Watchlist Fodder, International Edition

Good day everyone, and welcome to my first post here at Rotosynthesis. Some of you may be familiar with my work at npbtracker.com and hopefully all of you picked up this year’s Rotowire Fantasy Baseball Guide 2010, which I had the honor of contributing an article to. I’ve been contributing player updates for Rotowire subscribers for about a year now, and this season I’ll be taking a spot on Rotosynthesis as well.

So let’s start by taking a look at this year’s foreign player cheatsheet, which Peter Schoenke and I collaborated on. My specialty is Japanese baseball, so I’ll only focus on the players active in Japan.

The overall list looks only at players young and talented enough to be considered legitimate MLB prospects. So Alex Ramirez, despite back-to-back MVP awards in the two seasons, at 35 was left off. I value overall upside higher than proximity to MLB, which is why Masahiro Tanaka, with his superior velocity and youth, outrank defending Sawamura Award (Japan’s Cy Young) winner Hideaki Wakui. So far we’ve seen more pitchers than hitters transition from Japan to MLB, and our rankings reflect that, but there are hitters on the list, such as WBC stars Norichika Aoki and Hiroyuki Nakajima.

The soonest MLB eta list is much harder to assemble, given that we can never really predict when a Cuban player will defect or when an NPB star will get posted. Kyuji Fujikawa and Wei-Yin Chen, two dynamite NPB pitchers, have both made it clear that they want to be posted, but if and when that happens is up to their respective clubs. Impending free agents like Chang-Yong Lim, Tatsuhiko Kinjoh, and Hiroyuki Kobayashi are closer to free agency and have more definite etas, but lower performance upside, and thus don’t rank as highly.

We’ll keep you posted on how these players do these season, so don’t touch that dial.