Alternate Title: Evaluating CPBL’s Best Foreign Pitchers in a non-CPBL Context Since There Are Currently No CPBL Games
(As with the rest of the CPBL coverage on the site, we’ll be using the Taiwanese order for player names as is standard across CPBL English-language broadcasts and websites such as CPBL Stats. For example: Jhang Jin-De was known as “Jin-De Jhang” while playing in Minor League Baseball.)
As Taiwan’s CPBL enters into another week of postponed games, it’s beginning to look like this might be a lengthy delay – and that means there will be the potential of non-CPBL teams asking about the top tier of foreign pitchers. FanSided’s Robert Murray posed the question on Twitter:
He’s right, of course, in highlighting Stankiewicz’s talent. The righty has been phenomenal this year in seven starts. As Murray points out, he’s third in ERA among the league across that qualifier; he’s only behind reliever Kuan Ta-Yuan of the Brothers and starter Jake Brigham, who started eight games and left to rejoin the Kiwoom Heroes in the KBO. Essentially, of the starters currently in the league, he’s been the best.
Wasn’t There A Juiced Ball in This League Recently?
Before evaluating Stankiewicz any further, I’d argue there’s a level of hesitation to accept how good the pitching’s been across the league this year. The CPBL has been experimenting with the baseball over the last few years, and that’s resulted in various dramatic changes across stats – for as hitter-friendly as the league was in 2020, it’s become extremely good to pitchers in 2021 throughout the 40-ish games they completed before the postponements.
Two pitchers (Huang Tzu-Peng and Cheng Kai-Wen) made the leap from the bullpen back into the rotation and have had strong outings reasonably consistently. If you include Brigham, there are eleven qualified pitchers with an ERA under 4. In 2020, the average ERA was much higher across the first half. Even by the end of the season, the leading team ERA was 4.20. This year, it’s 3.03. The batters in this league are remarkably talented, and if I may insert my own opinion here, they didn’t get that much worse this year.
So, there are two baseballs to factor in. Actually, there’s three. There was a first-half baseball in 2020 (incredibly juiced), a second-half baseball (still juiced, but not as much) in 2020, and a new one again in 2021 (pitcher-friendly). All of these conclusions are my own, but they’re pretty obvious to anyone who’s watched an extended amount of these time periods for the league.
So then, good luck evaluating Jose De Paula or Mike Loree (two pitchers who pitched in all three of the aforementioned half-seasons) in a non-CPBL context.
My point, in all of this talk about baseballs and pitching talent in the Taiwanese league, is to give the proper context for the Baseball-Reference pages to anyone who’s looking at the postponement of the games and wondering how much these pitchers could help MLB, KBO, or NPB teams. My secondary point is to highlight how complicated it makes stats when leagues are inconsistent with the interior design and COR value of the baseball. Consistency is appreciated, and so is transparency with any changes.
So, Which Scouts Should be Looking at the Uni-Lions Championship Trio?
Stankiewicz is the highlight for a reason, though. Not only did he pitch in AAA as recently as in 2019, he’s also only pitched with the 2020 second-half ball and the 2021 ball – this makes evaluating him, as well as teammates Tim Melville and Brock Dykxhoorn more realistic when looking at a potential MLB or MiLB role.
Let’s start with Melville and Dykxhoorn, since they’re both doing well but are less likely to gather MLB interest.
Melville’s 31, and he’s gotten a chance at MLB. I think there’s a real chance that Melville does well in a KBO or NPB setting if he wants to pitch in the summer of 2021, but I think the MLB door is probably closed for now unless he’s willing to accept a Minor League deal and pitch in AAA. Is that worth it over waiting out the virus and pitching the Uni-Lions to a potential championship? I can’t read Melville’s mind, but I suspect it’s probably not.
Dykxhoorn is still just 26, and his experience across KBO and CPBL could get the attention of an MLB team. So far in his MiLB career, his ceiling has appeared to be around AAA or AA, which was likely why he made the call to go to KBO in 2019. His emergence as a strong CPBL pitcher makes him a candidate to return to KBO for another opportunity if the season is postponed for a considerable amount of time.
Both Dykxhoorn and Melville are under contracts that aren’t public, but if they were allowed to pursue other opportunities, it seems likeliest that a KBO team would be their best fit in 2021. If they were to do that and pitch well (similarly to Ryan Carpenter or Ariel Miranda’s paths), more doors could open.
For Stankiewicz, though, there’s no real reason that he’d need to go to KBO to impress an MLB team. His ERAs in both 2020 (3.81 in eight starts) and 2021 (1.07 in seven starts) are impressive, the strikeouts are there (47 in 2020, 56 in 2021), and walks are down from 13 to four this season. His 2019 ERA with Pawtucket (Boston’s AAA team at the time) was 3.85, and he pitched well in both the 2019-20 Mexican Pacific Winter League and LIDOM seasons. A 2016 Baseball Prospectus profile written by Max Sandgrund mentions his reportoire (fastball, curveball, changeup, slider, per the article), and highlights his then-potential of becoming a back-end reliable starter if things had worked out.
Thing is, things have worked out. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Uni-Lions were just sitting there quietly hoping no one was really noticing that those things have worked out. I think there’s a genuine chance that he fits into an MLB rotation right now.
It’s not even a stretch; most North American pitching prospects spent 2020 without competitive games. Stankiewicz won the Taiwan Series, pitched half of a season in what was one of the toughest environments to throw a baseball in worldwide, and has been dominant this year once again.
Individually and as a team player, he’s been brilliant.
Why the Toronto Blue Jays?
Actually, I would recommend Stankiewicz to any of the 30 MLB teams who need a back-end starter for their rotation. That is to say, uh, all 30 MLB teams.
The Blue Jays didn’t take advantage of the 2020-21 free agency class to the fullest – and that’s fine! But it also means they need to be on the lookout for undervalued arms whenever they can. Steven Matz and Robbie Ray both fit this, and so does Ross Stripling, although Stripling’s largely not had the career renaissance that the other two have so far in 2021.
They’re in such need for a solution that as I write this, tonight’s starting pitcher is Alek Manoah. I think Manoah has a real chance to be brilliant for the team sooner rather than later, but he’s only pitched in three AAA games this season and in one of them, he hit three batters. I almost don’t feel like I have to justify “here’s an undervalued starter with some real potential” to the same fanbase that’s dealt with various amounts of underwhelming from Tanner Roark, Anthony Kay, Ross Stripling, and TJ Zeuch so far this season; he’s a clear fit.
Pitching in the second-half season with the generous-to-hitters style of baseball, Stankiewicz is used to hitter-friendly situations. Both Rogers Centre and Sahlen Field are hitter-friendly, so that’s another potentially good sign. He’s historically somewhat susceptible to the long-ball, but the rest of his talent and newfound experience dealing with power hitters like Chu Yu-Hsien and Chang Chih-Hao should help him quite a bit on a bigger stage.
Combine that with good AAA stats, recent success and consistent innings, and the other factors I mentioned before the Jays segment began, and it’s clear to me that he’s earned the opportunity. If there’s no baseball in Taiwan for the foreseeable future, and the Uni-Lions allow him, I hope he’s able to showcase his talent to North American fans.
Is There Anyone Else in CPBL Who Could Return to MLB?
Not to be pessimistic, but probably not at the moment. In my view, there’s a couple guys (Manny Bañuelos, J.C. Ramírez, Rosell Herrera, Deck McGuire, Adalberto Mejía) that could earn an MLB invite to Spring Training if they complete a solid year in the league, but the rest of the league would be looking to either stay consistent at this level or make a jump to either KBO or NPB. The aforementioned inconsistent baseball selection makes some of the names harder to evaluate in this way, but Stankiewicz is the best bet right now.
There’s also the factor that players might just want to stick around with their Taiwanese clubs. It’s a very fun league, and it’s competitive with loyal, loud fans. Not everyone would want to go, and the league has their own stars, both foreign and local to Taiwan.
- Major League Baseball is the top level in North America, but not every athlete treats it as their goal. That last paragraph I wrote is one of the shorter ones in this piece, but in my opinion it’s one of the most important.
- Right before the postponement of the games, the league’s Fubon Guardians signed Adalberto Mejía. I broke down that signing here.
- Since contracts are not public info in the CPBL, it’s hard to know whether the Uni-Lions would let Teddy Stankiewicz out of the contract to play in North America if presented with the decision. The atmosphere around the “trio” (Stankiewicz, Melville, and Dykxhoorn) has been so positive that I doubt they’d want to close the door on Stankiewicz coming back down the road. Félix Doubront would fill his roster spot if he were to leave.