Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feature: Red Sox Scouting in Asia

Dan Duquette was obsessed with finding the diamond in the rough. He struck gold with Tim Wakefield in 1995 and he attempted to replicate that success for the rest of his tenure as the Boston Red Sox general manager. After Hideo Nomo exploded onto the scene in 1995 with the Dodgers and Korean right-hander Chan Ho Park came later, Duquette, and several other general managers, decided to try to mine the Japanese baseball leagues and other Asian leagues. Duquette may have been the most active, but his efforts were not met with a ton of success.

Below is a list of the players that made it to the Major Leagues with the Red Sox. As you can see, there is not much success here and Duquette did not find his diamond in the rough in Asia.

Checo was the first of the Red Sox Asian efforts to make the Major Leagues in 1997. Though Checo was not of Asian ancestry, he was Dominican, he had been pitching in Japan when he was signed. He was expected to be a good starter or reliever with high strikeout potential. Checo spent parts of two seasons with the Red Sox, going 1-3 with a 5.57 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 21 innings. He only pitched in seven games for the Red Sox in all.

Cho had the most hype of any of the Red Sox Asian signings and was expected to be a good number two or three starter. Cho pitched in 13 games for the Red Sox over two seasons from 1998 to 1999. He went 2-6 with a 6.52 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 58 innings.

Lee was something of a free spirit, with long, bleached hair. He only pitched for the Red Sox in nine games as a reliever and had a 3.02 ERA and six strikeouts in 11.2 innings.

Kim stuck around a little bit longer, although his status as a starter or a reliever was never made clear. He pitched in 35 games for Boston from 2001 to 2002, starting four. His record was 2-2 with a 6.50 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 70.2 innings. He did go on to a reasonably long career, pitching in the Majors through 2006.

Ohka was the most successful player from this group, but that is not saying much. He pitched parts of the 1999, 2000, and 2001 seasons, mostly as a starter. He went 6-13 with a 4.61 ERA and struck out 85 in 134.2 innings. He was unusual in that he never pitched in the professional leagues in Japan and was brought over to the US as an amateur.

Also signed were Seung Jun Song, Takayasu Kato, and Byeong Hak An, though none of them made it to the Major Leagues.

About the best thing that can be said about the Red Sox efforts is that they made great trade bait. Ohka was traded along with another minor leaguer to the Expos for Ugueth Urbina, who was an All Star closer for the Red Sox in 2002. Kim and Song were traded to the Expos as well, but for slugger Cliff Floyd who helped the Red Sox during the 2002 stretch drive. An was traded along with another minor leaguer to the White Sox for reliever Bobby Howry.

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