WBC Tapei’s Slugging First Baseman, Yi-Chuan Lin

The World Baseball Classic nears like an orange and pink dawn, a dawn that breaks once every three years — so like an Alaskan dawn. But Americans, in general, are not setting their alarm clocks. We and our brother Canadians have not taken to the tournament with the equal fervor of many foreign baseball fans.

I suspect one reason is limited knowledge of the foreign rosters. Outside of the main North American teams — the USA, Canadian, and DR rosters — we struggle to recognize more than a handful of players.

So let’s try to wrest away some passion from these non-American, non-Canadian types and learn a bit more about the other teams! Particularly, let’s examine Taiwan’s three best sluggers. Why Taiwan? Your humble author speaks a little Mandarin. Taiwan speaks a lot of Mandarin. It’s like a match!

In the first article, I examined Ngayaw Ake (or Chih-Sheng Lin in Mandarin or Lin Zhisheng in Mandarin Pinyin). Ake is a 31-year-old standout infielder and has already had a tryout with the Indians, so the WBC is probably his last chance to catch a scout’s eye, and the chance is slim. Still, he’s a power hitter and a fun guy to watch.

Of Taiwan’s other two sluggers, Yi-Chuan Lin and Szu-Chi Chou, let’s delve into the numbers and cultural tidbits of Mr. Lin, who will likely be the starting designated hitter or first baseman when games begin this Saturday.

Yi-Chuan Lin

1B Yi-Chuan Lin (Lin Yiquan)

Yi-Chuan Lin, 27, plays for the Sinon Bulls (now the EDA Rhinos, the team Manny Ramirez will play for this upcoming season) and is known locally as “Xingnong Shen Quan,” the Sinon deity of everything — assuming I’m translating that somewhere close to right.

Lin is coming off a 2012 season where he mashed an impressive 130 wOBA+ and sports a career 123 wOBA+ (that’s hand-calculated wRC+ using MLB linear weights and no park adjustments). He doesn’t strike out much, he puts the ball in play a lot (a .343 career batting average), and he plays a moderately athletic first base.

Here is Lin hitting for the cycle in an absolute drubbing of the Brother Elephants:

And here is Lin rasping a three-run clobberbomb to centerfield not but 10 days ago in an exhibition game against Cuba:

View, if you will, all 13 of his 2012 home runs:

(NOTE: I lost count after like three, but I think all 13 are there. Maybe a few more, even.)

Other highlights:

    • Lin makes a nice catch, falling over the dugout railing, and then leaves the game with an injury.

    • Lin’s pitcher fails to cover first on a groundball, so Lin charges the bag himself and rolls his ankle in a collision with the runner. Do first basemen usually take so much damage in a single season? Other than Nick Johnson (peace be upon him)?

    • Lin is a high-contact hitter (7% BB-rate and 9% K-rate in 2012), so seeing Yi-Chuan Lin strike out is a special rarity. He whiffs here (twice in one plate appearance) against an 80 mph off-speed pitch (breaking ball or change, I’m not sure).

    • Lin led the 2012 CPBL season with 46 doubles. Here we can see him lining a 2-2 pitch into the opposite field for an easy two-bagger.

    • Lin is apparently dating and engaged to Taiwanese model Tai-yu Lin (or Daiyu Lin), who apparently struggles to find garments her size.

    • Lin was also the first position player to be named MVP and Rookie of the Year.

His numbers have been consistently above average, with a particular uptick in the most recent season:

Yi-Chuan Lin’s Numbers*, 2009-2012

Year Name Games PA HR OBP SLG OPS wOBA wOBA+
2009 林 益 全 120 529 18 .395 .543 .912 .388 145
2010 林 益 全 107 438 8 .374 .453 .752 .343 108
2011 林 益 全 101 415 8 .383 .462 .820 .358 107
2012 林 益 全 113 489 13 .419 .573 .990 .411 130

*Not park-adjusted

Lin — like I imagine most ballplayers do — would probably jump at the right chance to play in the MLB or the American minors. However, with a freshly minted contract in January — which pays (I believe) around $200,000 US annually (or over $260,000 if we consider the 1.28 ratio of purchasing power parity between the US and Taiwan) plus around $50,000 (or $64,000 using that PPP ratio) in incentives — and considering his relative fame in Taiwan and unknown-ness in America, he would probably require more than a standard minor league deal.

Specifically, he’s making — at minimum — around $17,000 a month or about $22,000 after PPP adjustments. Considering minor league pay scales, he’d need to start at Triple-A — which is unlikely — or get a sizable, enormous signing bonus — which is more possible, especially if he impresses this WBC, but still tough given the new international free agent budget constraints.

So for now, his objective is simple: Crack some homers, leg out some doubles, don’t look totally, completely lost when Craig Kimbrel strikes you out, help Taiwan win some games, and stay in the WBC spotlight as long as possible.

Up next: OF/DH Szu-Chi Chou.

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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

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brett gardner

Would anyone like to watch me ‘rasping’ the ‘clobberbomb’?