2021 CPBL Season is Back
Get your plastic noisemakers ready! Because it is that time of the year, with the 2021 Taiwanese baseball season returning on March 13.
The 2021 CPBL Opening Day matchup will feature last year’s Taiwan Series Champions, the Uni-Lions taking on the CTBC Brothers at Tainan Stadium.
This year, the league welcomes a new commissioner, a fifth expansion team, and last but not least, the de-juiced ball. Yes, for the first time since 2015, the CPBL is de-juicing the official balls!
2020 Taiwan Series Recap
Talk about pulling off an ultimate underdog story. Heading into the 2020 Taiwan Series, no one thought the Uni-Lions got what it takes to win the Championship.
Despite falling behind 1-3 to the CTBC Brothers in a best-of-seven series. Facing elimination, this resilience Uni-Lions’ squad shifted the momentum and won the next three games to secure the 2020 Taiwan Series Championship in seven games.
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) November 8, 2020
CPBL Average Skill Level: Between Single-A 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 average skill level is somewhere between Double-A and Single-A, maybe more leaning to the Double-A side.
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 find success in the CPBL. Taiwanese players with less than Double-A experience generally struggled to make the 1st-team roster.
Using a sample group of 38 players who returned from the MLB system that never reached Double-A, 10% of this group achieved borderline average performance in the CPBL. 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.
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) October 18, 2020
How to Watch CPBL Games (Streaming Guide)
Will update this part after opening day. As I need to double check whether the streaming feeds would required VPN or not. [Last updated: March 11, 2020]
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 2021 CPBL schedule
Streaming CPBL Games Online (Free Service)
- Fubon Guardians home games
- CTBC Brothers home games
- Uni-Lions, Rakuten Monkeys, Wei Chuan Dragons home games are no-longer available to stream (courtesy of Eleven Sports). The only ways to watch those three teams home games is to purchase CPBL TV.
CPBL TV ($45 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, it is not exactly hard to pick one to follow. Here’s the 2021 CPBL Power Ranking per category. We allocated a score between 1 to 5 to each team based on their 2020 stats, 2021 rosters and personal opinions. (5 being the highest)
Uni-Lions Team Profile
- 2020 Record: 58-1-61 (3rd)
- 2020 Hitting: .293/.358/.453
- 2020 Pitching: 5.84 ERA, 1.62 WHIP
- Runs Scored / Allowed: 6.18 / 6.42
- Mascots: Lion and Sababoy
- Cheerleaders: Uni-Girls
- Home: Tainan City
It was a night and day performance for the Uni-Lions in 2020. Due to some early problems with their foreign pitchers, they struggled hard in the first-half season. After changing all the foreign players, the Uni-Lions turned everything around and won the second-half season title.
The Uni-Lions are an energetic team and often being considered as the underdog of the CPBL. As a team, they have plenty of raw talents but often forced to fight with one hand tied behind their back due to poor front office decisions. They will be riding that 2020 Championship momentum into the 2021 season.
A few notable players to watch for:
- 林安可 (Lin An-Ko) – RF
- 陳傑憲 (Chen Chieh-Hsien) – CF
- 蘇智傑 (Su Chih-Chieh) – LF
- 古林睿煬 (Gu Lin Ruei-Yang) – SP
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) November 8, 2020
CTBC Brothers Team Profile
- 2020 Record: 67-2-51 (1st)
- 2020 Hitting: .304/.369/.469
- 2020 Pitching: 4.20 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
- Runs Scored / Allowed: 6.09 / 4.76
- Mascots: Sean and Abby
- Cheerleaders: Passion Sisters
- Home: Taichung City
With the exceptional pitching staff, the Brothers dominated the CPBL in 2020. They punched their early ticket to the Taiwan Series by winning the first-half season title. On top of that, they even had a pretty good chance of winning the second-half season but narrowly missed out by just 1.5 games.
The Brothers arguably have the most balanced team in the CPBL with a solid rotation, bullpen and consistent lineup. In the past few seasons, they usually performed well during the regular season but always choked in the playoff.
A few notable players to watch for:
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) August 23, 2020
Rakuten Monkeys Team Profile
- 2020 Record: 59-1-61 (2nd)
- 2020 Hitting: .311/.365/.476
- 2020 Pitching: 5.82 ERA, 1.62 WHIP
- Runs Scored / Allowed: 6.13 / 6.54
- Mascot: Victor, Monkey
- Cheerleaders: Rakuten Girls
- Home: Taoyuan City
Riding that 2019 Championship momentum, the Monkeys began the 2020 season like a house on fire with a ten-game win streak. However, due to poor foreign pitchers performance, the team ran out of gas halfway into the first-half season. It led to the Monkeys downward spiral, and they never recovered from it.
The Monkeys are a bit like a baseball team inside a computer simulation. It is a pure hitting team with zero pitching depth. In the past few seasons, their team philosophy is to use their bats to cover everything. It is quite common to see the Monkeys racked up six runs in a single inning but immediately gave away six runs in the next inning.
A few notable players to watch for:
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) June 3, 2020
Fubon Guardians Team Profile
- 2020 Record: 54-1-65 (4th)
- 2020 Hitting: .289/.344/.448
- 2020 Pitching: 5.23 ERA, 1.59 WHIP
- Runs Scored / Allowed: 5.27 / 5.95
- Mascot: Frankie, Bonnie
- Cheerleaders: Fubon Angels
- Home: New Taipei City
It was such a rough first-half season for the Guardians due to lineup problems, injured foreign players and clubhouse drama between their veterans and the management. After sorting out those issues, the Guardians was able to pull themselves together and put a decent fight for the second-half season title. However, it was too late, and they missed out on the playoff ticket by just one game.
The Guardians, on paper, have always been considered as the best team in the CPBL. Their roster is full of high-profile national team players and stacked with top-tier foreign pitchers. Despite having everything, they had a long history of cracking under pressure at the most critical moments.
A few notable players to watch for:
And the best actor award goes to.. 林哲瑄 (Lin Che-Hsuan)!!
— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) October 17, 2020
Wei Chuan Dragons Team Profile
- 2020 Minor League Record: 53-2-32 (1st)
- 2020 Minor League Hitting: .325/.388/.500
- 2020 Minor League Pitching: 5.40 ERA, 1.53 WHIP
- Mascot: Weddie
- Cheerleaders: Go Beauties
- Home: Taipei City / Hsinchu City
Being the expansion team, the Dragons had to spend the entire 2020 season in the CPBL minor league. They finished the minor league season with the lowest ERA and placed second with both batting average and slugging percentage.
On paper, the Dragons would be the textbook underdog for the next few seasons in the CPBL. Despite winning the minor league championship, one thing to consider is there is a huge skill gap between the first-team and farm team. As a team, the Dragons still got a long way to go to be competitive.
A few notable players to watch for:
Wei Chuan Dragons manager named 20-year-old third baseman 劉基鴻 (Liu Chi-Hung) as the team's cleanup hitter for the 2021 season.
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) March 10, 2021
Still Can’t Decide on a Team?
After reading all that, what if you still can not decide on your favourite CPBL team? Well, then perhaps this GIF below might be able to help you make the right choice.
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) March 7, 2021
Things to Watch for in 2021 Season
We put together a list of things to watch for, along with some quick facts to get you ready for the 2021 CPBL season.
The Impact of De-Juiced Balls
Throw away everything you know about the CPBL. Because with the new de-juiced ball, we are heading into uncharted territory!
It was such a chaotic year for the CPBL in 2020. During the first-half season, the league messed up the balls and led to the “super juiced baseball” with a COR value exceeding .570, which was .010 over the limit.
After getting hammered by the media, the league fixed the problem by changing the ball in the second-half season. It went from the super juiced .570 ball down to the standard .560 in COR value.
At the end of the 2020 season, the league decided to further de-juiced the balls and bring it down to .550 in COR. According to the league, the new balls will now have a similar COR value as the NPB and KBO balls.
With the new de-juiced ball, the 2021 overall hitting stats will most likely take a dip. But by how much? And how fast can the CPBL players adjust to the new ball? Nobody knows.
Below is the spring training batting stats from the past five seasons with the ball’s COR value from that year.
Can Lin An-Ko Repeats His Success?
You can not ask for a better rookie season than this. The Uni-Lions rookie outfielder 林安可 (Lin An-Ko) started his CPBL career with a bang.
The 23-year-old finished the 2020 season with a slash line of .310/.395/.590 (139 wRC+) and led the league with 30 home runs. He wound up winning the 2020 CPBL rookie of the year award and barely missed out on the annual MVP award.
Despite the new de-juiced ball, Lin An-Ko seemed to be adjusting well to the new ball in spring training. He posted a dominating .563/.632/.938 across six pre-season games.
Uni-Lions 林安可 (Lin An-Ko) crushes his league-leading 19th home run of the season. #CPBL 🔥
Exit Velocity: 166kph (103mph)
Launch Angle: 35°
Also, it is pretty cool to see the Uni-Lions are displaying exit velocity and launch angle during their broadcast. 👍 pic.twitter.com/7YUwXpOENC
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) July 2, 2020
Real Test for the Dragons
After spending the entire 2020 season in the CPBL minor league, the Wei Chuan Dragons will officially enter the 2021 CPBL season as a fifth team. Now the biggest question everyone will be asking, can the Dragons be competitive enough in the CPBL?
The short answer is no. The Dragons will most likely have a hard time to compete with other CPBL first-team. If they can win more than 45 games out of 120 games, it would be considered a success.
The hitting and the lack of power would be their biggest hurdles. Being an expansion team, most of their players are simply too young and have zero first-team experience.
Another major concern would be the Dragons players conditioning. Since most of the players are extremely young, can they physically cope with a 120-game schedule against the other four CPBL teams?
Chiang Shao-Ching to Enter 2021 CPBL Draft
The Fubon Guardians already have the best starting rotation in the league, and they are about to get even scarier. If everything goes smoothly, the Guardians will receive perhaps one of the best domestic starting pitcher in the second-half season.
Back in February, 27-year-old Triple-A right-hander 江少慶 (Chiang Shao-Ching) announced his plan to leave the MLB system and enter the 2021 CPBL draft.
Being on the top of the draft order, the Guardians have committed to sign Chiang to the largest contract in the CPBL history. Early speculation, he could be looking at a contract over 600,000 USD a year or a multi-year deal exceeding 2.08 million USD.
Chiang Shao-Ching spent the past ten years overseas, reaching Triple-A in 2018. He is a power pitcher with his fastball topping out at 99mph with sharp breaking pitches. If he is healthy, he can easily be one of the top-tier starting pitchers in the CPBL.
At the moment, Chiang has signed a development contract with the Guardians, meaning he will be able to play in the CPBL minor league while waiting for the mid-season draft.
With Chiang Shao-Ching being active the whole time, it is highly likely to see him jumping straight into the CPBL first-team as soon as the second-half season begins.
Plague Baseball Year Two: Potential Financial Impact
For the second straight year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the CPBL decided to open the season with an attendance limit. At this stage, teams are allowed to fill the stadium up to 78% capacity.
Last year the league suffered a massive 38% drop in attendance due to the attendance restrictions. The number of fans per game went from 5826 in 2019 to 3572 in 2020.
For the first 33 games held behind closed doors, the local media speculated that each team could be looking at a loss in revenues between $85,000 to 167,000 USD per game.
In terms of the dollar figures, the CTBC Brothers reported their 2019 and 2020 ticket sales information. It is not a surprise to see the damages caused by the attendance restrictions, as it went from 6.7 million in 2019 down to 5.7 million USD in 2020 ticket sales.
So, heading into year two of plague baseball, it would be interesting to see how each team tackles this issue and what they will do to minimise the damage.
CPBL average attendance for 2020 season:
CPBL – 3572
Excluding games with no fans:
CPBL – 4142
Notes: The league began the 2020 season with no fans and until today there is a capacity limit (50% to 78%). pic.twitter.com/3cW9pajGWu
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) October 28, 2020
Young Domestic Power Pitchers
They are young, they throw hard, and they are starting pitchers. Meet Gu Lin Ruei-Yang, Hsu Jo-Hsi and Huang En-Sih, the next generation of the power pitchers in the CPBL. Should they stay healthy, they have the potential to became the next CPBL top-tier domestic pitchers.
- 古林睿煬 (Gu Lin Ruei-Yang)
- 20 years old, June 12, 2000
- 184cm, 81kg, RHP
- 2018 1st round, 2nd overall draft pick
- Fastball topped out 155kph (96.4mph)
[#CPBL Spring Training] Uni-Lions top prospect 古林睿煬 (Gu Lin Ruei-Yang) tossed 4.1 scoreless innings on 60 pitches and struck out 3.
The 20-year-old RHP's fastball topped out at 153kph (95mph) last night. According to the team, Gu Lin is likely to be the opening day starter. pic.twitter.com/GglrXkqvOV
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) February 27, 2021
- 徐若熙 (Hsu Jo-Hsi)
- 20 years old, November 1, 2000
- 177cm, 76kg, RHP
- 2019 1st round, 6th overall draft pick
- Fastball topped out at 157kph (97.6mph)
Wei Chuan Dragons 徐若熙 (Hsu Jo-Hsi) told the media that one of his goals is to reach 160kph (100mph) with his fastball. The 19-year-old RHP was clocked throwing 157kph (97.5mph) last year.
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) February 3, 2021
- 黃恩賜 (Huang En-Sih)
- 24 years old, May 17, 1996
- 185cm, 90kg, RHP
- 2017 2nd round, 7th overall draft pick
- Fastball topped out 157kph (97mph)
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) June 18, 2020
Lin Chih-Sheng Home Run Record
Just four more home runs to break the CPBL all-time home run record and 14 home runs to reach 300 career homers. Yes, this is what the Brothers 18-year veteran 林智勝 (Lin Chih-Sheng) will be focusing on this season.
The 39-year-old power hitter was projected to break that home run record and join the 300 home run club last year. However, Lin missed most of last year with two nasty base-running related injuries.
At this stage, Lin is still doing rehabilitation on his injured foot. According to the team doctor, Lin should be able to return to the lineup around mid-late April.
— CPBL STATS ♥️ #95 (@GOCPBL) October 3, 2020
Can Brothers End Their Runner Up Nightmare?
Six Taiwan Series appearances in the past seven seasons, but ended up losing all six of them. Will this runner-up nightmare ever end for the CTBC Brothers?
Since 2014, despite being the most balanced team in the CPBL, the Brothers always choked at the Taiwan Series and unable to bring home the Championship.
With the new manager Lin Wei-Chu in charge, who is best known for his strict managerial style. Is Lin the final piece of the puzzle for the Brothers?
Rosell Herrera: Dragons Foreign Hitter
In the past few years, foreign hitters are a rare thing in the CPBL. Due to the lack of pitching depth, CPBL teams generally prefer to use their limited foreign player slots on pitchers.
Because pitchers are extremely valuable in the CPBL, foreign hitters would have to put up some ridiculous video game batting number like .500 in batting average to earn their spot on the active roster.
However, things are a little different for the Wei Chuan Dragons in 2021. With the Dragons being the expansion team, they were given the incentive to have one extra foreign player on its first-team roster. Total of four, but can not be all pitchers or hitters.
Entered 28-year-old utility player Rosell Herrera, who will be the Dragons foreign hitter for the 2021 season.
Herrera, the switch-hitting Dominican, was active in the MLB from 2018 to 2019 and was hitting 1.044 OPS during the Yankees spring training camp in 2020 before he landed himself on the injured list.
It would be very interesting to see how Rosell Herrera performs in the CPBL. With the Dragons’ expansion team incentive, Herrera does not have to worry about losing his foreign player slot to a pitcher and is likely to stay for the entire season.
Potential Milestones and Records in 2021
It is never too early to look ahead and see what personal milestones are within reach in 2021. Here are some of the important one.
- 陳禹勳 (Chen Yu-Hsun) – CPBL all time save record at 129 (104)
- 林智平 (Lin Chih-Ping) – 1000th hit (931)
- 郭嚴文 (Kuo Yen-Wen) – 100th home run (88)
- 王溢正 (Wang I-Cheng) – 1000th inning pitched (934)
- 林智勝 (Lin Chih-Sheng) – CPBL all time home run record at 288 (286)
- 林智勝 (Lin Chih-Sheng) – 300th HR (286)
- 陳子豪 (Chen Tzu-Hao) – 100th home run (86)
- 林益全 (Lin Yi-Chuan) – 200th home run (193)
- 羅力 (Mike Loree) – 100th win (90)
- 蔣智賢 (Chiang Chih-Hsien) – 100th home run (94)
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 Triple-A 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.
Name CPBL Team Highest Level Seasons in CPBL
Tim Melville Uni-Lions MLB 2
Brock Dykxhoorn Uni-Lions Triple-A / KBO 2
Teddy Stankiewicz Uni-Lions Triple-A 2
Félix Doubront Uni-Lions MLB / KBO 1
Mitch Lively CTBC Brothers Triple-A / NPB 4
José De Paula CTBC Brothers MLB 2
Onelki Garcia CTBC Brothers MLB / NPB 1
Gabriel Ynoa CTBC Brothers MLB / NPB 1
Esmil Rogers CTBC Brothers MLB / KBO 2
Evan Grills CTBC Brothers Triple-A 1
Keisuke Takano CTBC Brothers NPB 1
Ryan Bollinger Rakuten Monkeys Triple-A 3
Aaron Wilkerson Rakuten Monkeys MLB 1
Dillon Overton Rakuten Monkeys MLB 1
Deck McGuire Rakuten Monkeys MLB / KBO 1
Bradin Hagens Rakuten Monkeys MLB / NPB 1
TBA Rakuten Monkeys MLB 1
Henry Sosa Fubon Guardians MLB / KBO 3
Mike Loree Fubon Guardians Double-A / KBO 9
Manny Bañuelos Fubon Guardians MLB 2
Héctor Noesí Fubon Guardians MLB / KBO 1
J. C. Ramírez Fubon Guardians MLB 1
Yomar Flande Concepcion Fubon Guardians LCBP 1
Yamaico Navarro Fubon Guardians MLB / NPB / KBO 1
Eduardo Núñez Fubon Guardians MLB 1
Jake Brigham Wei Chuan Dragons MLB / KBO 1
Drew Gagnon Wei Chuan Dragons MLB / KBO 1
Junichi Tazawa Wei Chuan Dragons MLB 1
Rosell Herrera Wei Chuan Dragons MLB 1
Bryan Woodall Wei Chuan Dragons Triple-A 7
CPBL Foreign Players Salary
While the CPBL teams don’t publicly disclose the foreign players’ salary, but the local media do provide an “estimated salary” from time to time.
For new 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 performance incentives.
In the past, players with an extensive MLB experience like Manny Ramirez and Freddy Garcia can earn more than $55,000 per month.
In 2020, there is a new trend of CPBL team spending big with their 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. Those players returning to the CPBL might receive half-season to a full-year contract or even a multi-year deal.
English Rosters for 2021 CPBL Season
- CTBC Brothers 2021 English Roster
- Fubon Guardians 2021 English Roster
- Rakuten Monkeys 2021 English Roster
- Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions 2021 English Roster
- Wei Chuan Dragons 2021 English Roster
CPBL Brief History
The CPBL began in 1990 with a four teams structure. After several expansions and the formation of a rival league, the TML, in 1997, the number of active teams reached a record high at 11.
However, due to the never-ending game-fixing scandals, both the CPBL and TML entered the dark age. Attendance was at an all-time low, and several teams disbanded.
In 2003, the CPBL absorbed the TML, but the number of active teams continued to fall due to game-fixing. It eventually reduced to the bare minimum of four teams in 2009.
After several years of keeping the league’s public image clean along with Taiwan’s performance in international tournaments, in 2013, fans began to come back to the ballparks.
In 2019, the CPBL approved the proposal of an expansion team. After spending the entire 2020 season in the minor league, this new team will begin its inaugural season in 2021, bringing the number of active teams to five.
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 split season format, there are three potential scenarios for the CPBL postseason. It might lead to either a best-of-five Playoff Series or a best-of-seven Taiwan Series.
- Scenario #1 – If two different teams win each half-season, they will play each other in a best-of-seven Taiwan Series.
- Scenario #2 – If the same team wins both half-seasons, 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 half-season, then they will play a best-of-five series with a half-season winner with the lowest win percentage. The winner of that best-of-five series will advance to the Taiwan Series.
First Team, Farm Team
A typical CPBL organisation will have a first team and a farm team with roughly 60 players. Each team is allowed to carry 26 players in the first-team.
Domestic players can be freely send up and down between the first and farm team. But once sent down to the farm team, they must remain there for at least ten days before they can be called up again.
The CPBL generally held its annual draft in the middle of the season for amateur players. Upon drafting the players, the team will have to sign them before the August 31 trade deadline.
Apart from trade, which hardly ever happen in the CPBL, the trade deadline is also the last day to register foreign players for the remaining season.
Any players acquired after the trade deadline are not eligible to play in the regular-season games and the postseason games.
Free Agency, International Free Agency
The free agency system has been around since the 2010 season. Players with nine years of service will be granted free agency. (Eight years for those who completed university).
Players with three years of service will be eligible to file for international free agency status and get posted overseas with their team’s permission.