.627 with 12 HR in a mere 182 PA. The 28-year old outfielder had posted a career .348 450/.647 line and hit 220 HR in the Serie Nacional de Beisbol before the most recent season. His raw power and bat-to-ball skills are good enough to make him a middle-of-the-order bat at the MLB level. His current contract with the Marines runs through the 2016 season, then he’s likely to head to the majors.

Yulieski Gourriel, IF

Lourdes Gourriel Jr., IF, Yokohama DeNA Baystars

Yulieski, the younger one of the Gourriels is no longer in the NPB, as the BayStars have recently terminated his contract after his absence from the team for a few weeks. Evaluators see him as a middle hitter with a batting average around .290 with 15-20 HR yearly from the hot corner and/or second base.

The Baystars still keep Lourdes on the restricted list, however, like his 9-year older brother, the younger Gourriel is not likely to play in Japan either. At the age of 21, Lourdes is less matured than Yulieski. Even if he signs with an MLB club by the end of 2015, he’d need some development time in the minors, though, some reports say the ceiling is even higher than his brother.

Hector Mendoza, RHP, Yomiuri Giants

We haven’t seen much of the 20-year old righty. The above video is one of his 4 outings with Yomiuri’s ni-gun (second squad) last summer. Even though he barely touches 90 MPH in the footage, the Cuban whippersnapper is said to sit around 93 and hit 97 with his fastball. His numbers in the Cuban league suggest that he has a problem with location, as he’s walked 5.4 and struck out only 6.4 per 9 in his career. He’s a long ways away, still worth keeping an eye on.

The Author

Kazuto Yamazaki

Kazuto Yamazaki

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