Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Oakland A's/Seibu Lions Series: Esteban German

The bat flipping', OBP rich, Dominican belonged in Japan, where he finally made the jump.


Tenures: 2002-2004 with the Oakland A's, 2012-2013 with the Seibu Lions

Statistics with the A's: 45 games, 109 PAs, .232/.296/.263 0 HRs, 8 RBIs, -0.8 bWAR

Statistics with the Lions:

2012: 144 games, 583 PAs, .270/.346/.343 3 HRs, 60 RBIs, 41 SBs

2013: 144 games, 623 PAs, .319/.418/.396 4 HRs, 55 RBIs, 40 SBs

Through this series, I've learned about all the A's prospects who never got their chance because they were simply going through the system at the wrong time. We already saw that with Jose Ortiz, now we see it again with Esteban German. Both those players would become high impact players in Japan.

German was signed by the A's in 1996 as an 18 year old. During the 90s, the A's were extremely active in the Latin American amateur market, most notably with Miguel Tejada and Ramon Hernandez. The A's found a bit of success with that area. Up until today, they were one of the teams that exploited the possibilities in that market.

Right away, the A's saw the high OBP numbers that German put up through the first few levels of their minor league system. This along with incredible stolen base ability, including one stint in high-A Visalia where he stole 78 bases in 109 games. With that scouting report, German had "perfect leadoff man" written all over him.

During the early 2000s, prospect rankings weren't as uniform as they are nowadays, in other words, the rankings for each big baseball publication would have completely different lists full of different guys, as compared to today where every big prospect will show up in all the big publications. Esteban German showed up in the 2001 Baseball Prospectus' Top Prospects as the 18th best prospect.

After a big 2001 season splitting time in Midland and Sacramento, German was pegged to challenge for a spot on the A's in 2002. He'd end up spending the majority of 2002 in Sacramento (AAA / ni-gun), and he wasn't as dominant as he had been before. As a result, he only played in 9 games for the A's in 2002.

It would be Mark Ellis who would grab the brass ring as the starting second baseman for the A's and that would be the thing that blocked German from advancing beyond anything other than a bench role with Oakland. German had great baserunning skills and plate discipline, but Ellis was more consistent and much better defensively, so it was clear who Billy Beane was going to go with.

German would see the same issues in 2003, and even in 2004 as well, with Ellis out for that year, German looked to finally get a chance, but then a guy named Marco Scutaro stepped in and ended any chances of that happening. The A's at that time were a team who did not value base stealing, so it was clear that German's days in Oakland were numbered. After the 2004 season, German was cut and granted free agency. He'd sign with the Texas Rangers, and he'd feature even less for them during the 2005 season.

Then during the Winter Meetings after the 2005 season, the Kansas City Royals of all teams made a minor trade for German and they looked to finally give him a real chance in the major leagues. German rewarded the Royals for their faith with a solid .322/.422/.459 in 106 games for a hapless Royals team. He was given more playing time in 2007 and German still put up a decent .264/.351/.376 in 121 games.

After the season, German earned his first year of making $1,000,000 in arbitration. In 2008, things went downhill for German and he was released by the Royals right before the 2009 season. He would then be signed by the Chicago Cubs, who'd release him before Opening Day of that same season. German sign with the Texas Rangers once again, a team he'd play with for another three seasons in limited action.

During his time in Texas, he was most known for creating the gimmick known as "the claw" which is up there with the rally monkey among the worst gimmicks in baseball. He'd end up on the Rangers 2011 World Series roster, appearing as a pinch hitter in game one. German departed from MLB after the 2011 season and it was the Seibu Lions who signed him.

At the age of 34, the Lions gave German everyday duties for his entire tenure, he never missed a game during his time in Saitama. While with the Lions, German showed his base stealing skills that hadn't been seen in several years. He'd bag 81 stolen bases in his two years with the team. The year 2013 was especially special for German, who won the Pacific League OBP title with an amazing .418 OBP. His 40 stolen bases were good enough for second in the Pacific League.

Here's a video of the 4 home runs that German hit in 2013, where there's one that includes a young Takahiro Norimoto pitching. Check out all the amazing bat flips, he really has a nice touch.

Here's German's Oendan song.

It's not clear why German was not brought back for the 2014 season, but he ended up signing with the Orix Buffaloes and spent the last two years with the team. In his two years with Orix, he was still able to steal 47 bases, but battled injuries in the 2015 season. In a limited playing time for 2015, he .267/.339/.326 in 73 games.

Most recently, he played in the Dominican Winter League for the Leones del Escogido in the month of January. He appeared in only six games as a part time infielder. German where he won a championship with the team last month. His team got to participate in the 2016 Caribbean Series, representing the Dominican Republic. It's possible that 2015 was his final year in Japan, as he is currently a free agent at the time of this writing.


Other Players in the series: 

Roger Repoz

Jim Tyrone

Bert Campaneris  

Hiram Bocachica


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