2017 Pre-Draft Report

In order to determine whether or not a draft was successful, more often than not a few years are needed. Some players need a long time to develop. Others start out strongly and fizzle out quickly. But we can also evaluate a draft by the strategy the team has used, and whether or not they found the right bodies to fill out their roster. Let’s look at the Tigers’ needs. We will focus solely on Japanese players, as import acquisition is a different animal. Ages listed are as of Opening Day 2018.


Right-Handed Pitchers

LOST: Yuya Andoh (retirement).

AGING: Kyuji Fujikawa (37).

YOUNG HOPES: Shintaro Fujinami (23), Taiki Ono (23), Hiroto Saiki (19), Masumi Hamachi (19), Shungo Fukunaga (23), Daichi Takeyasu (23), Koyo Aoyagi (24), Atsushi Mochizuki (20).

URGENCY LEVEL

MINOR. You can never have too many arms, and the list of hopefuls include a lot of unproven commodities. Definitely can’t bank on all of them panning out.


Left-Handed Pitchers

LOST: Kazuya Takamiya (released).

AGING: Atsushi Nohmi (38), Minoru Iwata (34), Akifumi Takahashi (34).

YOUNG HOPES: Yuya Yokoyama (24), Hiroya Shimamoto (25).

URGENCY LEVEL

MAJOR. There simply aren’t many southpaw arms coming up, especially in comparison with those departing. And those that are coming up are injury-prone and cannot be counted on to carry the team in the future. The club hasn’t drafted a left arm since the 2014 draft, so it’s high time they focus on that need.


Catchers

LOST: None, although Fumihito Haraguchi will no longer be available at catcher in all likelihood.

AGING: Taichi Okazaki (34), Shinji Komiyama (32).

YOUNG HOPES: Kenya Nagasaka (23), Seishiro Sakamoto (24).

URGENCY LEVEL

MAJOR. The thing about catchers is, it’s a physically taxing position. Guys can’t wear the mask all 143 games. Even 120 is pushing it. Ideally, you want 3 catchers on the top squad and at least 3 on the farm. Hanshin currently has exactly six. No wiggle room for injuries or position changes. Get us another backstop!


Infielders

LOST: Ryota Arai (retirement), maybe Yamato (free agency).

AGING: Takashi Toritani (36), Tsuyoshi Nishioka (33).

YOUNG HOPES: Fumiya Hojoh (23), Yusuke Ohyama (23), Kento Itohara (25), Kai Ueda (21).

URGENCY LEVEL

MEDIUM. We have our potential replacement for Toritani at third (Ohyama) and three young middle infielders to possibly take care of those positions. First base typically goes to an import, and of course we are hoping to pick up high school superstar Kotaro Kiyomiya in the draft. Still, it would be nice to build up the depth here.


Outfielders

LOST: Keisuke Kanoh (retirement), maybe Shunsuke (free agency).

AGING: Yoshio Itoi (36), Kosuke Fukudome (40).

YOUNG HOPES: Shun Takayama (24), Shintaro Yokota (22), Taiga Egoshi (25), Masahiro Nakatani (25), Yutaro Itayama (24).

URGENCY LEVEL

MEDIUM. There’s definite potential for us to have a potent outfield for the next decade. Lots of promising names, but will they fulfill their promise?


WHAT SHOULD WE DRAFT?

Sorry, not “who” but “what” – I am admittedly not knowledgeable enough about high school, university and industrial league baseball. This is how I’d like to see the team bolster the roster in today’s draft.

  • Two or three left-handed pitchers (one high schooler, one university or indy-leaguer)
  • Two right-handed pitchers (no specific age requests)
  • One or two infielders (Kiyomiya, please!)
  • One or two outfielders (at least one high schooler)
  • One catcher (I’m biased against high schoolers here because they are often eventually converted to other positions. See Nakatani, Kanoh, Haraguchi, Ryota Imanari – all drafted out of high school as catchers. All our current catchers did 4 years of university or played industrial league.)
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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.