Saturday, September 21, 2013

The CPBL hitters better than Manny Ramirez

Despite playing games for 23 years, the Chinese Professional Baseball League probably received the most notoriety in the United States for the exploits of Manny Ramirez with the EDA Rhinos.

Ramirez had a .422 OBP and .555 SLG in his 49 games, making him not only the most notable hitter in the league, but arguably the best as well.  He would go on to play 30 games for the Rangers' AAA affiliate Round Rock, and things didn't go well, as the power evaporated (.111 ISO) and he had a 82 wRC +, similar to his 84 wRC + in 17 games with the Oakland Athletics affiliate in 2012. Of course translations don't work perfectly, or even well at times, but it probably does speak to the talent level of the CPBL that Ramirez couldn't hit in AAA, but dominated the league in his half season. For this post, I found three hitters that had similar 2013 seasons (though they played the full season instead of the first half) to get a look at a few of the best hitters in the league. Like the majority of posts on this blog, it is from an American perspective, so the goal is to see whether or not any of them are MLB prospects. All three players are 27 years old, so they could be considered in the prime of their careers.

Yi-Chuan Lin

The 2013 Home Run derby winner, Lin had the exact same HR % and OBP as Manny Ramirez. Lin also outdid him in slugging percentage by .005. These statistics nearly match 2012's exactly (.419 OBP, .573 SLG). He had more groundouts than flyouts, though the ratio is closer to 1 in 2013 than in 2012. Obviously not much of a runner as a first baseman, he provides no real positional value, though it appears he played a couple of games at 3rd base.For each individual hitter, I GIF'd one of their swings on a home run:

When pitchers throw low and in on him, he can pull the ball with quite a bit of authority. However, he doesn't always have a power swing, and his extreme contact ways are not typical when scouting first basemen. He will cut down on his swing to make sure he puts the ball in play, even going down low and slapping the ball. I don't think that elite pitching would be able to blow the ball past him, but good breaking balls can make him chase and cause him to sacrifice all his power. Perhaps he doesn't have the elite power you want in a corner infielder because he doesn't look the part. If you saw him on a baseball field without seeing his numbers compared to other CPBL hitters, you wouldn't peg him as a power hitter, and at least in this case, I think the bias is warranted. Also, if a picture of Lin was shown to the Rangers before they signed Manny Ramirez and they were told that the two of them hit for the same power in Tawain, then they might not have signed him, or at least, they could have predicted that Manny would fail in AAA. So this is what Lin has stacked against him when getting evaluated by MLB scouts. He is a first baseman that has an offensive game of a solid second baseman or shortstop. He hits for a good average by relying on contact with an occasional home run. That is a skill set that has value, but not from the most power driven position in the MLB.

If Lin (or 2013 Manny) is the best the CPBL has to offer when it comes to power then the MLB isn't going to be looking to the league for powerful position players. So if there is a MLB prospect that is a position player, they have to establish being one by doing something other than hitting for power. It is going to have to come from being a high average hitter with positional value or by great speed or defense.

Kuo Hui Lo

His OBP was .014 points smaller, but he out slugged Ramirez by .010 points. Lo was once a minor leaguer in the United States, playing in the Mariners system from 2006-2011, reaching AA and holding his own (.335 OBP and .430 SLG in pitcher friendly league), but a horrible leg injury at home plate cost him the 2012 season and ended his MLB affiliated career. However, with the season he had in 2013, perhaps he will be back on MLB radars even though he is now 27 years old. Perhaps the biggest thing for him is that he played 89 games in a season and was able to play the field.

Lo had 8 assists defensively, playing all three outfield positions, but mainly centerfield this season. In the minors, he mainly played left field with mostly positive FRAAs, with 2008 being an exception.

He was a pretty extreme flyball hitter this year:

In the minors, the only time he hit more than 10 homers or had an Isolated Slugging over .200 was in the extremely hitter friendly environment of High Desert in 2009. Just by league averages that season, he wasn't overly impressive, but was close to some fringy big leaguers like Konrad Schmidt, Efren Navarro, J.B. Shuck, and Charlie Blackmon. He clearly has some occasional power that he brings into games, and despite not having huge size (he does after all, have to play in the middle of the outfield), he is 6-2 188, certainly big enough to be a big leaguer.

I don't love the swing, and that may be an obstacle for potential MLB teams. He dips his front shoulder, not giving him a smooth or quick swing path to inside pitches. It doesn't seem to take away from his power and he still has the reach and plate coverage to hit pitches outside well, but I think elite pitching would come inside on him and have success.

Hung-Yu Lin

Listed as a catcher, but appears to be mostly a DH, as he caught just 28 of the 97 games he played. Lin has less power than the two players above, slugging just .477 (4th best out of qualified hitters, which Ramirez wasn't because of lack of at-bats), but his OBP was .431, best in the CPBL.

This year, he was a groundball hitter for the first time in his career. While it doesn't look like Lin has great bat speed, he clearly has the strength and plate coverage to hit balls on the outside part of the plate with some authority.

The decider of Hung-Yu Lin's value will be his abilities behind the plate. While I can't speak intelligently about whether or not he is a good receiver, thrower, or even game caller, the fact that it seems he has mostly been a DH suggests that he isn't a plus catcher. This really hurts any value he has with MLB teams because he doesn't hit for the power of the guys above, and doesn't have a real position.


  1. Hi, can you make some comments about Chih-Sheng Lin(林智勝)? He mostly serve as clean-up spot in Taiwan national team. He's in the same team with Hung-Yu Lin, but was injured and will return before the end of the season.

  2. Since he didn't play many games this year, I couldn't include him, but yes, career numbers are very impressive. Like his size (especially length wise, ideally he would be a little bit heavier, but at least he is some kind of fringe stolen base threat). He is obviously strong, but I don't know that the bat speed looks great. I wonder how he would fare against elite fastballs, especially inside.

    I think the biggest obstacles when evaluating him from an international prospect is that he is 31, and injury histories tend to scare off teams. Very good CPBL player when healthy obviously.