Japanese pro baseball (NPB) has a lot of fascinating aspects to it. One of them is the reality that a lot of the American players in Japan are similar to the dudes that Allard Baird signed as reclamation projects. How Emil Brown hasn't had a stint in Japan is beyond me.
But another fun reality of Japanese baseball is how 4-A Royals are providing a lot of firepower for Japanese teams. Also, random Royals guys are hanging out there as Pitchers. Let's start with the hitters.
In some respects, the home run king of Japan is former Omaha Royals legend Craig Brazell. Brazell plays for the Hanshin Tigers (The Texas A&M Aggies of Japanese Baseball) and he leads the Central League in home runs with 19. He has a batting line of 287/328/588. He's on pace for 40 home runs, although this could change due to the Japanese baseball tendency of pitchers not giving sluggers anything to hit for weeks at a time.
I'm gonna assume that Brazell is hitting a home run here
Hot on the heels of Craig Brazell is Tokyo Yakult Swallows slugger Aaron Guiel. Guiel has 15 HRs so far and a batting line of 211/357/457. Guiel has played in Japan since 2007, hitting 88 home runs with a season-high of 35 home runs in 2007. Guiel has also been hit by 63 pitches while in Japan. Another oddity of his hitting is that he only has 4 doubles. Which probably means that he's old, slow, and willing to get hit by a 70mph curveball. At least the eye surgery paid off in some form.
Saitama Seibu Lions slugger Dee Brown is providing the power in the Pacific League with 13 HRs and a batting line of 230/317/452. Dee Brown's hitting stats are typical of American players in Japan, lots of strikeouts (weird how the strikezone expands, eh), some walks, home runs, and that's why they're there. The Pacific League leader in home runs is Jose Ortiz, a 32 year old Dominican slugger who was in the major leagues from 2000 to 2002 with the A's and Rockies (in fact Ortiz was one of 3 A's traded to the Rockies in exchange for Jermaine Dye). He was sent to Japan in 2003, playing for two years and returned in 2007.
Not every American hitter in Japan will be successful immediately. Hiroshima Toyo Carp first baseman/pinch runner Justin Huber started off very slowly in Japan before being sent to the Carp's AAA team. After hanging around there for May (with 5 hits in 26 AB and 3 HR while in Japanese AAA), Huber returned on June 12th with a 1 for 3 showing, and he followed it up with 1 for 4 with a home run. This elevates his batting line to 197/269/366 with 3 home runs, 5 walks, and 15 strikeouts in 78 PA. The Carp didn't play until today, and the publication of a box score is a bit late, so I can't tell you if Huber played. But with the absurdly large rosters every team shows (6 catchers on Hiroshima), Huber could be Hubered at any time.
"Oh no, I gave up a home run to Justin Huber!"
Some Royals pitchers in Japan include Justin Huber's teammate, John Bale. Bale has 14 Ks in 16 IP over 16 games. Fortunately for Bale, Japanese hotel doors are much easier to batter. The Yokohama BayStars counter the presence of John Bale with their lefty reliever Stephen Randolph, who was in the Royals organization for a few weeks last year. Nippon Ham Fighters reliever Buddy Carlyle pitched in the Royals minor league system in 2003, hanging out in Wichita then. Carlyle has 10 Ks and 10 walks in 22 1/3 innings, which means that he's probably coming back to America soon. Meanwhile the Chiba Lotte Marines welcomed Yasuhiko Yabuta back to their team and he has 28Ks in 27 2/3 IP. The best of all former Royals pitchers in Japan is Bobby Keppel, who is 8-1 with a 2.96 ERA and 36 K in 73 IP. Keppel's ERA is the 8th best in the Pacific League, as he and Buddy Carlyle presumably warn Yu Darvish about the Royals.
Traditionalists blamed a drop in Keppel's performance to him letting his family hang out on the field
Who would have known that so many members of the Royals organization in 2003 would be in Japan now? Or that in the Bautista/Huber trade, Huber would be the first guy brought to Japan as a mercenary bat?
To close this Royals in Japan update, here's a picture of a player acknowledging the World Cup:
Extra info from Japan Baseball Daily:
Aaron Guiel was the first player to have two HBP in an inning and had elbow surgery after 2008 after an injury in April 2008. Or Huber got so Hubered that he grew 3 inches. Dee Brown's first hit was a home run, and he hit the 90,000th home run in NPB history. Brazell hit two home runs on the day that his son was born. Stephen Randolph was the first non-Japanese pitcher to hit a home run in his first PA. John Bale was the closer for Hiroshima until he pulled a groin muscle slipping on a rain soaked mound in 2006.
Former Royals who pitched in Japan randomly: Les Walrond (2009), Jonah Bayliss (2009, and who fans felt looked like Daniel Radcliffe), DJ Carrasco (who earned $2M in some form of currency for 10 1/3 IP over 3 starts in 2006), Scott Dohmann showed up there in 2009 as well. Mike Wood was 3-12 in Japan in 2008.
The only thing to conclude from that last paragraph is that Luis Mendoza will pitch in Japan before 2015, for 3 appearances.