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? You can look back at the original 2015 draft report here. Click here for: 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2016
Round 1: Shun Takayama (OF) – Meiji University
Won Rookie of the Year in 2016. Hits the ball lots. This past season, he struggled to find his groove, lost his sweet swing, struck out a lot and ended up on the farm. I highly doubt he stays in that funk for much longer. Should be a mainstay in the outfield for years.
Round 2: Seishiro Sakamoto (C) – Meiji University
Despite injuries slowing him down at the start of the year (and towards the end, too), Sakamoto seems to have won the favor of the coaching staff over fellow young catcher Ryutaro Umeno. His hitting seems to be getting better (while Umeno’s is getting worse), and his work ethic (apparently he’s a real gym rat) make him a more likely candidate to be the team’s catcher of the future.
Round 3: Daichi Takeyasu (P) – Kumamoto Golden Larks
Had Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2014, which meant a slow start in 2016 and no action on the top squad at all. (He was the only 2015 draft pick to not get called up.) Still, the team believed in him enough to give him extra chances on the farm, and he impressed enough to win pitcher of the month down there once (July?). He made his top squad debut in the team’s next-to-last regular season game in 2017, picking up the win after pitching a shutout inning. Could squeeze into the back end of the rotation in 2018.
Round 4: Atsushi Mochizuki (P) – Yokohama Sogakukan High School
He excited many by making his pro debut in the team’s final game of 2016, throwing a shutout inning and striking out one. He also touched 154 km/h (96 mph) on the radar gun at age 19. However, 2017 was a different story, as injury slowed him down for much of the season. Still lots of time for him to come into his own.
Round 5: Koyo Aoyagi (P) – Teikyo University
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the draft. He has won 4 games in each of his first two seasons, using that unorthodox arm slot to confound batters – and keep them worried about being hit or thrown behind! His control is still an issue, as is his ability to clamp down after letting runners reach base. However, he has the potential to be a solid option as a starter or reliever for years to come. With no other pitchers in the pros who throw like him, he will remain tough to figure out.
Round 6: Yutaro Itayama (OF) – Asia University
Made a bit of a splash in 2016, playing in a few dozen games and even reaching the hero’s podium. However, he only got into a handful of games in his sophomore year. Hardworking and physically strong, this kid could still surprise many by vying for a spot on the top squad… but the competition is getting stiffer with every year as new guys join the fold.
PROMISING. The jury’s still out on all of these guys, as two seasons aren’t enough to accurately assess their long-term career paths. All have shown the ability to compete at the top level, but it remains to be seen how many can make a lasting mark. My bet is that at least three of these guys emerge as regulars for the next 5-8 years, making this bunch a pretty good harvest.