As fans of the minor leagues and prospects, we know that winning in the minors will always take a back seat to development. It seems obvious, however on the other side of the lake Japanese clubs believe their minor league affiliates should focus on winning just as much as their Major League counterparts. That is starting to change though, thanks in part to the Yankees.
The Yomiuri Giants, Hideki Matsui’s old team, have a relationship with the Bombers that allows their coaches to participate in what amounts to a study abroad program, where they spend time working in the Yanks’ minor league system. Kaoru Okazaki, essentially Yomiuri’s farm director, is taking what he learned during his time with the Yanks and is installing a more development-focused system for his club. Allow me to quote Ryo of NPB Tracker:
In Japan, the farm system believes in winning as much as their NPB teams and using a pinch hitter in game deciding situation remains to be a norm. NPB baseball operations personnel has a mindset that if the farm system isn’t winning, the players aren’t developing. In that case the ni-gun manager will not be evaluated efficiently, which results in aggressive decisions.
However Okazaki learned a different style in the minor leagues where players rarely get taken out of games. The evaluation comes into place playing a whole game and not only from a portion of the game. Learning the importance of allowing the players to play the whole game allowed Okazaki to have a better assessment on each player and decreases the possibility of missing out on players’ less obvious skills.
Even though there are players that need to be developed for certain situations (such as lefty-lefty match ups), Okazaki strongly believes in developing the overall skills in position players. The development of OF Tetsuya Matsumoto and INF Hayato Sakamoto has been hard to miss and if the Giants continue to have success in developing the young talents within their system, we could see a strong Giants team for a long time.
MLB and NPB have been developing a strong and mutually beneficial relationship for quite some time now, especially in the last few years. It’s great to see the benefits go beyond players and now extending into the coaching staffs. Nothing but good can come from this, for both sides.
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Here’s your open thread for the night. The Yanks are still out on the west coast, so we’ve still got three hours to kill until first pitch. The Mets and Braves are crossing another meaningless game off their calenders in Flushing, while your MNF game is the Colts at Dolphins. Marian Gaborik is making his Rangers debut at the Garden tonight, although it’s just a preseason game. I also hear there’s a new episode of House on. Feel free to talk about whatever you want, just be civil.