The obvious top choice for the draft appeared to be pitcher Seigi Tanaka (from Soka University). Five of the 12 clubs entered the draw: the Fighters, Hawks, Marines, Carp and Giants. In other words, the five teams that finished above .500 this season. Whether the other teams chickened out or had other obvious needs is debatable, but one thing is undeniable: the Hanshin Tigers first pick surprised everyone. All indications were that the Tigers would select pitcher Chihaya Sasaki (of Oberlin University), and since no team initial bid on him, they could have gotten him outright. Instead, Tomoaki Kanemoto and the Tigers elected to choose…
Round 1: Yusuke Ohyama (大山 悠輔）
Date of Birth: December 19, 1994
Drafted Out of: Hakuoh University
High School: Tsukuba Shuei High
Position: Infield (Third Base)
Height: 181 cm (5’11”)
Weight: 84 kg (185 lb)
About Ohyama: As a high schooler, he hit cleanup and hit 30 home runs over the course of his three years. He was also a pitcher who could throw over 88 mph (140 km/h).
He was the starting third baseman at Hakuoh right from the spring of his first year. Known for his good arm and powerful hitting, this third baseman set a new federation record in the spring of his fourth year with 8 home runs in a single (short) season. He was named to the all-Japan team and batted cleanup (4-slot). He was also named to the “best nine” team in his first year and led the league in RBIs in the fall of his second year.
Round 2: Taiki Ono (小野泰己）
Date of Birth: May 30, 1994
Drafted Out of: Fuji University
High School: Orio Aishin High School (Fukuoka)
Height: 183 cm (6’0″)
Weight: 76 kg (168 lbs)
About Ono: Throws up to 152 km/h (94.5 mph) and also possesses a slider, fork and curve. He has been compared to Hisashi Iwakuma (Mariners) when throwing from the stretch. Won league MVP in the fall of his 4th year, throwing 40 innings, striking out 49 and giving up just 3 runs.
Round 3: Hiroto Saiki (才木 浩人)
Date of Birth: November 7, 1998
Drafted Out of: Sumashofu High School (Kobe)
Height: 187 cm (6’2″)
Weight: 79 kg (174 lbs)
About Saiki: Fastball tops out at 148 km/h (92 mph) and goes along with his slider, curve and forkball. He was scouted by all 12 NPB clubs, and drew a lot of attention for his play in the Hyogo Prefecture tournament. Resembling Shintaro Fujinami in that he has long limbs (though 10 cm shorter in height), he is said to have good control of all his pitches.
Round 4: Masumi Hamachi (濱地 真澄)
Date of Birth: May 25, 1998
Drafted Out of: Fukuoka Ohhori High School
Height: 183 cm (6’0″)
Weight: 88 kg (194 lbs)
About Hamachi: His fastball (150 km/h = 93 mph) is complemented by a slider, cutter, curve and changeup. During the spring of his senior year, he led his high school to the Kyushu tournament championship – its first in 25 years. He was highly esteemed enough to garner attention from scouts of 10 NPB teams.
Round 5: Kento Itohara (糸原 健斗)
Date of Birth: November 11, 1992
Drafted Out of: JX-ENEOS
High School: Kaisei High School (Shimane)
Height: 175 cm (5’9″)
Weight: 80 kg (176 lbs)
About Itohara: As a high schooler, once hit in 9 straight at bats in the Chugoku Regional tournament, including a perfect 4-for-4 in the quarterfinals. Reached base safely in 3 of 4 plate appearances against future Nippon Ham Fighters pitcher Hakumura during his high school days. Possesses a decent mix of power and speed.
Round 6: Shungo Fukunaga (福永 春吾)
Date of Birth: May 14, 1994
Drafted Out of: Tokushima Indigo Socks (Independent League)
High School: Clark Memorial International High School (via correspondence)
Height: 185 cm (6’1″)
Weight: 90 kg (198 lbs)
About Fukunaga: Fastball reaches up to 152 km/h (94.5 mph) and also throws a slider, curve and changeup. Power pitcher. Whiffed 16 SoftBank third squad hitters in a shutout.
Round 7: Kenya Nagasaka (長坂 挙弥)
Date of Birth: April 28, 1994
Drafted Out of: Tohoku Fukushi University
High School: Takasaki Kenko Dai High School
Height: 173 cm (5’8″)
Weight: 78 kg (172 lbs)
About Nagasaka: Has confidence in his ability to call games for his pitchers and his throwing arm (he can get the ball to second in under 2 seconds). He also supposedly packs decent punch with the bat. Was captain for his university team.
Round 8: Kosuke Fujitani (藤谷 洸介)
Date of Birth: February 12, 1996
Drafted Out of: Panasonic
High School: Suo-Ohshima High School (Yamaguchi)
Height: 194 cm (6’4″)
Weight: 95 kg (209 lbs)
About Fujitani: Fastball tops out around
140 km/h (88 mph) (more recent reports say 146 km/h = 92 mph). Also throws a curve (under 100 km/h), slider and changeup. Faced Yuki Yanagita during one of SoftBank’s second squad games and induced a grounder to short.