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The search for foreign power

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The search for foreign power

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The first step is admitting you have a problem.

The Hawks' need for a power bat of any kind is undeniable. The team has been getting older for years now, and there has been no real intent or will to replace the aging bats of Matsunaka and Kokubo, with the team instead relying on pitching, defense and speed this year. SoftBank did finish 5th overall in home runs, second in the Pacific League behind Seibu, but right after another heartbreaking playoff exit, the one man who would know about home runs better than anyone in Japan, Sadaharu Oh, spoke up. He acknowledged the problem of fading power bats.

To that end, the Hawks seem to have expressed interest in 33-year old John Lindsey of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. The infielder hit .353 in 107 games with the Dodgers AAA affiliate, with 25 home runs and 97 RBI, and a 1.057 OPS. The Hawks have coveted foreign power for years, and Lindsey seems to fit their needs.

What I like about him is his high on-base percentage (.400) and on-base plus slugging (OPS). There's no guarantee that these numbers will translate (if he's even signed), but he seems to be a lot better than most potential foreign sluggers the Hawks have had in mind since I started following the team in 2007. Let's go down the line.

Adam Hyzdu - 42G, 136AB, .272AVG, 7HR, 14RBI, .327 OBP, .812 OPS
Brian Buchanan - 99G, 288AB, .285AVG, 11HR, 48RBI, .327 OBP, .792 OPS
Chris Aguila - 14G, 42AB, .095AVG, 0HR, 0RBI, .208 OBP, .303 OPS

Not exactly encouraging numbers, and the Hawks haven't really tried too hard to find foreign power. They thought they had it in Aguila for 2009, although it looks like he was a flash in the pan when he was with the Marlins' organization five years ago. He was out of baseball in 2010. There hasn't been a standout foreign bat since Julio Zuleta's departure after the 2006 season, although his departure seemed well-timed (23 home runs in two years with Lotte as opposed to 72 in his last two years with SoftBank).

As for how the Hawks should proceed with finding foreign offense in general, they really should try and follow the example that the Hanshin Tigers set and try to find someone on the "right side" of 30, like Matt Murton (right side meaning under 30). Granted, having seen Murton play myself (one-time Red Sox farmhand who was part of the Nomar Garciaparra trade in '04), his MLB career looked a lot like Rick Short's (Rakuten Eagles 2006-2010): a guy who never got a chance. There are hurdles, though.

Finding talent under 30 is tough because some teams -- especially those who are short on payroll -- tend to hang on to their prospects, and may even end up fielding a team of career minor leaguers (Pittsburgh, I'm looking at you). Famed sabermatrician Bill James has said before that most Minor Leaguers hit their potential at 28, and then tend to peter out (if my memory serves).

In fairness to the Hawks, there are so many variables about foreigners that it's unrealistic to expect them to happen upon a player like Bobby Rose, Josh Whitesell, or Tony Blanco. Realistically, the team seems to have had some trouble scouting players recently, which would account for some of their poor drafts and foreign busts.

However, the front office has taken the first step: they have openly acknowledged the problem. Whether they are able to find a solution or not is up to the scouting department.
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