Thursday, June 24, 2010

Following Drafted (and Undrafted) Players

It's been a couple of weeks since the MLB Draft and several players have come to terms and are already assigned to short-season teams. I mentioned that I would follow a few players, and was checking out Toronto's top picks to see if any had played. Turns out that their 4th pick (41st overall) Randall Wojciechowski signed and is already playing for the Auburn Doubledays of the NY Penn League. He made his first start yesterday and threw 4 scoreless innings against Mahoning Valley. Interestingly, he went by his middle name Asher while at school but is now referred to as Randall.

While I was perusing the boxscore, I noticed that Mahoning Valley used a pitcher named Nakamura. This is Takafumi Nakamura, a 22-year-old who played college ball here but wasn't drafted by any of the NPB teams. Cleveland signed him as a free agent late last year and this is his first pro experience. He's a big kid at 6'5 and apparently has a good fastball but is a bit wild. He pitched well against the Doubledays, striking out 5 in over 3.2 innings. It will be interesting to see how he progresses over the next few seasons.

As far as I know, no Japanese player has made his way through a major league organization to the big leagues. Right now there are a few Japanese players trying to be the first; some like Ryohei Tanaka pitching for AA Bowie (Baltimore) have played minor league ball in Japan while others such as Nakamura were never drafted.

I wonder if this might be the start of a trend. With only 12 teams in Japan and no true minor league system, a lot of young talent goes undrafted or underused in the minors. I'm sure there are some guys with the potential to work their way up the ladder of an MLB team. Size is an issue (MLB teams prefer bigger players) and the language barrier could be tough as I doubt that the teams want to employ roving minor league translators, but it is still something worth pursuing on both sides. The players would likely get more game action and a chance at history while the clubs can gain more exposure here and perhaps find a hidden gem. This is something that would progress over several years, so we'll see how things look in 2015.

Going back to the draft, I also talked about Seth Blair from Arizona State. He was bombed in a College World Series appearance as the top-ranked Sun Devils were eliminated with two quick losses. We'll see if he signs with St. Louis in the near future. Delino DeShields Jr. has yet to sign with Houston but as a high pick, this is not unusual and he is expected to come to terms shortly.

I'm not going to update you on these guys on a regular basis as that's not the focus of the blog, but will let you know if anything interesting happens in terms of their minor league assignments.




  1. Does Junichi Tazawa not count? Or Norihiro Nakamura? Or Kazuhito Tadano? Or is there some definition of "worked their way through the minor leagues" that I'm not understanding, besides just playing in the minors before making an appearance in the bigs rather than signing straight into the bigs?

  2. Yeah, I am talking about a young guy that is overlooked here, goes over to the States and plays 3 or 4 years in the minors, starting at A ball, then AA, AAA, and finally the majors. Essentially developed there rather than using natural raw talent is what I was trying to say.

    Tazawa did have the AA experience but he made it to the bigs in the same year. Nakamura was a star here first (and I think never got a fair shake with LA). Tadano has lots of minor league experience and is perhaps one guy that moved up over 2 seasons, but he started in AA and was undrafted for reasons other than his talent.

    So I guess I am thinking about a "traditional" player development model in the US. Still think there are guys here who could fit that model but wonder if the scouting here is weak or the size issue just precludes much attention being paid.