In this series, we look back on our draft picks from the past six seasons and see how they are faring now. Were the guys all the cracked up to be? Overachievers? Underachievers? Non-achievers? Click here for: 2011 / 2012 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016
Round 1: Yuta Iwasada (P) – Yokohama Shoka University
Originally, the team was hoping to pick Daichi Ohsera in Round 1. But they lost the lottery pick, and ended up with Iwasada. It looked like he would never pan out in his first two years, but then he exploded in 2016. But 2017 was a different story, and his struggles have Tigers fans and coaches worried. Will 2018 bring out good Iwasada or bad Iwasada? Down the road, that might determine whether or not this was a good draft year.
Round 2: Shintaro Yokota (OF) – Kagoshima Jitsugyo High School
The team had high hopes for Yokota, seeing him as a Yoshio Itoi-type player. Drafted straight out of high school, it took until 2016 for him to crack the top squad roster. He was part of the exciting one-two punch at the top of the lineup at the start of that season. He didn’t last long though, and spent the bulk of 2016 on the farm. He spent 2017 in hiding, and it was later discovered that he had brain tumors. He will take things slowly but hope to make a full return in 2018.
Round 3: Naomasa Yohkawa (IF) – Tokyo Agricultural University
He’s a two-time double-crown (HR + RBI) winner on the farm now, but has not been able to make the transition to the top squad. Has a few top squad homers, but also a lot of strikeouts. Defense is not strong enough to merit staying up top. Next year could be his last chance to avoid the fate of fellow farm phenom Issei Morita. (Who? EXACTLY.)
Round 4: Ryutaro Umeno (C) – Fukuoka University
Has been on the top squad for almost his entire career, impressing with his bat in his rookie season (7 home runs in 2014). Since then he seems to have lost his power stroke, but has grown as a defensive force. If he’s going to be the impact catcher that Hanshin wants, he’ll have to find consistency on both sides of the game.
Round 5: Shoya Yamamoto (P) – Ohji Washi (Industrial League)
Occasional call-up but primarily a farm dweller. The lefty might be running out of chances soon, as he just turned 29 and has never thrown more than 11 innings in a season.
Round 6: Suguru Iwazaki (P) – Kokushikan University
Possibly the steal pick of the draft. Started his career well as a starter, but moved to the bullpen at the start of 2017, where he seems to have found his true home. The southpaw threw almost as many innings from the pen as he did as a starter, winning nearly as many games and dropping his ERA by more than a full run.
GREAT! We’ve seen flashes of ace, slugger, top notch catcher, must-have reliever all in one draft. Great value at each spot. Still, none of these guys has firmly established himself as a completely trustworthy guy yet. It takes more than one good year to do that. Here’s to hoping 2018 will be the year that more of these guys find their spot on the top squad.