Foreign Player Evaluations & Projections

Since I’m starting drafts, I decided I needed projections for seven of the players signing from Asia, either new to the MLB or returning. I could just pull a ranking out of my ass, but I figured I should at least start with a projection before inserting my own biases. For the following projections, I averaged the ZiPS and Clay Davenport projections and then add my own playing time adjustment.

Pitchers

Pierce Johnson
From the NRB
Signed with the Padres

2020 Projections for Pierce Johnson
Projection IP G GS W K SV ERA WHIP
ZiPS 57.3 60 0 3 64 0 3.77 1.26
Davenport 59.7 54 0 3 76 2 3.32 1.18
Average 60.0 59 0 3 72 1 3.55 1.22
My Playing Time Adjustment 50.0 49 0 3 60 1 3.55 1.22

After struggling in the majors with the Cubs and Giants, Johnson spent one season in Japan with the lowest projected ERA of the pitchers profiled. So what changed? He bumped his velocity up to 95 mph (153 kph) and developed a nasty 84-mph curve as seen over-and-over again for five minutes in this video.

In his last season with the Giants, the curve had just a 10% SwStr%. In Japan, he used the two pitches to post a 14.0 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. He’s not going to start the season as the Padres closer but he could fill in just fine if needed.

Kwang-Hyun Kim
From the KBO
Signed with the Cardinals

Kim has already been profiled twice at FanGraphs so read his evaluations here and here.

2020 Projections for Kwang-Hyun Kim
Projection IP G GS W K SV ERA WHIP
ZiPS 157.3 27 36 11 131 0 3.89 1.26
Davenport 150.7 28 28 11 152 0 4.04 1.34
Average 160.0 29 33 11 147 0 3.97 1.30
My Playing Time Adjustment 100.0 18 21 7 92 0 3.97 1.30

 

The biggest question surrounding Kim is where does he fit into the Cardinals pitching staff with Flaherty, Mikolas, Hudson, Wainwright, and Martinez as other rotation candidates. Injuries and/or suckitude will happen, so Kim will see some time in the rotation but nothing is set.

The projected talent should play with comparable projected pitchers being Jesus Luzardo (3.98 ERA, 1.26 WHIP), Sonny Gray (3.91, 1.30), and Carlos Martinez (3.97, 1.33). These three pitchers have an ADP between 100 and 200 while Kim is at pick 506. If the projections hold, Kim is a bargain at his current price.

Josh Lindblom
From the KBO
Signed with the Brewers

Lindblom has already been profiled twice at FanGraphs so read his evaluations here and here.

2020 Projections for Josh Lindblom
Projection IP G GS W K SV ERA WHIP
ZiPS 142.2 25 24 9 135 0 4.48 1.31
Davenport 160.7 29 29 12 168 0 4.03 1.30
Average 160.0 29 28 11 160 0 4.26 1.30
My Playing Time Adjustment 160.0 29 28 11 160 0 4.26 1.30

He’s a must draft in all formats. His projection is comparable to Luke Weaver (4.25 ERA, 1.28 WHIP), Cole Hamels (4.25, 1.33), and Joe Musgrove (4.25, 1.28) who have ADPs in the 200 to 250 range. Right now Lindblom is going on average at pick 422 since January 1st.

Joely Rodríguez
From the KBO
Signed with the Rangers

Rodriguez has already been profiled at FanGraphs so read his evaluation here.

2020 Projections for Joely Rodríguez
Projection IP G GS W K SV ERA WHIP
ZiPS 54.7 56 0 4 56 0 4.28 1.33
Davenport 69.7 59 0 4 80 0 4.39 1.24
Average 60.0 56 0 4 65 0 4.34 1.29
My Playing Time Adjustment 60.0 56 0 4 65 0 4.34 1.29

 

Rodriguez falls into the same reliever class as Johnson, should be good enough to close but blocked by an incumbent. In Rodriguez’s case, he just needs Jose LeClerc to fail … again.

Shun Yamaguchi
From the KBO
Signed with Blue Jays

Yamaguchi has already been profiled at FanGraphs so read his evaluation here.

2020 Projections for Shun Yamaguchi
Projection IP G GS W K SV ERA WHIP
ZiPS 144.0 25 23 8 152 0 4.69 1.39
Davenport 164.7 26 26 10 153 0 4.42 1.32
Average 160.0 27 25 9 159 0 4.56 1.35
My Playing Time Adjustment 140.0 23 22 8 139 0 4.56 1.35

 

Yamaguchi is fighting for the 5th spot in the Blue Jays rotation.

With Yamaguchi in the mix, there will be a healthy competition for the fifth starter’s spot this spring. Assuming good health, Hyun-Jin Ryu will lead Toronto’s rotation in 2020, while Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and Matt Shoemaker can likely be assured starting jobs as well. That leaves one spot up for grabs.

Along with Yamaguchi, Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton are seen as the front-runners for it, with Jacob Waguespack, T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay and Sean Reid-Foley in the conversation as well — and to a lesser extent, top prospect Nate Pearson, who most likely will begin the year in Triple A to further his development. For the young pitchers, such as Reid-Foley or Borucki, if they do not win the job out of camp, they could be stashed in Triple A as starting depth. For Yamaguchi, it seems far more likely he pitches out of the bullpen or functions as the team’s swingman, should he not earn a spot in the rotation.

His projection is similar to Cal Quantrill (4.56 ERA, 1.35 WHIP), Merrill Kelly (4.47, 1.33), and Jordan Montgomery (4.56, 1.32). The trio are all going after pick 400 with Yamaguchi at pick 620. In a redraft league, I’m interested with using my last pick for him but know I need to move on if he struggles and/or loses his job.

Hitters

Shogo Akiyama
From the NPB
Signed with the Reds

Yamaguchi has already been profiled at FanGraphs so read his evaluation here.

2020 Projections for Shogo Akiyama
Projection PA AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
ZiPS 648 600 79 18 71 10 .273 .331 .433
Davenport 412 372 59 10 45 6 .277 .348 .422
Average 600 549 80 16 66 9 .275 .340 .428
My Playing Time Adjustment 600 549 80 16 66 9 .275 .340 .428

Akiyama is likely to be a good player but his fantasy profile may be lacking since much of value is from getting on base and his defense. Finding comps was a little difficult but possibilities are Gavin Lux (15 HR, 8 SB, .266 AVG), Kevin Pillar (14, 10, .264), and Andrelton Simmons (13, 11, .277). Lux is going around pick 150 while the other two are around pick 350. Akiyama is going with 259 which seems reasonable.

Yoshi Tsutsugo
from NPB
Signed with the Rays

Tsutsugo has already been profiled at FanGraphs so read his evaluations here and here.

2020 Projections for Yoshi Tsutsugo
Projection PA AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
ZiPS 556 498 70 27 81 0 .251 .329 .470
Davenport 312 282 38 14 39 1 .254 .324 .442
Average 600 540 74 28 81 1 .253 .327 .456
My Playing Time Adjustment 350 315 43 16 47 1 .253 .327 .456

I feel Tsutsugo’s fantasy value would be higher on any other team but the Rays. I’m afraid he’ll get mixed-and-matched so his rate stats will be decent but the counting stats won’t be there. Bt just using his triple slash line to find comps, I ended up with Evan Longoria (.253/.310/.440), Dansby Swanson (.252/.325/.416) and Paul DeJong (.252/.322/.465). The trio’s ADP is all over the place based on playing time, which will be the same for Tsutsugo who is going around pick 375.

 

While some beat your favorite author leagues will be starting soon, feel free to go to the NFBC and sign up for their Draft or Online Championships. Also, for those with deeper pocketbooks, the NFBC Main Events are quickly filling up.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Slappytheclown
2 years ago

Not exactly Ohtani’s are they? I feel like the NL starting pitchers and Kim might have some value. I’d be more excited about Tsutsugo if he had a defined position. I am worried that he is going to start with the dreaded UTIL tag and need a good number or starts to get any other eligibility. He should play against RHP always, but against lefties it’ll be Diaz (3b), Martinez (DH) and Renfroe (LF) for sure. if he’s healthy he may see a spot start against certain lefties but 130 games and 450PAs seems like a good outcome. Not enough to roster in shallow leagues, though in AL only or deeper leagues he may have upside.