So Taguchi – 2002 Donruss Rookies

April 19, 2011

So-So So

For a while, it seemed like every team was signing a Japanese player. As with any player moving to a foreign land, it’s an adjustment. Some were good, others were spectacular failures.

Then there’s So Taguchi.

Unlike some imports, he started out in the minors and that seemed to be the plan as he started in New Haven. However, any big plans the Cards had for him didn’t come to fruition. He was never more than a 4th outfielder – a spare part.

That was to be expected. Again, unlike some imports he was in decline in Japan and was merely a useful player, not a superstar. He was humble and worked hard, and he was a favorite in the organization and among fans.

But the question is, here’s a 32-year old player starting in AA. Would that development time be better spent on younger players? At age 32, Taguchi was Taguchi. He never had a WAR over 1.0; never had an OPS+ of over 100.You expect imports from Japan to be hyped as stars – that wasn’t the vibe with Taguchi. Could a AA roster spot be better spent on a 22-year old that has a chance to be more than a 4th outfielder?

Finding and grooming talent is still a huge, nebulous ordeal. You don’t know how players will react to bus rides from Beloit to Bowling Green, eating on $10 a day and sleeping multiple to a room. You don’t know if or when a prospect will blow out an arm, or totally lose his swing, or flail at the sliders on the outside corner that no one in high school could locate. You don’t know about how the 19-year old phenom will interact to the older, more cynical players.

Baseball is a hard enough game even without these developmental questions. Taguchi was no mystery. He did what was logically expected. But prospecting is a risk /reward continuum. Become safe, and you fall behind. Become reckless, and you fall behind.

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