Every off-season in recent years there has been an extraordinary amount of hype surrounding foreign players, and this year was no different. Junichi Tazawa and Dayan Viciedo was on everyone’s mind this winter, but have seemed to become nonexistent since. Surprise, surprise, that must mean one of two things. The first being they haven’t produced, the second is that those who were talking about them have ceased because they realize that there is nothing to hype, I mean talk, about anymore. Nevertheless, I am here to report the reality of the situation.

Junichi Tazawa – SP – Boston Red Sox – 5-11 – 180 lbs – DOB 6/6/1986 – Throws Right
Japan has produced valuable major leaguers recently, but none have truly lived up to their hype, save Ichiro. Hideki Matsui’s Japanese homers are American doubles, Hiroki Kuroda is a great second or third starting pitcher, and Kaz Matsui is, well, a serviceable major league player (minus the anal fissures). Daisuke Matsuzaka has been a bit less than advertised, but then again he was deemed God’s gift to baseball. Look at this quick list of players and tell me who stands out on credentials not name recognition (all players are in the majors or minors):

Kosuke Fukudome
Kei Igawa
Akinori Iwamura
Kenji Johjima
Masahide Kobayashi
Hideki Okajima
Kenshin Kawakami
Takashi Saito
Ken Takahashi
So Taguchi
Tomokazu Ohka
Koji Uehara
Keiichi Yabu
Yasuhiko Yabuta

Two standouts – Saito and Okajima. Okajima is a dominate 8th inning pitcher and Saito was a top closer when he wasn’t hurt. Nevertheless, some have not lived near their hype (Fukudome), others haven’t had the time (Kawakami, Uehara) and others are what they are (Iwamura, Kobayashi, Igawa, Ohka).

So, why digress this much? Well, all of these players came to America and the MLB through the traditional path – that is they played professionally in Japan and then came to America (and to prove a point that not all foreign Japanese players come to America and are successful). Junichi actually came over before playing at the highest level of professional ball in Japan. After his dominating 2008 season (113 IP, 13 W, 114 k, 15 BB) he asked all 12 major teams that participate in the amateur draft in Japan not to draft him so he could seek a contract with a MLB team. The Japanese teams honored his request, and this past winter Mr. Tazawa signed a 3-year, $3.3 million contract ($1.8 million was a signing bonus). Junichi was offered better deals but wanted a chance to play for his childhood idol/hero – Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Well, his dream will have to wait until he proves himself in AA, and rises the ranks like all other prospects. But does he have a chance? He has a average fastball that ranges from 89-92 mph with good movement. If he overthrows it, it flattens out. He will have to learn to use what he has and not overthrow the pitch or he will become extremely homer prone; which he is not – for the record in 71 2/3 innings at AA this year his HR/9 is .88, or just 7 home runs! His slider is what has drawn so much attention. This offering is in the upper 70s, breaks hard and is his out pitch. He also throws the stereotypical Japanese pitch, the forkball. It isn’t much, but it’s there. Lately, he has started to develop a curveball, but it’s really more a work-in-progress than anything else; though it does have a nice arch and break – like a Barry Zito curve. Random tidbit: some have compared him to Hiroki Kuroda.

Some scouts have been scared off by his arm whipping pitching motion, and anytime arm whip and pitcher are associated or mentioned in the same sentence, even average baseball fans wince. His lower body is ahead of his arm, and his arm comes around with a ton of force and recoil. This is the whip action that scouts are fearing. Nevertheless, I couldn’t find any negative medical reports.

What has this produced? Actually, surprisingly, he has pitched better than I would have expected:

71 2/3 IP, 7 W, 4 L, 21 BB (2.64 BB/9), 66 K (8.29 K/9), 3.14 ERA (3.63 FIP), 1.16 WHIP .234 ave (.288 BABIP)

Those are relatively impressive numbers in AA. Not quite the numbers that he posted in lower level baseball in Japan, but still enough to warrant a promotion to AAA. There hasn’t been a lot of luck in those numbers as demonstrated by the BABIP, and his FIP is only half a run higher than his ERA. Since he is in Boston’s farm and they are loaded with pitching, AAA is probably the highest he’ll go this year, unless the Red Sox are decimated by pitching injuries. So hold tight, but in minor league keeper leagues and long term dynasty leagues he should have been on your radar, and now he should be on your team! Say hello to the Junichi Tazawa in 2010!

Dayan Viciedo – 3B – Chicago White Sox – 5-11 – 240 lbs – DOB 3/10/1989 – Bats Right

There hasn’t been as many Cuban players that have played in the majors due to political reason (Fidel Castro v. America), but that hasn’t stopped stars/ Hall of Fame players such as Tony Oliva, Tony Perez, and Luis Tiant from succeeding in the MLB. Other Cubans in the majors include: half brothers Livan and Orlando “el Duque” Hernandez, Alexei Ramirez, Jose Contreras, Yunel Escobar, and Kendry Morales (Rafael Palmeiro is Cuban but isn’t playing anymore). These secondary names are not Hall of Famers, but have put up numbers that have allowed them to play at a high level (even if it was only for a short time *cough* Alexei *cough*). However, Viciedo is deemed the greatest Cuban player of all time! That is saying a lot as there are several players that never played in the MLB due to political reasons that were stellar in their own rights (Cuban baseball has an extremely rich history rivaling American baseball history). Talk about hyperbole and media hype! If this is the case, history will prove itself, but let the numbers play out before that title is given to a 20-year-old.

Viciedo, Cuban “masher” was signed this off season by the Cuban hoarding White Sox for a tidy sum of $10 million over 4 years ($4 million was a signing bonus). With the Cuban Missile (Alexei Ramirez) and the aging Jose Contreras already on their team, the common belief is that this should help assimilate Viciedo into American culture… Well that would only work if he was in the majors. Instead, he is sitting in AA and hitting like he deserves to be there:

.276/.296/.362 (ave/obp/slg) 31/4/37/5 (R/HR/RBI/SB) in 243 AB (62 games)

3.2 BB%, 19.8 K%, .086 ISO, .330 BABIP

Those are not numbers that would lead someone to believe that he played on the Cuban national team at age 16 when he hit 14 homers and for a .337 average (which is true). Not only is his hitting, well, to be nice, awful, it’s overshadowed by his terrible fielding (15 errors in 52 games)! That’s one every 4[ish] games. Good thing that the White Sox have the DH and can plug his bat in there. Seriously though, that might not happen if he cannot start hitting. Most 20 year old players are in high A ball, and nearing AA. I am not sure if the hype is warranted, or the much less the $10 million price tag (average minor league salaries). At least he doesn’t strikeout like Mark Reynolds, but he walks less than Delmon Young and hits for power like a pitcher… and he can’t even blame luck!

Enough bashing, and on to an honest numerical evaluation. Right now, with the numbers I have (its a small sample size), it might be best to return to Dayan Viciedo latter in the year when he has more at-bats. However, I am evaluating him right now, and I would classify him as a hype star that is losing its shine. Dayan’s ISO is disturbing and his walk rate leaves a ton to be desired. Hopefully its just a little culture shock and he will have a great second half, but only time will tell. Don’t look to see him in the near future. A spring training invite is necessary because he is on the 40 man roster. So, maybe the 2010 spring training hype will become all encompassing again, but might actually start to produce.

*All stats are as of 6/14/2009

  1. I’m still annoyed Hideki Matsui didn’t win rookie of the year.

  2. Swass says:

    To Everyone : Is A-Rod, Holliday, and Alexei Ramirez for M-Cab, Markakis, and Tulowitzki vetoable?

  3. nmdunkel says:

    Ah man…I’m such a sucker for pitcher mechanics and pitch breakdowns. Sweetness.

    …..and I can hear Buchholz crying already about Tazawa getting called up before him. Sensitive kid, ya know.

  4. JR says:

    Diggin’ deep. Nice work!

  5. nmdunkel says:

    Oh, Dayan Viciedo must be Sandoval-lite. (by a few pounds, anyway)

  6. ThePoonTycoon says:

    @Swass: no. if someone thinks aroid is fine, then it’s pretty fair. either way, you figure aroid’s avg with rise (he’s not gonna bat sub-.250). holliday and markakis are fairly even, especially when holliday goes to a better team. ramirez and tulo could go either way, they are both showing signs of life after slow starts. i’d want the cabrera/markakis/tulo side, but it’s not a slam dunk and could swing on personal preference. definitely not vetoable.

  7. Hardcore Midget says:

    @Swass: Not at all. That’s a solid trade on both ends, although I like the A-rod side a little bit more…

  8. ThePoonTycoon says:

    2 simultaneous posts, each guy prefers a different side…i think htere’s your answer.

  9. Critter Nagurski says:

    Uehara’s division is unfortunate, but I looked the other day and he has (among starters) the highest number of strikes per pitch. I picked him up to help with my whip. We’ll see how it goes…

  10. nmdunkel says:

    @ Steve:

    Hey man, if you’re considering requests….that Dellin Betances guy’s blowing kids outta the water in A-Ad. Can’t find much out there…

  11. Teef says:

    Roy Halladay to the DL tomorrow – not sure if this was posted already

  12. airlifting says:

    kaz sasaki, while here, was one hell of a pitcher. definitely better than any of the relievers listed.

  13. Nick0rz says:

    Downs heading to the DL tomorrow as well with a “sprained left big toe”

  14. Stephen says:

    @nmdunkel: Yeah, but Sandoval can hit the ball!

    @Swass: I agree with ThePoonTycoon.

    @nmdunkel: I will look him up, and see what I can find.

    @airlifting: I listed players that are still playing in the big leagues.

  15. Stephen says:

    @Nick0rz: Better than “anal fissures” from Mr. Kaz Matsui.

  16. Nick0rz says:

    @Stephen: Quite true… After reading the wiki page on it, I hope I never have to suffer through it…

    Either way, Cito said Frasor is the new closer.

  17. Wizo says:

    @Nickorz: where’d you see that? re:Frasor

  18. Nick0rz says:

    Wieters with his first HR of many thousand…

  19. Stephen says:

    @Nick0rz: How about a couple hundred?

  20. Nick0rz says:

    @Stephen: I’m trying to be optimistic… my team could use a few extra bombs.

  21. Stephen says:

    @Nick0rz: A few? At least you have Sparkakis and Jones!

  22. Stephen says:

    The Pirates should make Francisco Liriano look like his former self!

  23. AL KOHOLIC says:

    rios doubled up on a flyout tonight,didnt even attemp to get back,stopped took of his helmet,looks tired or bored

  24. Nick0rz says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: I’m pretty sure he thought there were two outs. You should of seen his screw up last night, almost cost the Jays the game, except the Madson went KAZAAM the next inning.

    He’s finally hitting a bit though.

  25. Stephen says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: It was a hit and run, I saw it and thought he would try to get back. The announcers just ripped him a new one too for it. I want to think there was something different about the play, but Rios was just flat out LAZY!

  26. Nick0rz says:

    @Stephen: Nah on the replay he took a secondary lead before taking off, and he had his head up most of the time he was running.

  27. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Nick0rz: yeah i seen last nights,he looked like a tee baller,his head clearly wasnt in the game

  28. Stephen says:

    @Nick0rz: Oh, I flipped the channel before that. Either way, its like a defender thinking there was 2 outs and throwing the ball into the stands. As a base-runner, you should know how many outs there are.

  29. Stephen says:

    Some news on Joey Votto from Rotoworld:

    Joey Votto is leaving on Wednesday for a minor league rehab assignment, and if all goes well, he could be back with the Reds before the end of June.
    “It’s kind of like spring training for him,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s got to get his legs under him. His wind back. We want him super ready for the next three months.” Baker is hoping that Votto will be back June 30, but it’s possible that the first baseman will be back in action even sooner.

  30. AL KOHOLIC says:

    dont know what to tell you guys about bruce,hits 1 out the k`s on 1 in the dirt,the reds need votto back bad

  31. Grey

    Grey says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: Micah Ownings should think about taking the Ankiel route.

  32. Stephen says:

    @Grey: Where do you play him in the Field for the Reds? But I agree! Owings might then be worth a roster spot.

  33. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Stephen: If Dusty thinks about this long enough, he’d probably hide him defensively over at 3rd.

  34. SamYo says:

    I started Liriano against the Pirates .. then gives a 2 run homer, at least it was against McCutchen whom I own. ah. I’m not sure if I should cheer or not.

    So I should pick up Frasor and drop Downs right ?

  35. Stephen says:

    @Grey: If he thinks long enough he might start making right decisions.

    @SamYo: Unless you have a DL spot, yes.

  36. SamYo says:

    @Stephen: by the way, thanks for the Tazawa scouting report. I wonder who’ll get to Boston’s starting rotation first, Tazawa or Bowden ?

  37. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Grey: tell you the guy that looks good,phillips,cut his 2 strike swing down a bunch this year ,already has-23 walks 39 all of last year,45 rbi`s-78 last year 360 obp ave up and 10 hr`s to 21 last year,i dont see him stealing any more than 25 bases but 25-25-100 ill take any day

  38. Stephen says:

    @SamYo: I would imagine that Bowden would get there first for a couple of reasons. The first being that he is in AAA, and the second being that he has pitched in the majors already. Tazawa is still in AA, and will need to prove himself at AAA too.

  39. paulzone says:

    considering hill/haren for crawford or beltran or wright.

    which one do you like most or too much for one player?

  40. Stephen says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: What’s more impressive is his K-rate, but also that he has started doing this with little protection. When Dunn and Griffey were traded last year, Phillips, Votto and Bruce all hit worse. That is what impresses me the most.

  41. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Stephen: yeah and votto seems to set the tone for them all,i see bruce improving once votto comes back

  42. Stephen says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: Yup, and Dizzy V needs to start his come back on fire.

  43. AL KOHOLIC says:

    hate to be a hater,but its nice to see grienke come down to earth

  44. Stephen says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: Hate, to be a debbie downer on your hate parade, but defense has been quite a problem for him tonight. But yes, most stellar starts that seem improbable led to regression, whether its a positive or negative regression.

    PS GREY, check out the latest regression article on fanball.com where they are talking about Matt Cain.

  45. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Stephen: yes last year i knew i should have traded both volquez and hamilton but being in the cincy area and a fan i stuck with them threw thier poor 2nd halves

  46. big o says:

    anyone who thought the kid , viciedo , was major league ready probably doesn’t know much about baseball talent .

    darvish , on the other hand , IS major league ready .

    except for ichiro , perez , tiant , and oliva the rest are , as you said , hall of farmers .
    alexei and dice k , included .

  47. AL KOHOLIC says:

    b.j ryan looking bad,2 walks and a hit bases loaded 1 out 7-1 game,werth up

  48. Stephen says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: I traded Volquez about 3 weeks before his eventual downturn and never looked back. Hamilton on the other hand, I would have traded after his Home Run Derby performance. But I had Delmon Young last year because he was on my home town team… Never again will I have fantasy baseball loyalty to my hometown team.

  49. Stephen says:

    @big o: The hype was that he was going to need a little minor league seasoning and become a slugging third baseman. This Darvish you speak of, I cannot find who you are talking about?

    I didn’t even catch that typo. It should have said Famer, though if I reworked that sentence Farmer could work.

  50. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Stephen: i thought you meant farmer,and i got it

  51. Stephen says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: Oh, ok then I wrote that on purpose.

  52. john says:


  53. BigFatHippo says:

    @Stephen: I think big o’s talking about Yu Darvish, Japanese wunderkid.

    @AL KOHOLIC: Been busy/gone for 3 days and both my teams are in the crapper. It’s like if I’m not here to see them they forget what they’re supposed to do. Hit and frickin pitch dammit!

  54. Stephen says:

    @BigFatHippo: I read about him early this spring training, and reading up on him reminded me of that. It seems that he has a lot of national pride and might wait a tad bit longer til he ventures into America to play ball.

  55. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @BigFatHippo: went to california ,my team slipped,had family in all last weekend i sucked,my rcl team lost an unbeleivable 20 points in batting ave in just over 2 weeks,hence my r,hr, and rbi`s fell also,had to go make whoopi tonight(im like alan on 2 1/2 men,had to have a glass of orange juice and more for play at the 30 minute mark,but ,im back,she`s sound asleep and i got my woodford,my cigar and my computer,,ha,ha,ha,life is good

  56. Matt Wieters says:

    What happened to all of the posts devoted to me?

  57. joe says:

    How do you like Rich Harder for the rest of the season? I can get him for Robinson Cano… good deal?

  58. Paulie Allnuts

    Paulie Allnuts says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: Maybe we can kidnap AJP – I live on the edge of the Pine Barrens. It might take him a month to find his way out. By that time, the league may even out a bit.

  59. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Paulie Allnuts: im in,i dont see myself catching him with hammels looking mediocre and peavy probably done,

  60. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Paulie Allnuts: on the bright side ,i made it thru the manny term without dropping out of offensive stats,

  61. Paulie Allnuts

    Paulie Allnuts says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: Unfortunately, you can probably stick a fork through Peavy. No one really expects him to come back in 1 month, and if it takes 3 months, he has to get back in pitching shape, and the Pods certainly don’t have any incentive to get him back into action quickly. In another league, someone offered my Hamels and Gregg for Peavy – now I wish I accepted. And in yet another league, I hit the trifecta today – Bedard, Halladay, and Downs Syndrome on the DL. I already had Volk stationed there. On top of that, I thought I had a steal, trading Danks for Sin-Choo Choo train. So I started the day with 7 starters, and ended it with four, minus 1 reliever.

    You did fine without Manny. Hopefully, he will get his mojo back. I tried to trade for him in every league that I am in – you didn’t take the bite, though. BTW, when is the god of Lud going to start hitting again? If this keeps up, I may offer him to our Commish of Golden Fried Luddwickians.

  62. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Paulie Allnuts: im also a card fan growing up with hippo in the st.louis area,the only good thing about lud not hitting is hippo has him in our keeper league,,,ive looked our rcl teams over and over,really not much we can trade to help each of us,if you see something ,send it to me

  63. Paulie Allnuts

    Paulie Allnuts says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: I don’t really have any players I can afford to trade. Five decent starters, but can’t afford to give any up. Same with RP. And I have a poor offense outside of BA, as Maggs and Lud aren’t hitting, and HanRam is having an ok season, but not what I envisioned when i picked him up #2 in the draft. Haven’t had a decent 2nd baseman all season. What’s interesting is that although Ichiro is has a terrific BA, he never scores any runs. It’s too bad that he wasn’t on a decent offense. Put him on the Bo-sox, Phils or Yankees, and he would have much more value. When I look at things, I feel that I am lucky to be in the middle of the league, considering that I made terrible MI choices, and haven’t had any pop in the OF since the beginning of the season, when Lud got off to a fast start. I figured that you were friends with BFH from the comments you two post.

  64. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Paulie Allnuts: yeah his name came from the last ho he brought home from the bar,sure you heard this before but he once told me ,the last piece of ass he got is when the toilet paper broke,but he`s great at this fantasy baseball shizz,never scared to trade a stud,i am,he makes very bold moves,got him in a football league to,but back to this,i need my sp`s to get real hot,bedard,hamel and danks,plus hanson to grow up fast,got zimm looking real good of late,if so i can make a run,if sp`s mediocre,im dunn

  65. Quintero says:

    @big o:Yu Darvish is an insecure dude, let him stays in Japan which is his comfort zone. Plus ,there are also lots insecure family members of his to hang out with him in Japan…

    Great piece again. Like your perspective, and it’s good to know how others feel about these players.

    I watched Dayan Viciedo play twice for Cuba. My impression is he can do better than his current minor stats. During those games, I saw him adjusted the pitching from at-bats to at-bats, and had gap-to-gap pull power which seems easy with his swing. I wonder if players like Lazo helped him with tips in the dugout…as far as I know, the Cuban players always play the game with passion(er…most of them) and pick each other up in the game.
    I think if he can improve on pitching selection(altho we all know that’s not easy for him), he will be fine(to justify the money).

    Junichi Tazawa is not special because those offerings he has. He is special because, like you said, “he came over before playing at the highest level of professional ball in Japan.” Check out those pitch-count there, you would figure Dusty Baker is secretly having jobs oversees… Indeed a person can’t be two place at the same time and there can be only one Tazawa(and Dusty Baker), but the Project of Tazawa might teach the baseball world something different five-years later, if the Redsox system keeps doing what they are doing the best.

  66. There will always be both success and failure when looking at the Japanese imports. One has to always keep in context that most of these players are into there early 30’s when they do come to MLB and have a lot of mileage on there bodies. Matsui’s knees were shot long before he played that first game with the Yankees and Dice-K routinely piled up huge pitch counts prior to the Sox acquiring his services. I realize that you were looking at current players but when looking to both success/ failure of import players some of the greatest successes haven’t been mentioned. I am surprised you didn’t mention Hideo Nomo the first name player and star to make the move. Only one of 4 to achieve no-hitters in both NL/AL and a dominant pitcher in his day. Kaz Sasaki was probably the dominant closer in the game in the early 2000’s racking up 119 saves over a 3 year period. Aki Otsuka was a solid set-up man and closer until the arm fell off. Tazawa is special because a) he is young and very gifted, and b) he changed the rules of the game. The Red Sox and Craig Shipley should both be commended. Darvish is undoubtedly one of the finest young pitchers in the game today but don’t hold your breath waiting to see him in MLB. He is “God” in Japan and has stated that he wishes to promote the Japanese game in Japan and has no desire at this time to explore North America. There are several players that have expressed an interest in posting but their teams have not followed through and probably won’t for several more years so the immediate future as far as NPB imports is not overwhelming. An interesting piece Stephen and as a long time writer and follower of the Japanese game wish you success in your future ventures into this aspect of the game.

  67. Chase says:

    Stephen have you heard of Randal Grichuk? He was taken 24th by the angels. He’s a powerhouse OF from my neck of the woods. Same age as me

  68. cws05nuts says:

    @ Stephen: Nice work bud. Appreciate the Dayan write-up. Dubbed the Cuban Pimp by Ozzie after showing up to spring training in a tricked out rover.

    240 might be lowballing his weight.

    The current production is troubling but I like your optimism for 2010.

Comments are closed.