Former Oakland A’s in NPB Japan Pacific League

With Nippon Professional Baseball set to begin their season on June 19, let us take a look at the former members of the Oakland A’s playing in the Japan Pacific League.

Although the Oakland A’s have not yet returned to the diamond, professional baseball is still being played. The Korean Baseball Organization and the Chinese Professional Baseball League have begun their seasons, providing baseball fans with an oasis during the major league shutdown.

On June 19, another professional league will be starting their season as well. Nippon Professional Baseball announced that they would begin their season on June 19, nearly three months after their original Opening Day on March 20. As with the other leagues, Opening Day will be without fans in the seats, but that may change depending on how the pandemic progresses.

For Oakland A’s fans, there are a couple of familiar names amongst those playing in Japan. A pair of former Oakland pitchers are now a part of the Japan Pacific League, one of two leagues in the NPB. Both of the pitchers are playing for the same team – the Saitama Seibu Lions.

Sean Nolin is best remembered as being a part of the ill-fated trade that sent Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays. He was once a well regarded prospect, but was unable to live up to that potential with the A’s. In his 29 innings in Oakland, Nolin posted a 5.28 ERA and a 1.621 WHiP, striking out 15 batters with 13 walks.

Joining Nolan is Zach Neal, who appeared in 30 games with the A’s. He was never a top prospect, but did log 84.2 innings in Oakland, posting a 4.89 ERA and a 1.157 WHiP, striking out 37 batters with just seven walks. He continued his weak contact ways in Japan last season, notching a 14-4 record with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.203 WHiP in 143 innings, striking out 75 batters with 22 walks.

It is possible that either pitcher could use Japan as a possible springboard back to the majors. That did not happen with Neal, whose 4.7 K/9 may have caused teams to shy away from his other numbers, but he still has plenty of time. Nolin, meanwhile, may be able to recapture the form that made him a valued prospect.

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A pair of former members of the Oakland A’s will be a part of the Saitama Seibu Lions in 2020. For fans waiting for the major leagues to start up, there is another sign of hope.