Once a Brave, Always a Brave – Japan and Korea

Once a Brave, Always a Brave – Japan and Korea

International baseball leagues aren’t always the easiest to follow for American fans. Beyond just the logistics of events on the other side of the world, the English-language sites are not updated quite as frequently. With that in mind, this list cannot possibly be exhaustive. I’m touching on two leagues today, but there are several other baseball leagues you can look into. I pulled these numbers Monday, but not even sure if they are accurate.

Nippon Professional Baseball
P Deunte Heath (Hiroshima)…Born in Atlanta and a former Tennessee Volunteer, Heath was a 19th rounder back in 2006 by the Braves. He made it to Gwinnett for seven games in 2009 and was an Arizona Fall League player for Atlanta in 2008, but he didn’t make the AAA roster in 2010 and was cut. The righty signed with the White Sox and eventually played in eight games between 2012-13 in the majors. Appeared in seven games last year after joining Hiroshima, but has already appeared in eleven games with 4 saves this year.
P Kenshin Kawakami (Chunichi)…So much wasted cash. After three incredibly forgetful years, Kawakami returned to Chunichi. He doesn’t appear to have stayed healthy in either of the last two years, but his numbers are still better there than they ever were here.
P Ken Ray (Tohoku Rakuten)…I’m shocked Ken Ray is still active. Was an active member of the Braves pen in 2006 even though he wasn’t all that good. Despite never getting back to the majors, he’s kept going despite turning 40 last November. The Atlanta-born righty has pitched in Mexico, Korea, the Atlantic League, Venezuela, and in both 2013 and this year, Ray has been a Golden Eagle. He’s actually being used as a starter for Rakuten.
P Takashi Saito (Tohoku Rakuten)…Like many Japanese players who have played in the majors, Saito was a star who came to America for a brief time and returned. For Saito, he spent seven years state-side, including with the Braves in 2010 when he was a solid setup guy for Billy Wagner. He’s spent the last three years as a middle reliever.
1B Ernesto Mejia (Saitama Seibu)…Mejia spent the greater part of ten years in the minors and all but one came in the Braves organization. Once his power came, he was a homer-hitting machine, including three years between 2011-13 where he averaged 26 homeruns, including 52 with Gwinnett over two seasons. He played 20 games in Gwinnett last year, but was allowed to explore other opportunities and landed with the Lions. He belted 34 taters in just 106 games last year. He’s off to a poor start this year, but does have 3 HR in 28 games.
3B Juan Francisco (Yomiuri)…A recent addition to the Giants is Fat Juan, who seems like a great fit in Japan where his long swing can produce some long moonshots.

Korean Baseball Organization
P Yunesky Maya (Doosan)…Cuban born, Maya pitched 16 times with the Nationals between 2010-13, including logging ten starts, but he never stuck. Instead, he stunk. See what I did there? Last season, he started the year with Gwinnett and was carrying a 2.63 ERA into early July when the Braves and Maya parted way so he could try his luck in Korea. He started eleven games last year and has picked up a half-dozen starts this year. He has shutouts in both seasons, but his numbers are underwhelming.
3B Andy Marte (KT Wiz)…What more needs to be said about Marte? In 60 PA short of a grand, Marte has slashed .218/.276/.358 in the majors with the Braves, Indians, and Diamondbacks. He’s played in the Atlantic League and spent winters in the Dominican, but this is his first real try at international ball. So far, he’s look good, hitting .311 with a .908 OPS. He won’t be 32 until October.

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