- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
Taiwanese baseball suddenly has become a major new scouting ground for major league baseball, helped quite a bit by the emergence of Chien-Ming Wang and, to a lesser degree, Hong-Chih Kuo, each of whom started a playoff game last October. While there might not be another Wang coming to the majors in the next year or two, Taiwan has plenty to offer a team willing to make the outlay required to scout and sign players from the island nation.
Major league teams may sign any player in Taiwan who is at least 16 years old, who will turn 17 before the end of the season for which he has signed a contract, and who is not currently under reserve of any professional club in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, or the U.S. Because the Taiwanese professional leagues do not pay salaries or signing bonuses anywhere near what players in Japan or the U.S. earn, even mid-tier amateur prospects in Taiwan increasingly are choosing to sign with MLB or Japanese professional teams. As of this writing, there are 22 Taiwanese players under contract to MLB organizations, with four currently in big league camps. Several teams began or ramped up scouting in Taiwan this winter, with at least 10 teams employing someone full-time on the island, and the Braves and Phillies each signed their first prospect from Taiwan in the last year.
Money isn't the only factor driving amateur players out of Taiwan. An agent who is very active in representing Taiwanese prospects said that the ongoing gambling problem around the Taiwanese pro league has the parents of baseball prospects leaning toward sending their kids to play in the U.S. instead.
Taiwan has plenty to offer a team willing to make the outlay required to scout and sign players from the island nation.