Breaking News: Swallows sign Josh Whitesell

Yakyu Baka (via Sanspo) is reporting that the Swallows have signed left-handed first baseman Josh Whitesell to a contract. The contract, which reportedly will run to the end of the season, is said to be worth 30M yen (approx. 327,000 USD). The Sanspo article reports that Whitesell will arrive in Japan on the 9th. No word yet on when he will be eligible to play his first game, and how the Swallows will adjust their roster to accommodate the new foreigner.

Whitesell is being brought in to compete with Jamie D’Antona, and to a lesser extent Shinichi Takeuchi, for the starting first baseman’s job. Quickly skimming through Whitesell’s Wikipedia profile reveals some similarities between D’Antona and Whitesell. They are both tall, 28 year old first basemen that made their Major League debut in 2008 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2009, D’Antona signed with the Swallows, while Whitesell bounced between AAA and the Major Leagues. Whitesell put up some impressive numbers in AAA, but failed to replicate those results in the Majors. After the 2009 season, Whitesell was not resigned by the Diamondbacks, and he signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals.

Whitesell is noted for his patience at the plate. In 53 games for the Syracuse Chiefs of the AAA International League this year, Whitesell lead his team in walks with 29, and he recorded an OBP of .401 . However, Whitesell also lead the team with 47 strikeouts. Whitesell slugged a respectable .443 for an OPS of .844. He has not spent any time in the Majors this year.

It seems we have gotten a left-handed version of D’Antona. We’ll have to see how Whitesell adapts to life in NPB and see how his minor league numbers translate on this side of the Pacific. Stay tuned to Tsubamegun for more coverage on the Whitesell signing!

About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.

  • MooreyTokyo

    How did Jamie's AAA and Major record compare to this guy? Do you think we can afford to be optimistic?

    • Kozo

      I think the easiest thing you can do is compare their 2008 stats where they played for Tuscon in the AAA Pacific Coast League. Josh was the starting first baseman and Jamie was the starting third baseman for most of the season. Both where selected to the PCL All-Star team that season.

      Jamie played 17 less games than Josh (Jamie spent a few more games with the Major League team that season), but got almost the same number of hits, home runs, and doubles. Which gave Jamie a edge on AVG and SLG. But Josh got more than twice as many BB than Jamie which gave him a higher OBP. Josh also lapped Jamie in the SO department that season with a whopping 136 Ks. But really, beyond the BB and SO number the two were pretty similar that season.

      The Baseball Cube also has Jamie's 2009 stats in Japan and Josh's 2009 stats, so you can make some eyeball comparisons. But I don't really have enough information to make any strong statements about Whitesell's potential either way.

  • simon

    Hmm.. could be good to have another lefty slugger, he's an established AAAA talent which may or may not translate to NPB, and sounds like a younger Guiel. Though not sure if it's wise to use an import roster spot on a platoon.

  • tokyotraveler

    Which foreigner will be sent down now?

    • D'Antona is definitely the most vulnerable, and he has about two weeks to state his case–with his bat, of course.

      The two guys who appear to be safest at this point are Lim and Guiel. Barnette also seems to have secured his spot on the roster for the time being, and Lee's ineffectiveness has given him lots of extra time to make the proper adjustments.

      With this many non-Japanese guys on Tokyo's books, the duration of stints on the farm team may have just gotten much longer.

    • Kozo

      Tony Barnette was taken off the active roster prior to today's game. Not sure if this move was made in anticipation of Whitesell's arrival. Since the papers are reporting that the earliest he would play is on the 25th.

      • According to the Hochi, Barnette consulted a doctor in Sapporo yesterday morning. They say his right big toe is badly swollen because of gout, and he can't even run. Instead De La Cruz will be called up as a reliever.

  • William

    Jamie did not play in the Majors as much as Whitesell. I am from Arizona and saw Whitesell and D'Antona often. Antona hit for a higher average but Whitesell had more homerun power. Jamie was not a great fielder and mainly played 3rd base. Whitesell struggled in the majors but also was not managed well and not given much playing time- mainly pinch hits. He has been awesome for his new minor league team and putting up great numbers, and he is a decent first basemen.

    • So your money's on Whitesell (provided he can make the mental adjustment to Japan)?

  • Susan

    I too am from Arizona and an avid reader of this column since D'Antona came to the Swallows. You all saw what he is capable of doing last year and at the start of this year. Keep the faith. He has the ability and the charisma to carry a team. Slumps come and slumps go, but players like D'Antona are a rarity. We're rooting for you Jamie here in Tucson!!!!

    • William

      Yay Susan! I loved watching Whitesell play for us in Tucson and miss him, and I was excited to hear him doing so well in Reno and for the Chiefs. I tuned in to almost every game he played in for the Dbacks and felt the team didn't give him enough of a chance (I also laughed how they told us how great Brandon Allen would be and demoted Josh in favor of the mediocre Allen). I hope Whitesell and Jamie really make a future in Japan and beyond. And hey, go Toros 🙂

      • It's almost a shame to hear that both D'Antona and Whitesell are good guys – they're going to have to try to knock each other out of a job. Oh well, so goes the game – hopefully, they'll spark a fire under each others' behinds and everyone will raise his game.

        Thanks again, Arizona – keep 'em coming.

  • Marc

    I am a diehard Diamondbacks and Swallows fans, so I find the constant arrival of Diamondbacks farmhands at Jingu to be somewhat amusing. Last year Whitesell had a fair shot in the big leagues, and he made a lot of contant. We all kept saying “One of these days balls will start dropping and he will be hitting .300,” but it never happened. I think Whitesell has a few holes in his swing that might be exploited by the tendency for Japanese pitchers to throw a lot of breaking balls.

    • Astute, Marc. I haven't seen Whitesell, but if there's a hole in his swing, pitchers will have an opportunity to find it – facing him umpteen times a year if he becomes a regular.

  • zunlin

    I would try to use Jamie as 3rd base and Miyamoto back in the SS role.