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October 20, 2010

No Darvish, but there are other possibilities

The Orioles have seen Yu Darvish, the highly-decorated, 24-year-old Japanese pitcher, throw about 30 times in person over the past three years and they would have at least “kicked the tires” on the Japanese starter if he planned on coming to the major leagues for the 2011 season. However, that has become a moot point as Darvish said earlier this week that he will stay in Japan at least for one more year.

His announcement further weakens an already poor free agent starting pitching market. It, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Orioles won’t be involved with other Japanese players this offseason.

Orioles Director of Player Development, John Stockstill, who has done pretty much all of the organization’s scouting in Japan over the past couple of years, said that there are between “five and eight” Japanese players who would draw at least some interest from the Orioles if they were made available.

Stockstill wouldn’t offer specific names. That is apparently deeply frowned on before it is determined whether the players will be made available by their respective Japanese teams. But one guy that is drawing a lot of attention from several teams, including the Orioles, is shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima.

The Orioles have seen the Seibu Lions’ infielder play several times, including in September when Stockstill went to Japan for about two weeks to scout some players that are on the team’s radar.

“I went over and looked at 10 to 12 players, just to get another look,” Stockstill said. “We’re ready and prepared for virtually every player that might be available.”

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 12:07 AM | | Comments (12)
        

Comments

Jeff,

Didn't the O's sign a young Dominican infielder earlier this year? As I recall, he was supposed to be a cut above our usual Latin signees. If I am correct can you give his name and where he played this year?

Thanks,
Butch


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Jeff Z's reply: Hector Veloz. He's still over in Dominican.

Veloz reportedly received $300,000. Stockstill said the figure wasn’t exact, but “it is in the ballpark.” Veloz is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-handed hitter that the Orioles have been following for two and a half years. He recently visited the club’s Dominican academy, Stockstill said.

This is where the Koji signing comes back into play. Not only did we sign him to help our team, but to lay the foundation for future international (Japanese) talent. If we are able to sign one or two guys before Koji goes on the market, this would increase our chances of bringing him back. Good news!

Jeff,

Is it just me or do most major league teams not actively scout the Korean ballplayers? And I am not referring to Americans of Korean descent. In the WBC, the Korean teams have had no trouble containing the Japanese teams. Also, Korean players do not have the name recognition that Japanese players do, but I believe that may be based on lack of press coverage. Do you have a take on this subject?

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Jeff Z's reply: I'm not really well versed on the topic to be honest with you but it does seem that you don't hear as much about Korean players as you do about Japanese players.

Are the O's looking at the Japanese players as Major League ready players, or are they considered organizational depth?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Obviously depends on the name, but most probably would be viewed as Major League ready players.

Hey Jeff,

I know I have been a bit snippy lately, but this article is odd to say the least.
How sure are we of John Stockstill's "competence"? Why in the world are the Orioles focusing their efforts in Japan? Have we gotten anyone of "True Value” from there? No, we have not. Koji is ok, but not a super-star. So why the Orioles are spending money on scouting player's that probable won't work out is beyond me. And even they did find a player we would never spend the money to get him. Jeff Francoeur and Cody Ross have been very helpful to the Rangers and Giants in their playoff run, especially Ross. More importantly they were players that are local. The Orioles could have had the both of them for free. But no, why would we do that when we picked up Pedro Viola, Rick VandenHurk and other Bologna heads. It’s nothing short of ridiculous that the Orioles don’t even have a plan about off-season training for the whole team. They could take a note from the Ravens on how to get in shape and stay in shape. Why do I have the feeling that the Orioles are just going to spin their wheels again during this off-season and go windmill hunting in far away lands chasing a dream that will never come true.It makes no sense and as long as Andy Mac is in charge none of it will ever!

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Jeff Z's reply: Who said they are focusing their efforts in Japan? They are exploring different avenues of acquiring talent, something they haven't done much of in the past and have heard plenty of criticism because of it.

The O's had their chance last season when they let Aroldis Chapman go for a measly 6 year $30 million contract.

I'm of Korean descent and I've seen both Japanese and Korean teams play. I think it greatly depends on the particular player in question, but at the risk of grossly generalizing it, Korean players tend to have more of a power game, that is, power pitchers and power hitters. Both leagues are strong in team and fundamental play. I think it's only a matter of time until we will see more Korean players appear in the majors. Shin Shoo Choo is the most recognizable name at the moment. Chanho Park on the mound. Though in a way, I don't even think those guys are the best Korean players. They're just the ones who chose to come here. There are some really great ballplayers in Korea.

I would love to see the Orioles captialize on that. So here is my question, Jeff, have the Orioles started to seriously scout Korean players?


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Jeff Z's reply: Not that I've heard.

I've seen Chapman play many times here in Louisville prior to being promoted to Cincy. While he began as a starter in Louisville, he was then demoted to a relief role. Chapman throws hard, but is very wild. Smart hitters simply exercised patience and drew a walk. Does this description remind anyone of a former Oriole who has bounced around the major leagues? I'm not crying over the Orioles not signing Chapman. I'm also not going to be influenced by any long term success he might have at the ML level. Baltimore has had plenty of relievers with good National League track records who have fallen on their faces in the AL.

Man oh man Hiroyuki Nakajima would be a godsend. His numbers from Japan are thrilling. 390+ OBP!
Even if that drops to 350 in MLB we'd have a top 5 offensive SS.
As opposed to the worst hitting position player in the majors, by far.

The Japanese SS Nakajima is supposedly MLB-ready, but is now reportedly not going to be posted.

Nakajima is the perfect investment. Even if the Os have to go three years, because he can move to 2B if (when) Roberts gets hurt. Resign Izturis to a minor league contract and let him and Andino battle to be the backup IF, the other going to Norfolk.

Nakajima fills the years before one of the youngster SS will be ready and fills the #2 hole if he lives up to expectations and is an improvement at #9 if he doesn't.

Why would the O's even be looking at Darvish? He's considered the best pitcher in Japan right now. Look at how much Boston had to pay for Matsuzaka. $60 million was it? Our pockets aren't that deep!

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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