Each year, the 12 NPB teams carry a total of 60-70 foreign players on their rosters. For a variety of reasons, this group usually turns over by more than half from year to year. Partially because of this turnover, we see a lot of players with interesting backgrounds come through Japan. In this post, I’ll take a look at some of the more interesting pitchers who are new to the Central League this season.
- * Chih-Lung Huang (RHP, Yomiuri Giants) – Hailed by some in the Japanese press as the next Chien-Ming Wang, Huang is a 21 year-old righty out of Taiwan. He grew up a fan of NPB, and last offseason spurned MLB interest to sign an ikusei contract with his favorite team, the Giants. Ikusei is a special roster designation usually used for younger players; the word itself means “training” or “development”. Huang performed well in his farm team appearances this season, and was promoted from his ikusei status all the way to the top roster to make an emergency start last weekend. He was quickly demoted after two appearances, but showed a promising sinking fastball, and it looks like he’s a solid prospect.
- * Casey Fossum (LHP, Hanshin Tigers) – Fossum failed to crack Hanshin’s opening day rotation over concerns with his velocity, but joined the team a couple weeks into the season and has been a serviceable mid-rotation arm. He’s got a 3.88 era in 46.1 innings with 41 K’s and 21 BB’s.
- * Gio Alvarado (RHP, Hiroshima Carp): If I had an NPB All-Joy team, Alvarado would definitely be on it. After kicking around the low minors, Mexico and the Indy Leagues for 10 years, Alvarado earned an NPB contract with back-to-back strong seasons in Salt Lake City and Albaquerque, two of the tougher pitching environments in AAA. He opened the season in the number two spot in the Carp’s rotation, but was quickly demoted after allowing 12 earned runs in his first 16 innings pitched. Alvarado is back with the top team, and took his first NPB win on June 12.
- * Dioni Soriano (LHP, Hiroshima Carp): Another All-Joy type, Soriano took the path less traveled to Japan: he played at the Carp Academy in his native Dominican Republic, moved on to China, and then spent a few years in Japan’s Independent Leagues before signing an ikusei contract with the Carp last season. Soriano reached the top level in May. Though he’s only made three appearances so far, Soriano shows solid velocity and could become a much-needed lefty option for the Carp. Fun facts: the Cubs have two other products of the Carp’s Dominican Academy: Esmailin Caridad, who was also an ikusei player; and a slightly more famous Soriano.
- * Chris Bootcheck (RHP, Yokohama BayStars): Bootcheck fits the good velocity, poor command reliever mold that some NPB teams have been able to work with. So far, the velocity has been there, and he’s throwing strikes, as evinced by his 11:0 K:BB ratio, and the fact that he’s given up 17 hits and three home runs in 9.1 innings of work. Most of that hit total comes from two bad outings, so hopefully he’ll get a chance to sort things out.
In an upcoming post I’ll take a look at a few interesting guys in the Pacific League.