Monday, November 2, 2015

Seibu Lions 2015 Season Review: Foreign Signings

The Seibu Lions let all foreign players go to Miyazaki for a trip during spring training. They were given a tour which included Ernesto Mejia, as he was a midseason signing

Foreign imports play a factor of it own in NPB when they come from another country. In MLB, there are plenty of people from all over the world, but others going to Japan has its own special rules and limitations.

Last year, the Saitama Seibu Lions dumped all foreign players minus Ernesto Mejia, hoping to find some fresh faces to contribute to the 2015 team.

Here, we will evaluate each new foreign signing pickup for 2015 and give a letter grade on him.  (Ernesto Mejia does not count since he was signed in 2014).

RHP Chun-Lin Kuo: (3-7), 5.31 ERA, 1.682 WHIP

Kuo was an amateur signing as he played with the Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) U21 team prior to the Lions. He excelled in the 2014 Asia games and the team picked him up. The Lions faith would be rewarded in the U21 Baseball World Cup where Kuo would be the winning pitcher for Taiwan. Unfortunately for Kuo, he would struggle in his first season playing professional baseball. 

Control was his biggest issue and he would be easily rattled by a bad pitch. He won his NPB debut and even had multiple quality starts against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, but overall he would be the sixth starter in the rotation after some high and lows. The Lions moved him to the bullpen where he saw four appearances off the bench, but all were low leverage situations.
The jury is still out on Kuo, who will be 24 next year, but his contribution to 2015 was minimal. He might not be built as a starter, but Kuo is still young and next season is where we hope he makes improvements. 

Grade: D+


LHP Wade LeBlanc: (2-5), 4.23 ERA, 1.366 WHIP

LeBlanc had a good September in 2014 after being a fringe player for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and even bounced to the New York Yankees for one game. He would play with the ichi-gun in April and May, but fell off hard and was only given eight starts. LeBlanc won his debut against Rakuten, but had to ask his defense to win games. 

He even had a complete game later in the season vs. the Eagles and had a quality start in a tough loss against Shohei Otani and the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Unfortunately, LeBlanc might have played through an injury all season and made his last appearance with the ni-gun team in June. 

He wasn't able to strike players out and he would benefit from some strong infield defense when producing a ground ball. There was no velocity and would be seen with floating curve pitches where the opposition could crush it. LeBlanc was released two weeks before the 2015 season ended.

Grade: D


RHP Miguel Mejia: (0-0), 14.73 ERA, 3.545 WHIP

Mejia is a Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican who never made it past High Single-A (A+) in the minor leagues. He was given a chance in May and wouldn't have a clean outing. After giving up a run in low leverage during his debut game, he would give a grand slam against Rakuten after the Lions were initially trailing by one run in the ninth inning. 

The Lions gave him another chance after the All-Star break and allowed two runs in one outing and zero in another. Allowing the grand slam was all she wrote for Mejia, but he was a closer in ni-gun.  Mejia was released at the end of the year.

Grade: F


UTIL Anthony Seratelli: .183/.329/.233

Seratelli was a career minor leaguer mostly with the Kansas City Royals organization before spending 2014 with the New York Mets in AAA. He injured himself during the spring training in Miyazaki and was sidelined until late May, where he got his opportunity against Rakuten in a bases loaded situation. 

He initially provided a good spark off the bench as a pinch hitter and had a big hit against the Yomiuri Giants in interleague play, but became expendable as Naoto Watanabe and Ryota Wakiya were better options off the bench. The Lions gave him a chance to start in right field for multiple outings, but several 0-fers gave him the writing on the wall. Like Mejia and LeBlanc, he was released at the end of the year as he posted this farewell photo on Instagram

Grade D-


RHP Esmerling Vasquez: (3-1), 3.63 ERA, 1.760 WHIP

Vasquez was with both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Minnesota Twins organizations as well as in Taiwan for 2014. The problem with Vasquez was his control issues, where he would walk a batter easily. He didn't give up a home run, which was valuable in some sense, but he couldn't have a clean inning to save his life. 

Compared to the other foreigners listed above, Vasquez did help a few games out of the bullpen and even preserved some ties or leads. He did well in the first half as a seventh inning and middle relief person, but was too wild as a whole. If the Lions bring him back for next year, he needs to fix his control with his inconsistency when facing batters. He could be a decent middle reliever otherwise, but the Lions didn't trust him in the second half and benched him. 

There is no word on whether he was released or is returning for 2016.  If there is any updates on Vasquez, please let us know.  

Grade: C-



This group of players turned out to be a failed wave of signings with three of them already gone. While it's bad to depend on foreign imports like Rakuten or the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, it wouldn't hurt to bring immediate help for any unit with holes. Foreigners can provide a good band aid somewhere in the short term as we saw with Kris Johnson for the Hiroshima Carp as well as Miles Mikolas and Aaron Poreda for the Yomiuri Giants. 

Before the season started, the Lions were expected to be a team without pitching and required to hit several "home runs" with these foreign signings in order to make the postseason. Despite striking out on all the pickups, the team was still competitive playing meaningful baseball in September and they were just short of the playoffs. 

The Lions could use a bullpen arm, starting pitcher for the back end of the rotation or an outfielder who can play right away. I don't expect a large wave to come in, but they should sign two players at the minimum and three at the most for 2016.  Grade: D-   

If anything, we're thankful that LeBlanc, M. Mejia and Seratelli got to do something we have wanted to do: Visit Japan. Seratelli, in particular, gave us a view of the country on his Instagram and Twitter of things you won't find on TV. Good luck in your future endeavors everyone. 


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