2020 CPBL Season Begins With a Twist
The Taiwanese baseball season is upon us once again with the 2020 CPBL season returning on April 11. The Opening Day matchup will feature last year’s Taiwan Series Champion the Rakuten Monkeys taking on the CTBC Brothers at Taoyuan Stadium.
Due to the recent Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, the CPBL decided to implement the behind closed doors policy. For the first time since 1990, the CPBL games will be played in empty stadiums without fans in attendance.
CPBL Skill Level: Close to Double-A
This is probably one of the most asked questions about the CPBL. In my personal opinion and from talking with MLB scouts, foreign players, the CPBL’s skill level on an average day is very close to Double-A, maybe go down to Single-A on its worst day.
The reason being, most of the time, foreign players or Taiwanese players who returned from the MLB system needed to be at least Double-A to have success in the CPBL. Taiwanese players with less than Double-A experience generally struggled in the CPBL.
Using a group of 38 players that returned from the MLB system that never reached to Double-A as our sample group, 10% of this group achieved borderline average performance in the CPBL, and only 2% of them became top-tier players. To sums it up, 90% of the players with less than Double-A experience will fail to have a career in the CPBL.
Another method to measure the skill level is to use the CPBL exports to the MLB system. In most case, CPBL players tend to begin in Double-A or Triple-A. We are using Ni Fu-Te, Tsao Chin-Hui and other foreign players who returned to the MLB system as examples.
Of course, there were exceptions too. Over the years, we have seen players with only Single-A experience performing well and players with MLB experience struggling hard in CPBL.
At the end of the day, Taiwan’s CPBL is a giant mix pot of players from various skill levels. You will find former MLB, NPB, KBO, MiLB players playing on the same team with a few kids fresh out of university or high school.
What Can People Expect From CPBL
For all the new fans that are trying to get into the CPBL, hopefully, this will give you some ideas of what can you expect from this league.
To start, the CPBL is a very hitter-friendly league. It is not uncommon to see teams putting more than ten runs on the scoreboard. The reasons are partly due to the lack of high-tier pitchers, stacked lineup, smaller strike zone and hitter-pitcher familiarity.
There were some “juiced ball” allegations in the 2016 season where the number of home runs spiked to 2.5 per game. From 2017 onward, it returned to a more reasonable range between 1.6 to 2.1 per game.
For those of you hate bunting, then you are coming to the right place. These days, the CPBL players rarely lay down a bunt, instead of doing that, they prefer swinging for the fences or put the ball in play and hope for the best.
Earlier, we mentioned the lack of high-tier pitchers in the league, and this makes the game extremely entertaining to watch, especially in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. It is quite common to see the bullpen blew some ridiculous huge lead in this league.
Another thing about the CPBL would be the fans cheering culture. Just like the neighbouring NBP and KBO. Going to a CPBL game is like going to a night club, each player would have their unique theme song blasting at full volume during their at-bats. There are drums, trumpets and fans can be seen chanting and dancing to support their favourite team.
How to Watch CPBL Games (Streaming Guide)
There are many different ways to watch the CPBL games during the season, either via the traditional TV broadcast or through various online streaming services.
- Weekday Games: 18:30 Taiwan Time
- Weekend Games: 17:00 Taiwan Time
- Here’s an English guide on how to read the 2020 CPBL schedule
Free Online Streams
- Rakuten Monkeys’ home games
- CTBC Brothers’ home games
- Fubon Guardians’ home games
- Uni-Lions’ home games
CPBL TV ($35 USD Per Year)
- CPBL TV (Live streams for all the teams and the VOD archived games)
Which Team Should You Support?
Since there are only five teams in the CPBL, therefore it is not exactly hard to pick one to follow. Here is the 2020 CPBL Power Ranking per categories. We allocated a score between 5 to 1 to each team based on their 2019 stats and 2020 rosters. (5 being the highest)
2020 Season Batting Starters Bullpen Baserunning Defence Bench Depth
Monkeys 5 3 2 4 3 5
Brothers 4 4 4 5 5 4
Guardians 4 5 5 3 4 3
Uni-Lions 3 3 3 3 3 2
Dragons 1 1 1 3 3 1
To sums it up, if you are looking for a balanced team, then the CTBC Brothers and Fubon Guardians would be an excellent choice. The Rakuten Monkeys are a pure hitting team with no pitching depth at all, and they have to use their bats to cover their lack of pitching.
For more of an underdog team, the Uni-Lions would be a perfect team to support. They are a team with a lot of raw talents but crippled by poor management and subpar front office support.
As for the Wei Chuan Dragons, the CPBL expansion team? Well, they pretty much came in last in every category. The Dragons will spend the entire 2020 season in the CPBL minor league and move up to the major league in 2021. As a team, the Dragons still got a long way to go to be competitive in the CPBL.
Still can not decide your favourite CPBL team? What about let us use MLB teams to describe each of the CPBL teams.
Rakuten Monkeys are a lot like the Oakland Athletics. During their Lamigo Monkeys era, they were the poorest team in the league. So instead of competing with other rich teams, they invested heavily in their scouting department.
Fubon Guardians are very similar to the Los Angeles Dodgers, on paper, they have the best lineup and rotation in the league. However, they just can not bring home that championship.
CTBC Brothers are known as the New York Yankees of the CPBL, but not because of their playing ability. There is a long-standing joke that there are two types of CPBL fans; you are either a Brothers’ fan or anti-Brothers’ fan.
Uni-Lions are quite like the Miami Marlins, they have plenty of raw talents but crippled by their mismanagement and poor front office decision.
Still not sure which #CPBL team to support? I hope this GIF can help you decide. Or alternatively, you can read our guide to the 2020 CPBL season on our blog. https://t.co/UZ5Toafq9S pic.twitter.com/IbFujbs5NE
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) May 4, 2020
CPBL Players to Watch For
In this section, we will briefly touch on a few top players from each team that should be on your watch list.
Rakuten Monkeys: 朱育賢 (Chu Yu-Hsien)
The 28-year-old outfielder who hit 30 home runs with a 153 wRC+ last season. Chu Yu-Hsien led the league in home runs and hits and was named the 2019 CPBL MVP. The MLB and NPB scouts were often spotted at the stadiums to watch Chu in action last year.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) April 30, 2019
CTBC Brothers: 張志豪 (Chang Chih-Hao)
The 32-year-old centre fielder is considered to be one of the best in the league. Chang Chih-Hao, who earned the nickname “Spider-Man” for his defensive ability, the man has a huge range along with a great arm to throw the runners out. Hitting wise, he is known for being a clutch hitter that can perform under pressure.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) May 8, 2019
Fubon Guardians: 林益全 (Lin Yi-Chuan)
The 34-year-old first baseman turned pro in 2009 and never had a bad year in his career. Over 5158 plate appearances, Lin Yi-Chuan compiled a career record of .345/.394/.529 with 171 home runs and 1595 hits. Should Lin stays healthy and continues to perform, he is very likely to break the CPBL hit record, which is at 2134.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) May 18, 2019
Uni-Lions: 蘇智傑 (Su Chih-Chieh)
The 25-year-old outfielder became the first player in the Uni-Lions franchise history to have a 20-20 season with 27 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Once again, should Su Chih-Chieh stays healthy he could potentially set the CPBL home run record. He is currently on 70, and the record is at 289.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) August 12, 2019
Wei Chuan Dragons: 劉基鴻 (Liu Chi-Hung)
Since they are an expansion team and will not enter the CPBL major league until 2021, so no point talking about them this season. But 19-year-old infielder 劉基鴻 (Liu Chi-Hung) is someone that should be on fans’ watchlist.
[Asia Winter Baseball League] #WCDragons' 劉基鴻 (Liu Chi-Hung) pounds a solo home run to even the score. Fresh out of high school, Liu was the 1st overall draft pick in 2019. #CPBL pic.twitter.com/UcUeA9hnji
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) December 4, 2019
Things to Watch for in 2020 Season
We put together a list of things to watch for, along with some quick facts to get you ready for the 2020 CPBL season.
Hsu Chi-Hung’s Revival
Is 2020 going to the year for the CTBC Brothers’ 許基宏 (Hsu Chi-Hung) to exit the “farm team jail”? The Brothers’ newly appointed manager told the media in January that Hsu Chi-Hung is highly likely to make the first-team roster as their primary first or third baseman.
Hsu, the 27-year-old power-hitting youngster, began his CPBL career with plenty of firepowers. In 2015, after slashing .319/.432/.535 with 13 home runs, Hsu won the Rookie of the Year award. In 2016, Hsu proved there is no such thing as a sophomore jinx by hitting .356/.457/.603 with 15 home runs. The future was bright for Hsu.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) March 8, 2017
However, for some unknown reasons, there seem to be some frictions between Hsu and the management team. From 2017 to 2019, Hsu Chi-Hung spent most of his time in the farm team.
Although Hsu continued to produce elite numbers in the minor league to prove that he does not belong there, he went unnoticed. From 2017 to 2019, Hsu Chi-Hung was given limited at-bats in the first team.
- 2017 Farm-team stats: .336/.448/.634
- 2017 First-team at-bats: 112
- 2018 Farm-team stats: .347/.479/.774
- 2018 First-team at-bats: 62
- 2019 Farm-team stats: .360/.450/.747
- 2019 First-team at-bats: 42
Notes: As of March 28, Hsu Chi-Hung is currently slashing .500/.613/1.500 with seven home runs in just seven games in the farm league.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) February 24, 2019
Coronavirus Financial Impact
With the Wuhan coronavirus causing havoc around the world, the league decided to begin the 2020 season behind closed doors without fans. The no-fan policy means that all the CPBL teams are going to lose a fair chunk of their revenues.
Several Taiwanese media outlets speculated that each team could be looking at a loss in revenues between $85,000 to $167,000 USD per game.
It would be interesting to see how each team tackle this issue, what are they going to do to minimise the damage. So far, we have seen some creative ways from the Rakuten Monkeys by putting robot mannequins in the stands.
The Brothers and Guardians have set up their official Twitch accounts to stream their games. Fans now can donate money to the team via the chatroom as the game goes on.
Rakuten Monkeys Taiwan Series
After dominating the CPBL by winning five Championships in the last six seasons, the Lamigo Monkeys sold their team and became the Rakuten Monkeys at the end of 2019 season.
Talk about taking over a team with a rock-solid foundation. The Rakuten Monkeys have retained the original Lamigo Monkeys’ Championship lineup going into the 2020 season.
The Monkeys’ batting lineup is widely considered to be the best in the league. From the top of the order to the end, every single player can hit. Last season, the Monkeys as a team hit for .318/.377/.493 in comparison with the league average of .288/.351/.439, they pretty much dominated all the CPBL hitting categories.
However, nothing is perfect in this world, and there is always a trade-off. With the team heavily focused on building the best hitting lineup, the Monkeys have some severe problems with their pitching department.
Fans often joked that a 10-run lead is not a huge lead when it comes to the Monkeys’ bullpen, they will spend that like it is going out of style. Instead of driving a fire truck to put out a fire, the Monkeys’ bullpen is charging in with a leaking fuel truck to blow everything up.
With all other CPBL teams starting to spend big on foreign pitchers and boosting their batting lineup, can the Rakuten Monkeys remain on top and capture the Taiwan Series once again in the 2020 season?
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) October 18, 2019
Lin Chih-Sheng to Set CPBL Home Run Record
The CTBC Brothers’ 林智勝 (Lin Chih-Sheng) will enter his 17th season in the CPBL. The 38-year-old power hitter is currently sitting on 283 career home runs and is seven home runs shy from breaking the CPBL home run record (289).
Apart from becoming the new CPBL home run king, Lin Chih-Sheng might even have a shot at pushing the record over 300 home runs. Although Lin is highly likely to set the new CPBL record this season, due to the coronavirus concerns, no fans will be at the stadium to witness that achievement.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) August 24, 2019
Battle of Managers
884 vs 0, to give some context, that is the number of wins of the Fubon Guardians’ manager Hong I-Chung have vs the other managers in the league combined.
During the 2019 off-season, there was a lot of management reshuffling within the CPBL. In December, the Fubon Guardians poached Hong I-Chung from the Rakuten Monkeys and locked him to a three-year deal.
Hong, who has been with the Monkeys’ organisations since 2004, is the best manager in the league. Under his leadership, the Monkeys went on to win seven Taiwan Series Championships, and six of those were in the last eight seasons.
After losing Hong I-Chung to the Guardians, the Rakuten Monkeys promoted their first-team hitting coach Tseng Hao-Ju as the manager.
Both the CTBC Brothers and the Uni-Lions did something similar as well. The Uni-Lions promoted their farm team pitching coach Lin Yueh-Ping, while the CTBC Brothers appointed their first-team bench coach Chiu Chang-Jung as the new head coach.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) March 28, 2020
Age of Expensive Foreign Players?
Foreign players are the keys to each team’s success, and the CPBL teams are spending big this season. The CTBC Brothers signed the former Seattle Mariners’ left-hander Ariel Miranda for at least $600,000 USD, excluding performance incentives.
The Fubon Guardians are bringing in the big gun too. After seeing what Henry Sosa can do in the first half of the 2019 season, they decided to lock him down to a full year contract. The media speculated his monthly salary is around $50,000 USD per month and is set to make between $500,000 to $600,000 in 2020.
Both the Monkeys and Uni-Lions are also trying to boost their talent depth by signing a bunch of former MLB pitchers. Unfortunately, not much information about their salaries, but given their experience, the teams are probably spending more than before.
So now the question is, where is the CPBL’s salary ceiling with foreign players? With a $600,000 USD contract, what sort of performance is needed to meet the team’s expectation?
For long time reader of this blog, you would know that I have been advocating that the CPBL teams can easily afford to sign foreign players around $400,000 to $700,000 USD price bracket, but they just choose not to do it.
Will this trend of spending big on high-tier foreign players continue in 2021? Or will the CPBL teams revert to their comfort zone with the standard salary around $20,000 USD per month?
Wei Chuan Dragons’ Farm Debut
The CPBL expansion team, the Wei Chuan Dragons will officially enter the CPBL minor league in 2020 season and move up to the major league in 2021.
A lot of people have been asking, can this expansion team be competitive enough? Can they handle playing in a full season format? Well, fans got their first taste of the Dragons in action during the 2019 Asia Winter Baseball League (CPBL Winter League) and in the exhibition series against the Australian Baseball League’s Adelaide Giants.
The Dragons finished third in the CPBL Winter League with eight wins, seven losses and two draws. In their exhibition series against the ABL’s Adelaide Giants, they won the first game 13-4 and dropped the second game 6-10.
However, things are not looking well for the young Dragons during the 2020 spring training against other CPBL major league teams. In 12 official spring training games, the Dragons were unable to get a win. They finished the spring training with 11 losses and one draw. The team struggled against other CPBL teams with a 76 ERA+ and 48 OPS+ (100 is league average).
#WCDragons' are aiming to play between 120-150 games this year in preparation for their #CPBL major league debut in 2021. The Dragons would have to find an additional 40-70 games on top the 80 official minor league games. pic.twitter.com/XWNMb6qF8b
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) February 5, 2020
Guardians Crack Under Pressure Again?
Fans often view the Fubon Guardians as a team that crumble under pressure. On paper, the Guardians supposed to be the best team in the CPBL with plenty of top tier players on their active roster. However, time after time, they failed to deliver.
Whenever the Guardians were in the situations where a win would put them on the top, instead of riding on the momentum, they often crashed into a wall and missed the opportunity.
There is something wrong with the team, and the Guardians’ front office is definitely trying to fix that. Their solution is to sign the best manager in the CPBL and let Hong I-Chung bring his winning formula over to the Guardians.
Healthy Uni-Lions Lineup
2019 was a tough year for the Uni-Lions, they finished the season with a record of 48 wins, 70 losses and two draws. Apart from their typical front office mismanagement, another major factor was the number of players on the injured list.
In May last year, the Uni-Lions had an alarming 24 players on the injured list. That number might not seem like much, but given the Uni-Lions had only 63 players in the organisation, that was close to 40% of their players out with injuries. The team pretty much played the entire 2019 season using their farm team.
With most of the Uni-Lions’ first-team players being healthy again, will the Uni-Lions put up a good fight in the 2020 season? Or is it going to be another year of mediocrity?
Potential Milestones and Records in 2020
It is never too early to look ahead and see what personal milestones are within reach in 2020. Here are some of the important one.
Fubon Guardians Milestones
- Lin Yi-Chuan 200th home run (171)
- Hu Chin-Lung 1000th hit (993)
- Chiang Chih-Hsien 100th home run (81)
- Hu Chin-Lung 100th home run (74)
- Lin Yi-Chuan 1000th RBI (992)
- Mike Loree 100th win (84)
- Mike Loree 1000th strikeout (964)
CTBC Brothers Milestones
- Lin Chih-Sheng breaking CPBL home run record at 289 (283)
- Lin Chih-Sheng 300th home run (283)
- Chang Chih-Hao 1000th hit (970)
- Chen Tzu-Hao 100th home run (75)
- Lin Chi-Shen 1000th run scored (986)
Rakuten Monkeys Milestones
- Chu Yu-Hsien 100th home run (84)
- Kuo Yen-Wen 100th home run (78)
- Kuo Yen-Wen 1000th hit (968)
- Chen Yu-Hsun 100th save (92)
- Chen Yung-Chi 1000th hit (940)
- Su Chi-Chih 100th home run (70)
- Pan Wei-Lun 150th win (143)
- Pan Wei-Lun 2000th inning (1938.1)
Foreign Players in Taiwan
The CPBL allows each team to have up to four foreign players on their active roster with a limit of three on its first-team roster. Generally speaking, the CPBL foreign players are mostly from the Triple-A level with MLB experience.
Apart from the MLB system, the ace from the Atlantic League, Mexican League and the various Latin American Winter Leagues tend to be another place where the CPBL teams sign their foreign talents.
Foreign Players Listing for 2020 Season
NAME CPBL TEAM Highest Level Seasons in CPBL
Radhames Liz Rakuten Monkeys MLB 2
Ryan Carpenter Rakuten Monkeys MLB 1
Elih Villanueva Rakuten Monkeys MLB 3
Justin Nicolino Rakuten Monkeys MLB 1
Lisalverto Bonilla Rakuten Monkeys MLB 1
Brandon Mann Rakuten Monkeys MLB 1
Henry Sosa Fubon Guardians MLB 2
Bryan Woodall Fubon Guardians Triple-A 6
Ryan Bollinger Fubon Guardians Triple-A 2
Mike Loree Fubon Guardians Double-A 8
Manny Bañuelos Fubon Guardians MLB 1
Yoanys Quiala Fubon Guardians Triple-A 1
José de Paula CTBC Brothers MLB 1
Mitch Lively CTBC Brothers Triple-A 3
Ariel Miranda CTBC Brothers MLB 1
Esmil Rogers CTBC Brothers MLB 1
Arturo Reyes CTBC Brothers Triple-A 1
Josh Roenicke Uni-Lions MLB 3
Donn Roach Uni-Lions MLB 1
Ryan Feierabend Uni-Lions MLB 1
Logan Darnell Uni-Lions MLB 1
Brock Dykxhoorn Uni-Lions Triple-A 1
Tim Melville Uni-Lions MLB 1
Teddy Stankiewicz Uni-Lions Triple-A 1
CPBL Foreign Players Monthly Salary
While the CPBL teams don’t publicly disclose the foreign players’ salary, but the local media do provide an estimated salary or leaked it from time to time.
For foreign players with at least AAA experience, the salary structure usually starts around $18,000 to $25,000 USD per month. This does not include post-game bonuses and incentives. Players with extensive MLB experience like Manny Ramirez and Freddy Garcia, they can earn more than $55,000 per month.
In 2020, there is a new trend of CPBL team spending large with foreign player signing. The Brothers reportedly signed Ariel Miranda for at least $600,000 USD, and Fubon Guardians have re-signed Henry Sosa with a salary between $500,000 to $600,000 USD.
Contract lengthwise, it is all different. New foreign players tend to get a 3-month to half-season deal. For those that are returning to CPBL, they might receive half-season to a full-year contract or even a multi-year deal.
English Rosters for 2020 CPBL Season
- CTBC Brothers 2020 English Roster
- Fubon Guardians 2020 English Roster
- Rakuten Monkeys 2020 English Roster
- Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions 2020 English Roster
- Wei Chuan Dragons 2020 English Roster
CPBL Brief History
CPBL was established in 1990 with a four teams structure, after several expansions in 1997, Taiwan reached a record high of 11 active teams. However, due to a string of game-fixing scandals, the CPBL has reduced down to four teams since 2009.
In 2019, the CPBL announced that Wei Chuan Dragons would return to professional baseball as the fifth team in the league. The Dragons will began their 2020 season in the CPBL minor league and make their inaugural season in 2021.
Regular Season Structure
Each team plays 120 games with 60 games each in the first and second-half season. Unlike the MLB, the CPBL games can be declared as a tie after 12 innings of play.
Postseason Structure: Playoff Series & Taiwan Series
With the season split in a two half-season format, there are three potential postseason scenarios which might lead to a best-of-five Playoff Series (If required) or a best-of-seven Taiwan Series.
- Scenario #1 – If two different teams win each half-season, then those two teams will play in a best-of-seven Taiwan Series.
- Scenario #2 – If the same team wins both half-seasons, then they will advance to the Taiwan Series with a one-game advantage. The other spot will be determined by a best-of-five Playoff Series between the second and third-best teams in the overall standings.
- Scenario #3 – If a team finishes with the best winning percentage but does not win either of a half-season, then they will play a best-of-five series with a half-season winner with the lowest win percentage. The winner then will advance to the Taiwan Series.
First Team, Farm Team
Each team is allowed to carry a 26-man active roster including foreign players. Teams are allowed to register up to three foreign players on their active roster and play two simultaneously on the field.
A typical CPBL organisation will have a first team and a farm team with a total of 55 to 60 players in the organisation. Players sent down to the farm team must remain for at least ten days before they can be called up again.
The CPBL draft is held in the middle of the season for amateur players as well as military reserve players. Upon drafting the players, the team will have up to August 31 to sign them.
August 31 is the trade deadline and the last day to register foreign players for the remaining of the season. Any players acquired after the trade deadline are not eligible to play in the regular season games and the post-season games.
Free Agency, International Free Agency
The FA system was implemented in 2010. Players with nine years of service will be granted free agency (Eight years for those completed university). Players with three years of service will be eligible to file for international free agency status with the consent of the player’s team.