A brief look at the new players scheduled to play in Japan, come hell, high water, or high coronavirus infection rates.
Aaron Wilkerson, Hanshin Tigers, RHP
1.91 meters, 95 kilograms, Born: May 24, 1989
His contract, of unspecified length, was reported to come with an annual salary of $650,000.
Wilkerson has played in 14 MLB games, all for the Milwaukee Brewers after the Red Sox signed him as a free agent out of independent ball.
He was primarily a starter in 75 career Triple-A games, with his longest stint so far coming last season at the age of 32 with Oklahoma City for the Dodgers when he walked batters nearly half as often as he had in the past while striking out 10 batters per nine innings.
Nik Turley, Hiroshima Carp, LHP
1.93 meters, 104 kilograms, Born: Sept. 11, 1989
His contract, of unspecified length, was reported to come with an annual salary of $650,000 and a $100,000 signing bonus with incentives.
Turley, a 50th-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2008, is one of the three players from that year’s 50th round to make the majors, along with Sean Nolin (Seibu 2021). He has pitched in 35 MLB games, 10 for the Twins in 2017, and 25 for the Pirates in 2020.
He was primarily a starter until last season when pitched 43 games in relief for the White Sox with Triple-A Charlotte, where he posted a career-best 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings for the worst pitching team in its league.
Renato Nunez, Nippon Ham Fighters, 1B-3B
1.85 meters, 99 kilograms, Born: April 4, 1994, Bats right, Throws right.
His one-year contract was reported at 180 million yen ($1.56 million) with additional incentives.
Nunez has played in 307 MLB games, mostly with the Orioles from 2018 to 2020 with a .308 OBP and .452 slugging average over his career. He’ll be a few months older than Brandon Laird was when he moved to Japan with the Fighters in 2015.
Nunez could show decent power in Japan, provided he is able to make contact. He’s struck out 296 times in 1,055 ABs in MLB, and 408 times in 1,539 Triple-A ABs.
Dietrich Enns, Seibu Lions, LHP
1.90 meters, 93 kilograms, Born: May 16, 1991
His one-year contract was reported at 100 million yen ($870,000).
Enns was selected in the 21st round of the 2012 draft by the Phillies and has appeared in 19 MLB games, nine with the Phillies, nine with the Rangers last season, and one with the White Sox in 2021.
Enns has struck out 7.7 per nine IP in 393 career Triple-A innings, but that began to jump when he joined the Rays last season, logging 11.3 in Triple A and 10.1 in his 22-1/3 MLB innings, while cutting down on his walks and home runs.
Drew Anderson, Hiroshima Carp, RHP
1.85 meters, 97 kilograms, Born: March 22, 1994
Anderson’s contract, of undisclosed length, was reported as $700,000 with additional incentives and a $300,000 signing bonus.
He joins two large fraternities of NPB players, those who are either from or played in Reno, Nevada — he’s from there, and those who’ve played at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Phillies organization.
Anderson has started all but a handful of games in his pro career. He had a 3.06 ERA at Triple-A Round Rock, which had a 4.62 team ERA. He started 12 of his 15 games there in 2021 and struck out 11 batters per nine innings, slightly better than the team average.
He’s also pitched in the Australian winter league for the Melbourne Aces.
Ryan McBroom, Hiroshima Carp, 1B-RF
1.90 meters, 99 kilograms, Born: April 9, 1992, Bats right, Throws left.
His one-year contract was reported at $700,000 with a $300,000 signing bonus and additional incentives.
McBroom turned pro with the Blue Jays after being selected in the 15th round of the 2014 draft. He’s played in 66 MLB games with six homers in 164 at-bats, all with the Royals, who had tried to draft him in the 36th round in 2013.
He has some pop and so far hasn’t struck out a ton. He had a .337 OBP and a .523 slugging average in Triple-A Omaha last season in 489 PAs. He hasn’t walked a whole lot in his career, but he has played in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, the kind of experience that helps some players adjust to Japan.
Brian O’Grady, Seibu Lions, OF
1.88 meters, 98 kilograms, Born: May 17, 1992, Bats left, Throws right.
His one-year contract comes with a reported salary of 80 million yen ($695,000).
O’Grady signed with the Reds, who selected him in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He’s played in 114 MLB games, mostly with the Reds in 2019 and the Padres this season.
His offense is broad-based with a fair number of walks, some power, triples, and stolen bases, and has struck out a fair amount. He’s also played winter ball in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
Cody Ponce, Nippon Ham Fighters, RHP
1.98 meters, 116 kilograms, Born: April 25, 1994.
His one-year contract comes with a reported salary of 100 million yen ($863,000) with additional incentives.
Ponce was taken by the Brewers in the second round of the 2015 draft and has pitched eight MLB games, all for the Pirates.
Jose Marmolejos, Rakuten Eagles, 1B-LF
1.88 meters, 108 kilograms, Born: Jan. 2, 1993. Bats: Left, Throws: Left.
No details of his contract have been announced.
Marmolejos turned pro with the Nationals. He’s played in 76 MLB games, all with the Mariners in 2020 and 2021. In three Triple-A seasons, he has batted 1,138 times with a .300 average, a .367 OBP and a .502 slugging average. His 26 homers last year in Tacoma were third in Triple-A West. He was fourth in the league in OBP and second in slugging average.
He demonstrated that he knows the strike zone and doesn’t strike out a whole lot and has played a lot of winter league ball, making him a good candidate to adjust to what he sees in Japan.
Brooks Kriske, DeNA BayStars, RHP
1.90 meters, 86 kilograms, Born: Feb. 3, 1994.
Kriske’s contract comes with a reported annual salary of 80 million yen ($690,000) with additional incentives.
The Yankees selected Kriske in the sixth round of the 2018 June draft. He’s appeared in 16 MLB games, 12 with the Yankees and the last four with the Orioles and has pitched just briefly in Double-AA (48-2/3 innings with 11 saves in 2019), and Triple-A (29-1/3 innings in 2021).
Kriske struck out lots of batters, and was not easy to hit but did issue a lot of walks and uncorked 17 wild pitches in 93 pro innings above A-ball.
John Gant, Nippon Ham Fighters, RHP
1.93 meters, 90 kilograms, Born: Aug. 6. 1992.
Gant’s contract comes with a reported salary of 240 million yen ($2.07 million) with additional incentives.
A 21st-round pick of the Mets in 2011, Gant’s pitched in 173 MLB games, starting 49 of those and saving three. He’s 24-26 with a 3.89 ERA.
Gant started 14 games for the Cardinals in 2021 and seven for the Twins, with a combined 4.58 ERA over 110 innings, in which he struck out 92 and walked 71, while allowing 10 home runs.
Arismendy Alcantara, Nippon Ham Fighters, CF-2B
1.78 meters, 77 kilograms, Born: Oct. 29, 1991. Bats: Both Throws: Right.
Alcantara’s one-year contract comes with a reported salary of 60 million yen ($518,000) with additional incentives.
Once a top prospect out of the Dominican Republic, the defensively versatile switch-hitter has played in 167 MLB games, most recently in 2017 with the Mets. He finished 2021 in Triple-A Sacramento, where he popped 17 homers in 232 ABs but had little opportunity for a call-up as the Giants powered their way to 107 wins.
Kyle Keller, Hanshin Tigers, RHP
1.93 meters, 86 kilograms, Born: April 28, 1993.
Keller’s one-year contract comes with a reported salary of $1.1 million.
An 18th-round selection by the Marlins in 2015, Keller has pitched in 44 MLB games, 32 in 2021 with the Pirates, and has relieved in all but three games since turning pro. He struck out 36 batters in 33-1/3 innings in 2021 while walking 22 and allowing nine homers.
Freddy Galvis, SoftBank Hawks, SS
1.78 meters, 86 kilograms, Born: Nov. 14, 1989. Bats: Both, Throws: Right.
Galvis reportedly signed a two-year contract with no financials reported.
A native of Venezuela, Galvis is a veteran of 10 MLB seasons with a career .292 OBP with a .387 slugging average. He has 109 career home runs in 3,921 ABs.
Adam Walker, Yomiuri Giants, LF-RF
1.96 meters, 104 kilograms, Born: Oct. 18, 1991. Bats: Right, Throws: Right.
His one-year contract was reported at $300,000.
Walker was taken in the third round of the 2012 draft by the Twins, but never got past Triple-A, where he batted .216 over two seasons but hit for some power.
He was the MVP of the independent American Association in 2021 with the Milwaukee Milkmen, hitting 33 home runs, scoring 80 runs, driving in 101, while going 24-for-26 as a base stealer.
Bo Takahashi, Seibu Lions, RHP
Rodrigo Hitoshi Kaimoti “Bo” Takahashi. 1.83 meters, 93 kilograms. Born: Jan. 27, 1997.
Takahashi, who’s from Brazil, signed for one year with a reported salary of 20 million yen ($173,000).
He turned pro with the Diamondbacks, but split his 2021 season between the Reds’ Triple-A team, Louisville, and KBO’s Kia Tigers. In Louisville, he struck out 89 batters in 89 innings over 18 games, 17 of which he started. He walked 32 and allowed 14 home runs.
Matt Andriese, Yomiuri Giants, RHP
1.88 meters, 97 kilograms, Born: Aug. 28, 1989.
Taken in the 37th round of the 2008 draft by the Rangers, the same round that saw the Royals pick former Hiroshima Carp pitcher Bradin Hagens, Andriese has pitched in 217 MLB games, with only one of his 50 career starts coming in the past three seasons.
Andriese’s contract is reported as a one-year deal worth $2 million.
He’s 28-37 with eight saves and a 4.63 ERA in 509 career MLB innings. Andriese strikes out a reasonable number of hitters, 8.4 per nine innings over his career, but doesn’t walk many, so that’s a big plus for the Giants, who have told new imports in the past that walks are not permitted.
Andriese is one of two MLB players to have come out of East Redlands High School in California. The other is first-year SoftBank Hawks import Tyler Chatwood, who was likely a high school teammate since they were both born in 1989 and selected in the 2008 MLB draft.
Jacob Waguespack, Orix Buffaloes, RHP
1.98 meters, 106 kilograms, Born: Nov. 5, 1993.
Taken in the 37th round of the 2012 draft by the Pirates, Waguespack pitched in 27 MLB games for the Blue Jays in 2020 and 2021 with a total of 13 starts and a 5.08 ERA over 95-2/3 innings, in which he struck out 79 and walked 38.
Waguespack’s one-year deal is for a reported 70 million yen ($605,000) with additional incentives.
With Triple-A Buffalo in 2021, he went 7-2 with 74 strikeouts, 21 walks and three home runs allowed in his 69-1/3 innings.
Breyvic Valera, Orix Buffaloes, 2B
1.80 meters, 86 kilograms, Born: Jan. 8, 1992. Bats: Both, Throws: Right.
Valera’s one-year deal is reportedly worth 100 million yen ($865,000) with additional incentives.
A native of Venezuela, Valera turned pro with the Cardinals as an 18-year-old, and has played 93 MLB games, mostly with the Blue Jays since 2019. In 235 MLB PAs, he has hit .236 with a .302 OBP.
He’s a career .303 hitter in 1,511 Triple-A at-bats, in which he’s drawn 180 walks, while striking out 153 times, so there’s an appeal there for Japanese teams. Valera spent more time in the majors at second base, but also played a considerable amount at third base, while also playing left, right and short in Triple-A last season.
Jesse Biddle, Orix Buffaloes, LHP
1.96 meters, 99 kilograms, Born: Oct. 22, 1991.
Taken in the first round of the 2010 draft (27th overall) by the Phillies, Biddle has thrown 103 MLB innings over 99 games with a 5.07 ERA, six wins, two losses and a save.
His one-year deal with Orix is reportedly worth 75 million yen ($649,000). He spent most of 2021 with the Brave’s Triple-A team, Gwinnet, where he appeared in 32 games with a 1.307 WHIP, while striking out 55 batters in 33-2/3 innings.
Tayron Guerrero, Lotte Marines, RHP
2.03 meters, 112 kilograms, Born: Jan. 9, 1991.
A Colombian native, Guerrero turned pro with the Padres, and has pitched in 113 MLB games, all but one with the Marlins and all in relief. He is 2-5 with a 5.77 ERA over 106 career MLB innings with 111 strikeouts, 67 walks and 15 home runs allowed.
Guerrero pitched briefly in Triple-A in 2021 for the White Sox. Details of his Lotte contract have yet to be reported.
Jantzen Witte, Seibu Lions, IF
1.88 meters, 89 kilograms, Born: Jan. 4, 1990. Bats: Right, Throws: Right.
Taken in the 24th round of the 2013 draft by the Red Sox, with whom he’s gotten as high as Triple-A. His one-year deal with Seibu is reportedly worth 40 million yen ($346,000).
In 2021, his first in the States outside the Red Sox organization, he batted .299 with a .364 OBP and a .491 slugging average for Triple-A Tacoma, for whom he also pitched seven times. He doesn’t have a great deal of power or steal bases and hasn’t caught, played center field or right, but has done just about everything else.
He reportedly will be registered under his first name.
Gregory Polanco, Yomiuri Giants, RF
1.96 meters, 108 kilograms, Born: Sep. 14, 1991. Bats: Left, Throws: Left.
Polanco’s deal with Yomiuri, of unspecified length, is reportedly worth 250 million yen ($2.16 million).
A native of the Dominican Republic, Polanco, whose nickname is one after my heart “El Coffee,” has spent his entire pro career with the Pirates since making his pro debut as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League.
In 3,213 MLB plate appearances, he has 96 home runs, with a .241 average, a .309 on-base percentage, and a .409 slugging average. His strikeouts, have been steadily on the rise with 218 over his last 800 or so PAs. He is, however, an efficient base stealer, 98-for-125 in his career and 14-for-15 last season.
Tyler Chatwood, SoftBank Hawks, RHP
1.80 meters, 90 kilograms, Born: Dec. 16, 1989.
Chatwood, whose one-year contract is reportedly worth 350 million yen ($3.03 million).
Selected in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Angels, Chatwood has 10 MLB seasons under his belt, mostly with the Rockies. He pitched 32 games last season, mostly for the Blue Jays. He’s started 143 MLB games but appeared only in relief in 2021 with a 5.63 ERA in 32 innings.
In his MLB career, Chatwood is 52-60 with five saves and a 4.45 ERA, a figure that is no inflated by his time with Colorado, where his ERA from 2-12 to 2017 was 4.18.
Although his career figure for strikeouts per nine innings is 6.8, he’s been over 10 for the past two seasons. He doesn’t give up home runs, but has walked lots of guys in the past, leading the National League with 95 in 2018 with the Cubs.
Chris Gittens, Rakuten Eagles, 1B
1.93 meters, 113 kilograms, Born: Feb. 4, 1994. Bats: Right, Throws: Right.
Gittens’ deal with Rakuten is reportedly worth $900,000.
Selected in the 12th round of the 2014 draft by the Yankees, Gittens made his MLB debut in 2021, with 36 at-bats for New York. The biggest chunk of his pro career to date has been in Double-A. where he had a career-high 478 plate appearances for Trenton in 2019 with a .281 average, 71 walks and 23 home runs.
Andrew Suarez, Yakult Swallows, LHP
1.85 meters, 88 kilograms, Born: Sep. 11, 1992.
Suarez’s one-year contract is worth a reported $800,000 with additional incentives.
Signed by the Giants after they selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft, Suarez has started 31 of his 56 MLB games, all for the Giants. He is 7-15 with a 4.66 ERA while striking out 160 batters in 202-2/3 career innings, in which he allowed 31 home runs and walked 65.
He went 10-2 in 2021 for KBO’s LG Twins with a 2.18 ERA over 115-1/3 innings, striking out 126 and walking 41.
A.J. Cole, Yakult Swallows, RHP
1.93 meters, 105 kilograms, Born: Jan. 5, 1992.
Cole’s one-year deal is worth a reported $800,000 with additional incentives.
Selected in the 4th round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Nationals, Cole has pitched in 109 MLB games, with a 14-10 record and a 4.51 ERA in 205-1/3 innings, mostly in relief since 2018.
During that time, he struck out 208 batters, walked 82 and allowed 39 home runs.
Cole missed much of the 2021 season, with the Blue Jays, due to neck tightness and an oblique strain.