NPB Signings: Leandro Cedeno, Courtney Hawkins

A couple of former minor leaguers have landed deals to play in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. The Orix Buffaloes have landed first-baseman/outfielder Leandro Cedeno – a former Cardinals and Diamondbacks prospect – for the upcoming season, per Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Cedeno will earn a base salary of $500K, with a further $350K available in incentives. Meanwhile, Courtney Hawkins will head to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, per Yahoo Japan.

Cedeno, 24, was signed by the Cardinals out of Venezuela in 2014. He made it as high as Double-A with St Louis, hitting .257/.309/.432 with three home runs in 81 plate appearances there in 2021. The Cards released him at the end of the season, and he joined Arizona on a minor league deal. He showed a huge power surge after joining the Diamondbacks, belting 30 home runs and hitting .310/.374/.563 in 479 plate appearances. That earned him some time in Triple-A, and in a 58 plate appearance sample size Cedeno hit .291/.328/.436 with two home runs before he elected free agency at the end of the season.

Although he spent most of his time in the outfield (and even some time as a catcher) earlier on in his career, Cedeno was almost exclusively a first-baseman/DH in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system last season.

Hawkins, 29, was a first round pick for the White Sox back in the 2012 draft. He showed tremendous promise as a minor leaguer, with Baseball America ranking him the 55th best prospect in baseball as a 19-year-old prior to the 2013 campaign. Unfortunately for Hawkins, that 2013 campaign would see him hit just .178/.249/.384 in 103 games at High-A. The numbers would never really recover, and Hawkins found himself a free agent after the 2018 season. Minor league stints with the Reds and Giants would follow, but neither came with any success and Hawkins has been playing independent ball since 2019.

He has found a bit of success there, mashing 106 home runs over 335 games in parts of five seasons, compiling a combined line of .301/.392/.619. The past season for Lexington, Hawkins slugged 48 home runs in 556 plate appearances for a .298/.399/.655 line. A center-fielder in his early days, Hawkins spent most of the past few seasons manning left-field.

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