Tag Archives: Carter Stewart


Saturday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Sugano outduels Ono with 1-hitter

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano struck out 11, while allowing one hit in a 5-0 shutout of the Chunichi Dragons on Friday at Tokyo Dome.

Sugano (2-0) walked two and hit a batter, while Ono (0-2) allowed two runs, one earned, while striking out 10 over seven innings. Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto broke up the scoreless game in the sixth inning with a solo homer.

Dayan Viciedo, who broke up Sugano’s no-hit bid with a seventh-inning double, ended the game by grounding out to second.

Ariel Martinez, a 24-year-old Cuban catcher who was activated on Friday after a hot streak in the Western League, struck out in the eighth as a pinch-hitter in his first-team debut.

Balentien makes Arihara pay

Wladimir Balentien broke a 1-1 tie at Sapporo Dome with a two-run home run, his third in two games, off Kohei Arihara (0-3) in the SoftBank Hawks’4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Coming to the plate after Yuki Yanagita singled in the tying run, Balentien extended his arms on a lazy first-pitch slider and drove it well past the wall in center for his fifth home run of the season.

In the eighth, Balentien didn’t reach the seats, but he did double off the dome’s ceiling. The ball that was headed out was deflected downward and bounced in front of and over left fielder Kensuke Kondo.

Cuba’s Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save.

Imamiya reaches sacrificial milestone

Although Hawks shortstop Kenta Imamiya has developed medium-range power, he’s still a shortstop and still expected to sacrifice like he did when he needed to cement his role on the team by bunting all the time.

On Friday, his sixth-inning sacrifice put a runner in scoring position, from where Yanagita singled him home. The 300th career sacrifice hit ties him for sixth all-time with former Nankai Hawks and Kintetsu Buffaloes star Hiromasa Arai.

Norimoto survives scrape for 3rd win

Takahiro Norimoto (3-0) got his pitching hand in the way of a fourth-inning batted ball but returned to the field after treatment and gutted it out for 6-2/3 innings to earn the victory in the Rakuten Eagles’ 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines.

The Marines tied it in the fourth on a passed ball, but home runs from Ryosuke Tatsumi and Hiroaki Shimauchi off Marines right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa (0-1) made the difference at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

With two outs and the tying runs on in the seventh JT Chargois retired Lotte leadoff man Takashi Ogino to preserve the lead, and Alan Busenitz struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth. Kohei Morihara worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

Lions salvage tie with Buffaloes

Takeya Nakamura homered and had a solid defensive game at third base as the Seibu Lions overcame a three-run, sixth-inning deficit at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo in their game against the Orix Buffaloes that was called a 4-4 tie after 10 innings.

Adam Jones tied the game 1-1 in the sixth with an RBI single and scored on Takahiro Okada’s monstrous home run off Lions starter Zach Neal. But Nakamura homered to open the sixth against former closer Hirotoshi Masui, and Sosuke Genda completed the comeback with a two-run single.

By taking Neal off the hook for the loss, the Lions preserved his chance to win 13 straight decisions.

Tyler Higgins and Brandon Dickson each worked scoreless innings in relief for the Buffaloes, with Dickson pitching out of a one-out bases-loaded jam by striking out Nakamura and getting Wu Nien-ting to fly to the warning track.

For the second-straight night new Lion Reed Garret pitched out of trouble after allowing two hits. He had some help from catcher Tomoya Mori, who cut down a would-be base stealer with a tremendous throw.

Dragons call up catcher Martinez

The Central League’s Chunichi Dragons activated Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez on Friday according to the Chunichi Sports. The team signed the 24-year-old on Wednesday after acquiring him in 2018 as a non-roster developmental player.

The move was made because 31-year-old left fielder Zolio Almonte was deactivated due to concerns about his fitness. In his two-plus seasons in Japan, Almonte has a .369 on-base percentage and a .484 slugging average despite playing at one of Japan’s toughest home run parks.

Martinez, who cracked his second Western League home run on Thursday, has four from 11 minor league and practice games this year. He becomes the first imported player registered as a catcher since Australian Dave Nillson, who caught in one game in 2000 for the Dragons.

In three WL games, Martinez is 5-for-9 with a double, two home runs and two walks. He has yet to strike out.

Martinez caught on June 24, when he accounted for the only run off Carter Stewart Jr, with a solo home run and again on Thursday, when he homered in an 8-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Nagoya Stadium.

Carp drop reliever Scott

The Hiroshima Carp deactivated right-handed first-year import Taylor Scott on Friday, the day after he surrendered four runs in a 9-5 walk-off loss to the Yakult Swallows.

Scott (0-2) has faced 22 hitters, while allowing 10 hits and three walks. He’s allowed one home run, Thursday’s game-winning grand slam off the bat of Munetaka Murakami.

Stewart gets 1st chance against front-line hitters on Friday

SoftBank Hawks right-hander Carter Stewart Jr, who last year became the first marquee American amateur to turn pro with a Japanese team, is scheduled to pitch in Friday’s practice against the Pacific League rival Lotte Marines.

Last season, Stewart was limited to third-team action against amateur and independent minor league opposition. This spring he has pitched for the Hawks’ Western League farm squad in preseason action.

Nippon Professional Baseball was set to open on March 20, but has now been pushed back until April 10 at the earliest because of the new coronavirus outbreak, while all preseason games since Feb. 29 have been played behind closed doors.

For viewers in the US, PL TV is airing practice games and this one is on the schedule for Friday, March 20. HERE’S THE LINK.

Although the preseason exhibition season is now over, teams will begin playing “practice” games from Friday.

Stewart, the eighth overall pick in MLB’s 2018 June draft, said he is slated to throw between 90 and 100 pitches against the Marines.

“I’m going to go out there like I did last week. Obviously, they can hit a little bit better, so maybe they’re going to put me in a little bit tougher situations, but obviously, you’ve still got to perform,” he told reporters in Fukuoka.

Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo, a former pitcher himself, said he was keen to see what Stewart could do now.

“He’s gotten to the point where I want to give him a taste of first-team experience,” Kudo said. “I want to see what kind of pitching he can manage at this stage of his development.”

Camping World: Feb. 20, 2020 – Tigers imports show their stuff

Thursday was a big day in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, for the Hanshin Tigers’ crowded field of imported players.

On the mound, reliever Jon Edwards made quick work of the three Rakuten Eagles batters he faced in a practice game. According to the Nikkan Sports, Edwards needed just 2 minutes, 30 seconds and eight pitches to get through the inning. His fastball, which touched 93.2 mph and has “natural cut,” produced three ground balls in quick succession against a trio of left-handed hitters.

Venezuelan Robert Suarez, who moved from the Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks over the winter, also delivered a perfect inning in his bid to replace Pierce Johnson as Hanshin’s new setup man.

On the offensive side, newcomer Jerry Sands, who arrives this spring from KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes, had his first hit in live game action when he went the other way with an outside slider while behind in the count.

In addition to Sands, the Tigers have holdover Jefry Marte and have added Justin Bour. Two other pitchers are also looking to squeeze in under the four-import limit, third-year lefty Onelki Garcia and new import Joe Gunkel.

Stewart, Sunagawa impress against big boys

After spending his entire first season in Japan playing against amateurs for the SoftBank Hawks’ third team, Carter Stewart Jr faced first-team hitters on Thursday, the final day of spring camp according to Fullcount.

He was joined by Okinawa-born developmental contract player Richard Sunagawa (Richard Makoto Sunagawa O’Brien), who had two hits and a home run.

Stewart, the eighth selection in MLB’s 2018 draft, worked two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and touched 153 kph (95 mph).

“His pitches had something on them,” said Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo, whose 224 career wins rank 13th in the history of Japanese pro ball. “He used his breaking pitches and his mechanics looked good. His slide step has improved, and looks like a good one.”

Head coach Hiroyuki Mori said, “He’s better than I expected. He may have a chance to pitch on the first team this year. We have a lot of injuries, so he could be like that beam of light that breaks through.”

Scott Boras’ underground railroad

A year ago, Scott Boras told jballallen.com that moving an American or Canadian amateur overseas would not allow him to return as an international free agent — that the only way to enter MLB was through the June draft.

Here’s that soundbite.

Boras on amateurs in NPB

On Tuesday, he reported on Carter Stewart’s first season with the SoftBank Hawks. Stewart signed a six-year deal in June that will allow him to enter MLB as an international free agent after he turns 25.

Asked what had changed since our chat last year, Boras denied telling a lie but rather said he was just not revealing his hand.

“I wasn’t throwing you off the track. I just wasn’t showing you all the tracks.”

NPB news of Oct. 27, 2019

My prospective MLB player page “Guess who’s coming to dinner” has been updated HERE.

Eagles’ Mima to test free agency

Rakuten Eagles right-hander Manabu Mima, who posted a 4.01 ERA in 143-2/3 innings this year and has a career 51-60 record, said Sunday he would file for domestic free agency. He’s one of the few Japanese pitchers to regularly feature a two-seam fastball, and throws his slider nearly as often as his 143.6 kph four-seamer.

Nomura to stick with Carp

Saying that he “loves the Hiroshima Carp,” right-hander Yusuke Nomura said this week that he would not file for domestic free agency in order to remain in Hiroshima.

The 30-year-old, a 16-game winner when the Carp ended their 24-year championship drought in 2016, has struggled the last two season, not reaching 120 innings or having an ERA below 4.00.

Stewart heads home

Carter Stewart Jr returned to the United States on Sunday after completing his first season of pro ball in Japan competing for the SoftBank Hawks’ third team. The third-team is typically composed of players on developmental contracts and does not compete in a league, but rather plays amateur and independent minor league teams.

Nikkan Sports reported on his departure. According to their report, Stewart won four games with a 4.36 ERA, and said he hopes to impress in spring training so that he can compete for the Hawks’ top farm team in the Western League and make his Pacific League debut with the big club.

The 19-year-old right-hander who declined to sign with the Atlanta Braves in 2018 as the eighth player taken in MLB’s June amateur draft that year, will be eligible to enter MLB as an international free agent after turning 25 with six seasons of pro baseball under his belt.

Nikkan sports, translating his English into Japanese, reported that he said he had gotten used to Japanese ball. He pitched in two instructional league games prior to his departure and was handed an offseason training menu before his departure.

Stewart is a client of Scott Boras, who in December told me a player such as his client would be unable to qualify for international free agency and would have to re-enter MLB’s draft. So either Boras was lying to throw me off the scent, or didn’t know. If so, he was not alone, as two other agents also told me that week that U.S. and Canadian citizens could not circumvent the draft by playing abroad.

Don’t believe me, believe Scott:

Scott Boras in December 2018 on the possibility of circumventing MLB draft

NPB games, news of July 10, 2019

The horror. The horror.

Kris Johnson throws seven scoreless innings and drives in the tie-breaking run, and still the Carp can’t win. They have now lost 11 of their last 12, with one tie mixed in there. That 11-game losing streak is the franchise’s longest since 1999.

The Carp of darkness

Just when it seemed like it was safe for the Carp to go back in the water, reliable Kyle Regnault relieved Kris Johnson with a one-run lead in the eighth and simply couldn’t get the third out.

After walking six batters in his first four innings in Japan, Regnault (4-1), had walked 16 over his next 37-1/3 innings. After giving up two singles to open the inning, the Dragons gifted him an out with a sacrifice. An intentional walk to Dayan Viciedo loaded the bases and allowed for a force out at home on the next play.

Then the wheels came off. Atsushi Fujii battled drew a walk on a 3-2 count, but Yota Kyoda didn’t swing at any of Regnault’s four pitches and that was the ballgame.

Enny Romero had been on the hook for the loss after allowing one run on three hits and no walks over seven innings. With the lead in hand Raidel Martinez avoided giving up the tying run in the top of the ninth thanks to a nifty fielding play at first base by Dayan Viciedo that ended the game.

Giants 4, Tigers 1

Hanshin’s Randy Messenger (3-7) lasted a season-low two innings, while allowing four runs and four Yomiuri relievers saved the day after starter Nobutaka Imamura (3-1) ran into trouble in the sixth at Koshien Stadium.

The game’s highlights are HERE.

Swallows 7, BayStars 2

Rookie Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi allowed two runs over six innings, and relievers Kazuki Kondo (3-1), David Huff and Scott McGough helped the hosts cruise at Jingu Stadium against DeNA.

Lions 7, Hawks 3

Tsuyoshi Wada (2-2) game crumbled in the fifth inning on solo homers from the bottom of the Seibu order. The lefty issued a two-out walk and surrendered a single before leaving the mound with stiffness in his leg.

His relief, right-hander Masayoshi Tanaka, surrendered a two-run triple to Shuta Tonosaki, and the Lions iced the game in the seventh inning on back-to-back home runs from Hotaka Yamakawa and Takeya Nakamura.

The game’s highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 7, Eagles 6, 10 innings

Yuma Mune singled in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning off Yuki Matsui (1-5) after the Eagles sent it to extra innings by tying it in the eighth off Tyler Eppler. Brandon Dickson (2-0) worked a scoreless ninth to earn the win and finished the game off with a scoreless 10th to close it out.

Given the way relievers are used these days, a case could be made for the same pitcher to earn a win AND a save in the same game. Certainly, Dickson earned one of each, by winning it in relief and then saving it. He did what is normally the job of two pitchers. He deserves double credit.

The game’s highlights are HERE.

Marines 5, Fighters 0

The opener-happy Nippon Ham Fighters got opened, with Yuki Karakawa throwing a scoreless first for Lotte, followed by three goose eggs from Chen Kuan-yu (1-0) at Zozo Marine Stadium.

Toru Murata (0-1) was tasked with going through the Marines lineup twice, but surrendered three runs, one earned in his 3-2/3 innings on the mound as the Fighters fielders made four errors in the game.

The game’s highlights are HERE.


Seibu spends to keep up with the SoftBanks

In a bid to reclaim it’s golden age, the Seibu Lions have revealed the team has spent about 18 billion yen, roughly $160 million, to upgrade its facilities surrounding MetLife Dome, their 40-year-old park just across the border from Tokyo.

The Sankei Sports story is HERE.

The article suggests the new indoor training facility will be the largest in NPB, and will be open so that fans can watch as players work out. The project also expands the number of dorm rooms on site from 20 to 28, expanded physical training space, more meeting rooms and includes a new merchandise shop.

The Lions last year won the Pacific League for the first time in 10 years, although they lost in the playoff to the SoftBank Hawks, who since 2010 have won either the league or the Japan Series in six seasons since.

The Hawks have invested heavily in their minor league and rehab facility in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture, and their efforts have been rewarded this season with a sizable PL lead despite missing a number of their best players.

The Lions won the PL seven straight seasons from 1982 to 1988, another five time from 1990 to 1994, but only six times since. Since 2010, the Hawks have won five pennants, the Nippon Ham Fighters two, and the Lions and Rakuten Eagles one each.

Hawks’ Yanagita, Imamiya not ready for early return

The SoftBank Hawks will be without star center fielder Yuki Yanagita and starting shortstop Kenta Imamiya through July 26 at least, following their withdrawal from this weekend’s All-Star Game series.

Players picked for their league’s All-Star team who fail to appear are prohibited from playing in their team’s first 10 games after the All-Star break. The Hawks are scheduled to play their 11th game after the break on July 27 at home against the Orix Buffaloes.

Yanagita suffered a muscle tear behind his left knee on April 7, while Imamiya was deactivated on June 22 after spending much of the season with left hamstring issues.

Both were voted onto the PL squad by fans. Some have called for the 10-day suspension to only be applied to those selected in the fan ballot, since an opposing manager could select a rival team’s star who is nearly fit for duty to keep him out of action for 10 more games.

Seibu Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda and Hawks outfielder Yurisbel Gracial were chosen as replacements.

Stewart sees 1st game action

Carter Stewart Jr, the eighth pick in MLB’s 2018 amateur draft, took the mound in his first game since arriving in Japan over a month ago.

The 19-year-old right-hander allowed a leadoff double against the first batter he faced but retired the next six and left after two innings and 24 pitches in a practice game between SoftBank’s third team and corporate league club Mitsubishi Motors Kyushu.

He touched 151 kph (93.8 mph) when he struck out the opposing cleanup hitter to end the first inning.

According to the Nikkan Sports, Stewart said he was excited and nervous, but was able to throw at about 90 percent of full strength at the Hawks’ minor league park, Tama Home Stadium.

All NPB teams are required to enter a farm team in either the Eastern or Western league. Third teams are a different breed that play independent minor league teams, corporate league and university teams.

Kawasaki to coach in Taiwan

Former major league utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki, who has put his playing career on hiatus since developing a nerve disorder, is reportedly going to coach on a three-month basis this summer with the Wei Chuan Dragons according to the CPBL Stats website.

NPB games, news of July 5, 2019

It’s streaky week in NPB, as the SoftBank Hawks and Yomiuri Giants keep winning as if they just might wrap up their pennants before the all-star break, while the Hiroshima Carp are mired in their longest losing streak in years and the Rakuten Eagles lost their seventh straight.

In a departure from the way I’ve been doing this, I’m wheeling out one episode from Friday’s games to give people a taste for Japanese ball.

Old farts and bunts

Sometimes Hall of Fame manager Tatsunori Hara just has to let his inner self out, and we saw that on Friday night in the series opener between the Giants and DeNA BayStars, won by the Giants 8-4 at home run-friendly Tokyo Dome.

With a one-run lead in hand, no outs, runners on first and second, and prize free agent slugger Yoshihiro Maru at the plate, Hara had him bunting. This caused the analyst on the NTV broadcast, Hara’s former teammate Kiyoshi Nakahata, to drool all over himself in praise for the one-run tactic.

Nothing gets Japanese old fart baseball people more excited than having a power hitter sacrifice, and Nakahata stepped up to the plate and showed his mettle.

“That’s really Hara baseball there, trying to get that next run,” Nakahata blubbered. “Just superb managing. He’s always thinking about the greatest way to apply pressure on an opponent.”

“(Young slugger Kazuma) Okamoto is batting fourth, and he’s still looking around, learning his role. Having Maru sacrifice sends a big message to him.”

Announcer: “Last year, this year, Maru has no sacrifices.”

Nakahata: “Coach Motoki at third is giving him the sign. It completely changes your attitude when you are asked to sacrifice. Being diligent in (obeying the bunt sign) teaches everyone what is important in the game.”

Announcer: “Okamoto is on deck. Watching Maru taking this sacrifice bunt really serious.”

Nakahata: “He (Okamoto) is getting the message.”

Announcer: “Hara will bunt with his middle-of-the-order guys.”

Nakahata: “He’ll even sacrifice with two outs.”

Then, when Maru fouled off a second bunt, Nakahata pulled out the old analyst’s favorite line, “Bunting is really hard. Anyone watching will see this. It’s the hardest thing you can do. “

This sentiment is immediately forgotten whenever a batter fails to get a sacrifice down and the broadcasters treat the player as if he is lazy and incompetent.

Maru then put an easy swing on a fastball from lefty Shota Imanaga and belted it over the left field wall for an opposite-field home run.

“This is the Giants’ way of winning, by bunting. Kamei did it with no outs, and now the No. 3 batter, Maru. It really is effective,” Nakahata said.

“By bunting early, Hara was sending a message to his team that this is really an important game. In order to win, you have to teach the players what is important.”

Afterward, Maru said, “I definitely need to work on my bunting. I was doing that because that was the sign they gave me and it was a chance to seize the initiative, so… I think I was able to make up for it (my failure to bunt) in the end.”

The game’s highlights are HERE.

Elsehwere, the Carp managed just four hits in a 3-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium, where two straight bunt singles — on balls misplayed by the Carp infield — opened the door for a tie-breaking two-run sixth inning. Jefry Marte tied it 1-1 for the Tigers with a solo homer in the fifth.

In the Pacific League, the Hawks smacked around one of this season’s most impressive starters, Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto (4-4) in a four-run fourth inning en route to a 6-2 win in Kobe.

The game’s highlights are HERE.

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Seibu Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (5-7) left the mound with one out and two on in the eighth, and three runs scored in the inning with relievers on the mound in a 4-2 loss to the Lotte Marines.

The game’s highlights are HERE.

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Kohei Arihara (9-4) struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings, Sho Nakata hit a two-run homer, and closer Ryo Akiyoshi returned from injury to strike out three batters in the ninth and nail down his 13th save as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Rakuten Eagles 4-2.

The game’s highlights are HERE.


Norimoto takes himself out of major league picture

The Rakuten Eagles revealed Friday that right-hander Takahiro Norimoto, who has been rated highly by major league scouts as much for his aggressive approach as his fastball and splitter, has agreed to a seven-year contract extension that will keep him in Sendai until he turns 35 after the 2025 season.

The deal was reportedly agreed to in March, when Norimoto, who had previously said he’d hoped to be posted after the 2019 season, abruptly said he wanted to remain in Japan in 2020 in order to pitch in next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Stewart throws 1st BP for Hawks ahead of farm debut

New SoftBank Hawks acquisition Carter Stewart on Friday threw his first batting practice since joining the club last month, and is slated to pitch in his first game in Japan next week.

The 19-year-old right-hander, who was the eighth player chosen in MLB’s 2018 June draft, faced veteran outfielder Akira Nakamura, 18-year-old, first-year outfielder Shun Mizutani and three developmental squad players, trying out all his pitches a 30-pitch tuneup at the Hawks farm complex in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture.

The Nikkan Sports story is HERE.

Stewart said it was great facing the 29-year-old Nakamura, a longtime Hawks regular who is currently on a rehab assignment, and said he was able to throw at about 85 to 90 percent of full strength.

“With his high release point it was really hard to hit him,” said Mizutani, who also appeared unfamiliar with American-style curves, which don’t appear to “pop” out of the pitcher’s hand as much as they do in Japan.

Hawks rehabilitation coach Kazumi Saito, a former Sawamura Award winner, said, “I think he hit 140 kph (87 mph) today. His mechanics are loose and powerful, so he’s pretty hard to hit, and his fastball, curve and slider were all on.”

Stewart’s first game is set for next Tuesday at the Hawks’ minor league park, Tamahome Stadium in Chikugo against corporate league side Mitsubishi Motors Kyushu. He is expected to work two innings and throw about 40 pitches.

Stewart checks Japanese mounds

For the first time since he completed his signing with the SoftBank Hawks, Carter Stewart threw from a bullpen mound. And though every Japanese media report called it a bullpen session, the catcher was not behind the plate at regulation distance, so it was more like catch from the bullpen mound.

Stewart said he threw at about 65 to 70 percent of full strength, trying out all his pitches at the Hawks’ minor league facility in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture.

From what Stewart said, the mound there sounds like the prototypical Japanese type with a softer landing area and a gentler slope than in the States. Despite that, he said he liked it that way, showing that perhaps he has been receiving lessons in how not to say anything meaningful to reporters.

He is slated for another throwing session this weekend, and said he is eager to pitch to actual hitters, although he added that it would only happen after discussion the matter thoroughly with coaches.

Stewart hopeful others will follow

Carter Stewart not only has high expectations for his next six years in Japan, but he hopes he is the first of many American baseball players to turn pro on this side of the Pacific. On Monday, just hours before Major League Baseball’s June draft that he skipped out in order to sign with the SoftBank Hawks, Stewart met the press in Fukuoka.

“There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to come over here, but a big thing is the atmosphere, the quality of baseball, the facilities,” said at a press conference. “Those are some of the key points, when I got here that showed me they were top notch, that they were high-class grade baseball. That’s the real reason I chose to play over here.”

The opportunity was made possible by the Atlanta Braves lowering their signing bonus offer to him last year and by the huge gap between what MLB teams are willing to pay amateurs up front and what Japanese teams can gain from those players’ services. Japan also offers the possibility that he could enter MLB as a free agent after the 2024 season, at least two years earlier than he could hope to reach that status in the majors.

Instead of watching minor league teammates struggle to exist and survive on sub-poverty wages, Stewart will be among people who are housed and paid relatively well in a structured, clean and safe environment.

“The way with the baseball is now in the States, more amateurs at least should give this a try… Anybody who plays baseball, they want a chance to play high-quality baseball,” he said.

“In the future, I would hope some more amateur players from the U.S. would want to come over here, just because. From what I’ve seen, I only have great things to say. I don’t know if more will follow, but I hope that someday more guys from the States will come.”

Meanwhile, according to Kyodo News, Hawks GM Sugihiko Mikasa denied reports from the United States that Stewart would be able to make use of the posting system to enter MLB prior to the conclusion of his six-year-contract.

Posting Stewart would pose a problem for the Hawks, who have denied the request of their best pitcher, Kodai Senga, to make use of the posting system.

Boras exaggerates but ain’t wrong

On Thursday in Newport Beach, California, agent Scott Boras described Nippon Professional Baseball as Major League Baseball’s developmental opposite — an environment where minor leaguers get special attention and focus in a nurturing environment that puts the North American minors to shame.

In some ways he was right and some ways he was overstating the case. The SoftBank Hawks — whom pitcher Carter Stewart has signed with — fit this description, but they are far from the norm.

SoftBank isn’t the same as NPB

The Hawks are unusual in Japan, the only one of Japan’s 12 pro clubs to even consider the possibility that their team could evolve into being best in the world. But while Boras talked about how advanced the development system in Japan is, he was really talking about SoftBank.

Boras had it right when he praised the standard of living in NPB’s minor leagues. Every team’s players are fed well and earn real wages, allowing them to really focus on baseball. For players who are humble, serious and smart enough to know what they want, it is a superb environment to develop in.

At the press conference, Stewart spoke about how impressed he was with Shohei Ohtani. During his time with the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani was absolutely devoted to developing his craft, constantly working and training and seldom venturing out of the dorm.

Japan is big on discipline

For some players, however, it can be a road to nowhere. Japanese coaches are inclined to demand orthodox playing styles, while most teams — SoftBank is currently one of the exceptions — do not instruct players in proper weight training or nutrition. Most teams follow the old school dogma that running is the best way to build bodies for baseball, that weight training is a Pandora’s box, and that the only necessary nutrition comes from eating a lot.

And while living conditions are safe compared to the squalor that passes for normal in the North American minor leagues, young Japanese minor leaguers live in spartan dormitories, with strict rules and curfews.

This is all normal stuff for Japanese kids, many of whom have been living in team dormitories since high school, and who are used to following every order from a coach to the letter. In such an environment, kids who lack confidence can find themselves trying to play in ways that match a coach’s philosophy but don’t get the most out of their individual skills.

The Orix BlueWave tried to do that to Ichiro Suzuki in 1992 and 1993, trying to turn him into a guy who only bunts and slaps the ball to the left side of the infield despite the fact that he was head-and-shoulders above every minor league hitter in Japan as an 18-year-old.

Those who embrace Japan can flourish

For those reasons alone, Japan is not easy. Add to those a language barrier and a baseball cultural barrier and it is harder. But those who are willing to take whatever comes and humble themselves to the task of learning, Japanese baseball offers things that minor league baseball cannot.

Japan can teach a lot simply by not being American in approach. Pitchers have to learn different ways to strike out hitters because there is a subclass of hitters who are only trying to foul pitches off until they can slap it to the left side of the infield. You can’t just bury a two-strike slider and get a swing and miss because most batters won’t bite. Adjusting to that is an education.

Boras mentioned all of Japan’s current major league starting pitchers. Not all have established themselves as huge stars, but they have one thing in common. They all locate their secondary pitches well and all field their positions extremely well. Those things are considered basics in Japan. Stewart will do more PFP (pitchers fielding practice) in four months this year with SoftBank than he’d do in four years in the North American minors. Becoming accustomed to the preparation demanded here is different, and that too is an education.

Stewart said he recognized Japanese players’ passion for baseball and discipline. While some of that an artifact of an authoritarian system, baseball here is not so different from baseball anywhere else. Respectful players who are passionate about learning will find coaches who are passionate about teaching. And because the focus of the game here is a little different, a little more small ball than in the States, there are things to learn here that coaches won’t teach you back home.

Those differences are an education.

But Japan isn’t a baseball superpower

The way Boras spoke about NPB’s development prowess, one would expect to see Japanese talent overrunning MLB. But it ain’t happening.

A small measure of the reason for that can be laid at NPB’s doorstep — particularly the historical hesitation to teach players weight training and proper nutrition. But the real culprit is an amateur system that wipes out the best players at an early age through injury and authoritarian training methods.

Elementary and junior high school pitchers throw excessively until their arms are damaged beyond repair by the time they reach high school. A large number of Japan’s best pro arms don’t take up pitching until late in high school or university.

A lot of kids are also burned out by the excessive year-round practice and the endless running. Rui Hachimura, who is expected to go high in the next NBA draft, loved baseball as a boy growing up in Toyama Prefecture, but the mind-numbing soul-sapping practice that is considered proper by old-school coaches drove him away.

A lot of Japanese pro pitchers still throw marathon bullpens, because that is what they are accustomed to. However, few pro teams now think it is a practice that leads to improved pitching.

Japanese pro baseball gets players who were not the best athletes of their elementary and junior high school teams because those kids are culled from the herd by antiquated practices. But it is doing much better with the players it gets than it did two decades ago.