One Year Later: The 2016 Draft Crop

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 2016 draft report here. Click here for: 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015


Round 1: Yusuke Ohyama, IF – Hakuoh University

Started 2017 on the farm but made an immediate impact upon call-up. His 3-run home run on July 1st helped the team end its season-worst 8-game losing streak. Also showed up mightily in the short playoffs after a rough September. Good power stroke, decent fielding instincts, and has the potential to be the team’s cleanup hitter for the next decade or so. Obviously he will need to try to avoid the same fate as last year’s #1 pick Shun Takayama, who had troubles adjusting to pitchers’ adjustments to him.


Round 2: Taiki Ono, P – Fuji University

Took until his 13th start to earn his first career win. That he got so many starts is a testament to the faith coaches have in his stuff. It’s not that he was awful in those first 12 starts… he lost a few close low-scoring games in there. Along with the guys picked after him (plus those in recent years, plus this year’s bunch), Ono could ultimately find himself in the front end of the rotation.


Round 3: Hiroto Saiki, P – Suma Shofu High School

Much like Atsushi Mochizuki in 2016, Saiki made his top-squad debut in the final games of the 2017 season. As an exciting high schooler with electric stuff, fans got just enough of a taste to be excited for the future. He was named the “MVP” of the Phoenix League that just finished up in Miyazaki, and appears to be on the path to landing in the rotation sooner than later.


Round 4: Masumi Hamachi, P – Fukuoka Ohhori High School

Never made it to the top squad this year, but pitched a fair amount on the farm. Much like Saiki, there is no real rush with Hamachi. My guess is he will spend most (if not all) of 2018 on the farm as well.


Round 5: Kento Itohara, IF – JX-ENEOS (Industrial League)

He made the top squad right out of spring training, getting his first career hit in Game 2 of the regular season. His swing is sweet and compact, and he barrels a lot of balls while also showing good plate discipline. Injured himself badly in late July, missing most of the rest of the season, and essentially erasing himself from fans’ minds. But he could be one of our more dependable middle infielders for many years to come.


Round 6: Shungo Fukunaga, P – Tokushima Indigo Socks (Industrial League)

Made one top squad start in the most exciting game of 2017. Never made it back to the top, though surely at some point down the road he will. That game cannot be his lone spot in team history, can it?


Round 7: Kenya Nagasaka, C – Tohoku Fukushi University

Got the call-up at season’s end, and although he never stood in the batter’s box, he looks to compete for a role on the team. It may be tough for him to find a role early on, though, as the team will likely ride with Umeno and Sakamoto as its young catchers and Okazaki providing a veteran presence. Maybe another 2-3 years before he makes any impact, if he ever does.


Round 8: Kosuke Fujitani, P – Panasonic (Industrial League)

Spent the whole year on the farm, and most of it watching games from the bench/bullpen. Injured himself in spring training and never fully recovered, it seems. Could be a project-type player with long limbs and decent stuff, but when you play industrial league and get drafted in the 8th round, it’s best to curb your enthusiasm some.


OVERALL

DECENT. WAY too soon to pronounce any sort of judgment on any of these individuals, let alone the draft class as a whole. But from what we have seen so far, this bunch provides youth, balance and promise. It will be exciting to see how they look at the end of 2018.

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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.

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