There has been no shortage of talent on the international market the past few seasons. Hyun-Jin Ryu was the big international signing last offseason, while the likes of Yu Darvish, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes, Norichika Aoki and Wei-Yin Chen, among others, have all made significant impacts upon coming to the States.
This offseason has already seen Cuban slugger Jose Abreu sign a six-year, $68 million deal with the Chicago White Sox, but there are still a handful of international targets out there that could make their mark on the 2014 MLB season.
Here is a look at four guys we can't wait to see in the major leagues, and a look at what they'd be bringing to whatever team opted to sign them.
RHP Raicel Iglesias
After a failed attempt to defect in September, right-hander Raciel Iglesias successfully escaped Cuba back in November, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. He has the added appeal of being a 23-year-old with three or more years of pro experience, meaning signing him won't count against the international slot limits.
Iglesias appeared in five games for Team Cuba in the most recent World Baseball Classic, allowing three hits and two runs with six strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work. He was reportedly even more impressive this past July when the Cuban team took on the U.S. college national team, according to the article from Badler:
At the World Baseball Classic in March, Iglesias pitched at 88-92 mph. When Cuba visited the U.S. in July for a five-game friendship series against the U.S. College national team, Iglesias looked more impressive, throwing 92-95 mph while varying the speed and shape of his sweepy 76-81 mph breaking ball to get swings and misses.
He's fairly undersized at 5'11" and 165 pounds, and he is essentially just a two-pitch guy at this point. On top of that, he may need some time in the minors before making an impact for a big league team, but his potential still makes him an interesting target nonetheless.
Team USA coach Jim Schlossnagle was very impressed with Iglesias following the team's five-game series and sees a bright future for him, according to Badler:
I think he’s a guy that, as he gets bigger and stronger, could be in the mid-to-upper 90s. He’s lean, has a ridiculously loose arm and pounded the strike zone. I was glad they didn’t pitch him more. He was the guy where you’re like, ‘Let’s find a way to get a lead before they get to this guy.'
That potential for further development should have plenty of teams interested, and he could sign somewhere soon.
1B Dae-Ho Lee
There are only a handful of Korean-born players who have made a significant impact at the major league level, led by outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and last year's international signing, Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Slugger Dae-Ho Lee could be the next to make his way to the States, and the 31-year-old proved he could hold his own against better competition after making the jump from the KBO to the NPB.
In 521 at-bats last season, he hit .286/.384/.493 with 24 home runs and 91 RBI for the Orix Buffaloes. Those numbers were not quite as impressive as his 2010 Triple Crown season back in Korea, when he hit .364 with 44 home runs and 133 RBI, but solid nonetheless.
He's a big guy at 6'4" and 286 pounds, according to his Baseball-Reference page, but his bat would be worth taking a chance on for a team looking to add some right-handed power.
It remains to be seen if Lee will make his way to the big leagues at this point, but according to an article from yakyubaka.com he has met with Scott Boras a number of times, which could mean a move to the MLB is in the works.
RHP Suk-Min Yoon
Largely regarded as the second-best pitcher in Korea behind Hyun-Jin Ryu after a breakout season back in 2011, Suk-Min Yoon is likely headed to the MLB this season, and he comes without a posting fee.
The right-hander went 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 172.1 innings of work in 2011, but he dealt with injuries this past season and spent some time in the bullpen as a result.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports gave the following scouting report on Yoon following the 2011 season:
The 6-foot, 180-pound Yoon dominated the KBO this season with a fastball that sits at 93 mph, a hard slider and what one scout deemed an above-average changeup.
Yoon is represented by Boras, and he pitched his client as follows in a New York Post article by George A. King III:
Boras is shopping Yoon as a starter in the mold of Kyle Lohse. “He’s a 91 to 92 [mph] guy. He’s a good pitcher … not an overpowering arm,’’ Boras said of Yoon.
MLBDepthCharts had the 27-year-old projected to receive a two-year, $10 million deal in their free-agent profile at the beginning of the offseason. With the market for starting pitching fairly thin at this point, Yoon is one of the more intriguing options still out there.
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
Viewed by many as the best pitcher on the market this offseason, international or otherwise, Masahiro Tanaka is expected to make an immediate impact for whoever winds up winning the bidding war for his services this winter.
The 25-year-old had a phenomenal season last year, going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 212 innings of work for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. All told, he's gone 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in his seven seasons for Rakuten, and he's undoubtedly the top pitcher in Japan right now.
Like most Japanese pitchers, Tanaka has a vast repertoire of pitches. He relies mostly on a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider and splitter/fork-ball but also mixes in the occasional curveball and changeup, according to ScoutDragon (via I R Fast).
He does not project to be quite as dominant as Yu Darvish but is still capable of being an impact starter near the top of the rotation, and those are in short supply this offseason.
There will be no shortage of teams willing to ante up the $20 million posting fee, and according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, that will likely mean the highest contract ever for a Japanese pitcher:
The Yankees, Cubs, Rangers, and Dodgers should be the most aggressive. The Angels, Phillies, Royals, and Blue Jays will get into it. Tanaka is going to get the highest contract ever given to a Japanese pitcher.
Will he be the next Darvish or the next Daisuke Matsuzaka? Only time will tell, but it seems all but certain he'll be pitching in the MLB when the 2014 season kicks off.
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