Major League Baseball's online arm produced an interesting fluff piece last month as part of their "20 Questions in 20 Days" countdown to spring training: Which Japanese talent will shine in '08? Well, MLB.com, I have no fucking idea and I don't think you do either. Overseas talent has been difficult to cubbyhole, players encounter a significant culture shock, and worst of all, the starting pitchers have severe difficulties adjusting to white folks with HGH.
Writer Tom Singer leads off the article by name-dropping original import Hideo Nomo, who was invited by the Royals to spring trai....wait, seriously? The Royals invited a 39-year-old who hasn't thrown a Major League inning in 3 years to spring training? I'm not sure whose reputation takes a bigger hit here, Nomo's or the Royals'. Let's take a look at Baseball Reference and see which pitcher sits atop Nomo's similarity score list. Whoops: 1. Darryl Kile (953).
Let's focus on one of these imports, right-handed pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta, signed last November with the Royals. Singer writes:
Relief pitchers have most consistently made a sensational Japan-to-MLB transition and Yabuta is another right-hander expected to mirror that success. That expectation appears widespread: Even though he is 34, Baseball America ranks him No. 9 among Royals prospects.A 34-year-old is their ninth best prospect? Oh, how I pity new Royals GM Dayton Moore. That's quite a mess he'll have to clean up. Yabuta was not the only one on the Dayton Shuttle from Osaka to Kansas City: Trey Hillman, who led the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to two consecutive Pacific League titles, is the new Royals manager. Maybe David Glass is starting a Wal-Mart-like big-box sushi joint.
The big box item on display, however, is the new Cub outfielder, Kosuke Fukudome. He's the fella who appears on a Cubs' promotional billboard with the Jose Offerman-esque quote "I don't need an Interpreter, my Bat does the talking." Kosuke was the Central League MVP in 2006, but what about last season?
Incidentally, published statistical references to Fukudome always seem to drop off at 2006, because last season he dipped to 13 homers and 48 RBIs while being limited to 269 at-bats by a right (throwing) elbow injury that required surgery.Uh-oh. What's the Japanese word for "Dr. James Andrews"?