Exploring the Cardinals' history of signing pitchers from Japan and Korea

The Cardinals have dabbled in the Japanese and Korean leagues for baseball players a few times recently. Which players did they pluck, and how did they perform in their time stateside?

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages
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Miles Mikolas

Miles Mikolas was initially drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2009, but he left Major League Baseball just six years later to play in Japan. He pitched in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization for three years.

In his time in Japan, Mikolas pitched 424.2 innings with a 2.18 ERA, 0.994 WHIP, and he struck out eight batters per nine innings. He allowed a minuscule amount of hits and home runs, and his walk rates were very strong (1.5 BB/9). The Cardinals inked him to a two-year, $15.5 million contract after the 2017 season. He was in the rotation with Jack Flaherty, Luke Weaver, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and John Gant.

Mikolas's first season back in the United States was stellar. He finished the season with an 18-4 record. Mikolas pitched 200.2 innings with a 2.83 ERA, 1.071 WHIP, and he finished 6th in Cy Young voting. Miles had a complete game shutout against the Kansas City Royals on May 21st that year. He represented the Cardinals at the 2018 All-Star game as well.

While he has fallen a bit since his return to the United States, Mikolas didn't falter in his first year from Japan. His strikeout numbers dropped slightly, but he maintained a low home run and hit rate. He also led the league in walk rate that year. Mikolas has always been a workhorse, pitching in greater than 200 innings in three of his five seasons stateside (three of four if you remove the 2020 season). While he is much more prone to giving up hits now, Mikolas's transition from Japan to MLB was seamless.