Top 10 pick forgoes minors, goes to Japan

DJnVa

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Gonna earn more money, not ride the bus, come back as a free agent when he's 25.

I guess there still might be busses, but anyway.

Rather than spending at least three years of his life traveling to games via bus while making less than $20,000 per year, Stewart will play for a Hawks team that has won four of the past five Japan Series championships.

And, if he’s successful in Japan for six years, Stewart can return to America at 25 years old with no international free-agent restrictions, barring a large change to the collective-bargaining agreement.
 

Awesome Fossum

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That's awesome, good for him. I would think the biggest risk is loneliness; I would be making establishing a social support system and diving into language lessons a priority.

I love it when someone tries to blaze a new path. It doesn't always work, but I'm rooting for him.
 

InstaFace

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of all the professional sports, baseball probably has the longest incubation period for new pros to become useful first-teamers, even among the top recruits. I don't like how minor leaguers are treated any more than he does, but the ideas that he's going to (A) immediately be a useful player in Japan's top flight, and (B) become a better player faster, or even close to as fast as he would roaring through the minors and getting to the show for a few years, are both huge stretches bordering on ludicrous.

I wish him luck, but he's going to need it.
 

DJnVa

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of all the professional sports, baseball probably has the longest incubation period for new pros to become useful first-teamers, even among the top recruits. I don't like how minor leaguers are treated any more than he does, but the ideas that he's going to (A) immediately be a useful player in Japan's top flight,.
He's starting in the minors in Japan.
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
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right, which he wouldn't do if he didn't think he'd have a faster and more convenient exit to the bigs there. I probably should have said "more immediately".
 

Twilight

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of all the professional sports, baseball probably has the longest incubation period for new pros to become useful first-teamers, even among the top recruits. I don't like how minor leaguers are treated any more than he does, but the ideas that he's going to (A) immediately be a useful player in Japan's top flight, and (B) become a better player faster, or even close to as fast as he would roaring through the minors and getting to the show for a few years, are both huge stretches bordering on ludicrous.

I wish him luck, but he's going to need it.
These may not be his primary goals, though. Assuming the contract is guaranteed, he's taking life-changing certain money now with a decent chance at more paydays; for me, it'd be irrelevant if those payday chances *might* come a year or two later this way.

If he signs in the US and gets injured or flames out, he ends up with far, far less. He/his agent probably knows TINSTAAPP, and this is a magnificent hedge, I think. He has to have a pretty rapid ascent to reach FA in the US before he would via Japan, and at significantly greater risk.
 
Jul 5, 2018
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That's awesome, good for him. I would think the biggest risk is loneliness; I would be making establishing a social support system and diving into language lessons a priority.

I love it when someone tries to blaze a new path. It doesn't always work, but I'm rooting for him.
In reply to the article, I don't understand why he would make more money by playing in Japan. He was projected to be a first round pick so his bonus would have far exceeded the difference in salaries.

If he is interested in learning the language and the culture, Japan is a wonderful place to live. I lived in Tokyo for six years and loved it. The food was great and there are plenty of Japanese women interested in meeting foreigners. If the demand for Americans with real estate experience hadn't disappeared, I would still be living there.
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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In reply to the article, I don't understand why he would make more money by playing in Japan. He was projected to be a first round pick so his bonus would have far exceeded the difference in salaries.

If he is interested in learning the language and the culture, Japan is a wonderful place to live. I lived in Tokyo for six years and loved it. The food was great and there are plenty of Japanese women interested in meeting foreigners. If the demand for Americans with real estate experience hadn't disappeared, I would still be living there.
He's getting $7MM over 6 years in Japan. He was projected to get a ~$2MM signing bonus in the states, then make roughly $15K per year in the minors and if he's lucky make the majors in 3 years at a current $550K per year deal. He's financially better off over the 6 years in Japan. The question of whether it's better for his long term wealth is dependent on what he does during those six years.
 
Jul 5, 2018
223
He's getting $7MM over 6 years in Japan. He was projected to get a ~$2MM signing bonus in the states, then make roughly $15K per year in the minors and if he's lucky make the majors in 3 years at a current $550K per year deal. He's financially better off over the 6 years in Japan. The question of whether it's better for his long term wealth is dependent on what he does during those six years.
I misread the article. It said something about doubling the minimum salary. It's odd that a Japanese team would invest that much money in a player that is likely to leave in six years. People say Japanese baseball is equivalent to "4A" here so he should be good to go when he returns to the U.S.
 
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InstaFace

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He's getting $7MM over 6 years in Japan. He was projected to get a ~$2MM signing bonus in the states, then make roughly $15K per year in the minors and if he's lucky make the majors in 3 years at a current $550K per year deal. He's financially better off over the 6 years in Japan. The question of whether it's better for his long term wealth is dependent on what he does during those six years.
But also what his free-agent deal would look like in MLB if he has 6 years of service time in MLB at that point, vs presumably 4-5 years of NPB service time that people will routinely discount. He'd have to be a huge star in Japan for it to be a close call, whereas he'd just have to be an average MLB pitcher to get a life-changing FA deal.
 

Kliq

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Just looking at No. 8 overall draft picks since 2000 to 2012

2000: Matt Wheatland: Never made the majors.
2001: Jonathan Van Benschoten: Career 2-13 record in the majors.
2002: Scott Moore: 385 career AB in majors.
2003: Paul Maholm: 10 year career, made $27 million.
2004: Wade Townsend: Didn't sign, never made majors.
2005: Wade Townsend: Yes, he was picked No. 8 in back to back years.
2006: Drew Stubbs: 9 year career, made $9 million.
2007: Casey Weathers: Never made the majors.
2008: Gordon Beckham: 11 year career, made $12 million and counting.
2009: Mike Leake: 10 year career, made $79 million and counting.
2010: Delino DeShields Jr.: 5 year career, made $3 million, will hit FA in 2022.
2011: Francisco Lindor: 5 year career, made $12 million, will hit FA in 2022.
2012: Mark Appel: Did not sign, never made the majors.

So out of 12 picks (not counting Townsend twice), only five of them went on to have significant MLB careers. Maholm, Leake and presumably Lindor, are the only players to really make huge money, the kind of money you can only make in the MLB.
 

nighthob

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But also what his free-agent deal would look like in MLB if he has 6 years of service time in MLB at that point, vs presumably 4-5 years of NPB service time that people will routinely discount. He'd have to be a huge star in Japan for it to be a close call, whereas he'd just have to be an average MLB pitcher to get a life-changing FA deal.
In a best case scenario, he would be a free agent at age 28 or so here in the US. Whereas he'll be a free agent three years earlier this way. There are injury risks, of course. Plus the risk that he's just not good enough to make the majors. But those risks would be the same here or there.
 

Tokyo Sox

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right, which he wouldn't do if he didn't think he'd have a faster and more convenient exit to the bigs there. I probably should have said "more immediately".
Well he might still do it regardless of the Japanese promotion time table, given the fact that he'll be making roughly 2x what he would in the US over those same years and then also be a FA much earlier, all while having a much higher standard of living than MiLB players. That said, he will indeed have a faster path to the bigs here. He'll start in the minors but could easily be on the big club in 2-3 years. I'd disagree with your (B) assessment of "ludicrous". If he makes the Hawks by the time he's 23, he'll get two full years of pitching vs AAAA competition in packed stadiums before becoming an unrestricted international FA at the age of 25. Unless you think the level of minor league coaching and instruction is so many light years better in MiLB, I'm not sure why you'd be so down on his development path.

If he is interested in learning the language and the culture, Japan is a wonderful place to live. I lived in Tokyo for six years and loved it. The food was great and there are plenty of Japanese women interested in meeting foreigners. If the demand for Americans with real estate experience hadn't disappeared, I would still be living there.
Tokyo is the best. This kid Stewart will be in Fukuoka though, which is a much smaller city with way fewer English speakers. Hopefully he dives headfirst into the language and culture though, as you say, and gets the most out of his time here. I'll definitely be rooting for him.

One note - a lot of the English language articles say that he can "be posted" at the end of his time here, but that's either lazy or a misunderstanding of the posting system. Japanese players drafted domestically are under team control for 8 years, and can't move internationally for 9; the posting system is for them if they're leaving after 5-6 years. Stewart should become a FA at the end of his 6 year deal. Here's a pretty good breakdown of the whole thing by Jim Allen, longtime NPB writer. He's edited his original post to say that Jeff Passan is insisting to him that posting is part of the deal, but that doesn't make much sense to me, and Softbank is one of two teams (along with Yomiuri Giants) that have said they'll never post a player.

Also from Jim's blog:
A source has told me the Hawks’ goal is for Stewart to thrive and prosper in Japan — so much so that he never wants to leave. This is not so far-fetched as it seems. A lot of players come here with the plan of polishing their skills enough to reboot their careers in America. Some do that, but many who do also find Japan addictive and hard to leave.
One good example of such a player is SoftBank Hawks (currently injured) closer Dennis Sarfate. He could have gone back to MLB a couple years ago but opted to re-up with the Hawks. Hopefully he takes Stewart under his wing.

A couple open questions/concerns to me on this:
- The current rule/loophole about foreign residents being "international professionals" if they have 6 years overseas could change while he's over here. Hopefully they don't screw the kid.
- If this straight-to-Japan move becomes a thing, MLB could seek to institute their own version of the stupid punitive Tazawa Rule and force guys to sit out when they want to come back. I guess they could only do it with US/Canadian players, and hopefully MLBPA (which has a lot more clout than NPBPA) would nix it. And it wouldn't stop Japanese teams from doing this with Dominican/other Latin players anyway.

Anyway it's going to be very interesting to watch. I don't know anything about the kid - hopefully he's got his head on right - but I'm definitely rooting for him to make this work.
 

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But also what his free-agent deal would look like in MLB if he has 6 years of service time in MLB at that point, vs presumably 4-5 years of NPB service time that people will routinely discount. He'd have to be a huge star in Japan for it to be a close call, whereas he'd just have to be an average MLB pitcher to get a life-changing FA deal.
I think you're confusing six years from now and six years of service time. He doesn't start getting MLB service time until he's actually on the MLB roster.
 

DJnVa

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But also what his free-agent deal would look like in MLB if he has 6 years of service time in MLB at that point
By signing in Japan, in 6 years, he'll be a FA.

He won't have 6 years of service time 6 years from now if he stayed in the US.
 

Max Power

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Just looking at No. 8 overall draft picks since 2000 to 2012

2000: Matt Wheatland: Never made the majors.
2001: Jonathan Van Benschoten: Career 2-13 record in the majors.
2002: Scott Moore: 385 career AB in majors.
2003: Paul Maholm: 10 year career, made $27 million.
2004: Wade Townsend: Didn't sign, never made majors.
2005: Wade Townsend: Yes, he was picked No. 8 in back to back years.
2006: Drew Stubbs: 9 year career, made $9 million.
2007: Casey Weathers: Never made the majors.
2008: Gordon Beckham: 11 year career, made $12 million and counting.
2009: Mike Leake: 10 year career, made $79 million and counting.
2010: Delino DeShields Jr.: 5 year career, made $3 million, will hit FA in 2022.
2011: Francisco Lindor: 5 year career, made $12 million, will hit FA in 2022.
2012: Mark Appel: Did not sign, never made the majors.

So out of 12 picks (not counting Townsend twice), only five of them went on to have significant MLB careers. Maholm, Leake and presumably Lindor, are the only players to really make huge money, the kind of money you can only make in the MLB.
And Lindor, the guy on the list with Hall of Fame talent, is 8 years from the draft and just made as much as Stewart signed for a year ago. Unless you're a huge money top pick, going somewhere else until you're 25 seems like a really smart financial decision.
 

nighthob

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Had he not gotten injured would he have blazed this trail?
Probably not. But once the money from Japan was greater, adding in all the other incentives, it was logical. It will be interesting if he succeeds and more kids start heading for Japan to bypass the draft.
 

oumbi

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right, which he wouldn't do if he didn't think he'd have a faster and more convenient exit to the bigs there. I probably should have said "more immediately".
But I suppose that is key, isn't it? The current minor league system, to his thinking, does NOT provide an easier or surer path to the majors. Further, the path being offered by the minor system involves terrible pay and difficult conditions.

And if he succeeds in Japan, which is more likely than succeeding in the US by reaching the majors leagues, he can still make a good living even if he does not come to the US. The same cannot be said of the US minor league system. Failure to reach the majors from there means he spent years toiling for low pay and has little to show for it....unless the player opts to go to Japan.

By going to Japan immediately, he believes he will increase his odds of success, both immediate and long term. He may be on to something. If so, other players may follow this path.
 

BoSox Rule

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I think the thread title and the way this is being reported everywhere is misleading. At this point a potential 2nd round pick has signed in Japan. It’s not like he was drafted in the top 10 this year with no red flags and chose Japan after weighing his options.
 

Tokyo Sox

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Hawks Twitter officially announced the signing this afternoon. There will be a press conference in the US on May 30th, before they introduce him in Japan on June 3rd.
 

Tokyo Sox

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Stewart has appeared in three games so far for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 3rd team (san-gun, two levels below the big club). His line so far is 5 ER in 9.2 IP for a 4.66 ERA, 11:4 K/BB. Piecing together info from the Softbank page and this article in Japanese, his three outings have gone:

2.0 scoreless IP in his debut in early July.
2.2 IP on 18-July when he got knocked around in the 3rd, giving up 5 ER.
5 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 7 K in his most recent start on 27-July.