I asked JapanBall‘s Bob Bavasi for his thoughts on the Top 3 Japanese Free Agents who may come over to MLB this winter. He kindly obliged, providing a couple of paragraphs on each. His summaries are below.
1. Kosuke Fukudome, Dragons. Left-handed hitting outfielder from the Dragons in Nagoya. Can play any outfield position, but probably best in right. A solid, no-nonsense type player, with a terrific glove and sound arm, he’s the best Japanese position player in either league. Absolutely no secret about this guy.
2. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, Hiroshima Carp. This fellow is probably a number three or four starter in the big leagues. Was 12-8 this season in 26 starts with a 3.56 ERA. A free agent last year, he decided to stay in Japan by signing a four-year deal with the Carp, but with a clause therein that allows him to test the waters when he so desires. He’s probably going to do so now. The Carp just announced that his arm was okay after a medical exam in the United States. If you’re looking for more info on Kuroda, check out this post at East Windup Chronicle.
3. Masahide Kobayashi, RHP, Chiba Lotte Marines. This closer was the number one draft pick by the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1999. He may be the best available reliever on the free agent market, though he has not made the sort of overtures about wanting to leave Japan as the other two. During the recent playoffs in Japan, his manager, Bobby Valentine, noted that Kobayashi keeps "looking better every time out.” True enough, and a reason I like him.