The season starts this Friday – Hamu @ Lotte in a sold-out Q, Wakui vs Otani (the Younger), all teams with a clean slate. Yup, time for some predictions!
Everybody’s calling Softbank to win it all for the third year in a row, everybody’s also calling Rakuten to be terrible again. Of course we are biased at We Love Marines, but who do we got?
Daiei Hawks (Or Vodafone, or whatever they are called these days)
Oh suuuuure Steve, go with the trendy pick. But it’s hard to see how Daiei finishes out of the top two, and that’s being generous to the rest of the PL.
Uchikawa dropped off a bit from his career numbers last year, and given his age I would expect that decline to continue. Big hitting DH/1B Lee Dae Ho is gone to MLB, and that’s quite a hole to fill.
They’ve won the championship 2x in a row now, easy to see how a bit of a hangover might start to creep in. They’ll be very, very good for sure, but doubtful as good as last year.
You say “HOMER!!!” but I say “Yes, indeed, but I am not crazy here.”
The position players are more of a question mark, but that’s mostly due to youth – the talent is there. The middle of the lineup could be very special should the newcomers pan out. We get a healthy, well-rested Despa in the heart of the order, an outfield all in their peak years, a very talented second baseman with great range and a bat full of promise, a young first baseman who looks ready to do some damage at the plate (and is greatly improved in the field), and a young catcher who’s making a name as Someone You Do NOT Run On.
Plenty of question marks for sure, but loads of potential if things go the right way. I think they will.
Will Chen continue to shine like he did late last year? What about Yuta? Does Standridge have another great year left? Can Uchi stay healthy?
So many questions. I don’t doubt why some observers rate Lotte chances as pretty low in a tough PL.
Hamu is competitive year in, year out these days, and they’ve got plenty of star power to finish in the top 3 in the PL. I would be very surprised if they did not, honestly.
Kuriyama-kantoku always seems to get more out of his squad than it seems should be possible. It’s hard for me to see how they won’t be highly competitive in the PL this season.
This is the team that is still trying to make a serviceable starter out of the Handkerchief Prince.
I like Orix, I think they have a lot of really really good players but not enough to push into A-class.
Nishino showed really strong promise before getting injured last year, and rookie Oda put on a bit of a show in limited OF time. Lots of good players in Osaka.
They’re paying a lot of money to Itoi (who got old very quickly last season), starting Koyano (whom I like, but is also well past prime), and bringing back Tony Blanco for another go (who was both fat and terrible last season).
If you know who is closing for them this year (Satoh?) please let me know. You probably should let them know, too.
Despite a lot of good components, I see them clearly below Softbank, Lotte, and Nichiham.
Am I anti-Seibu? You betcha. But even Objective Steve can’t find much on the Saitama roster to recommend that they will finish higher than 5th in the standings.
Kikuchi and Kona Takahashi are two great young starters, while Kishi + Togame are still quite decent starters. I like Makita a lot.
Mejia had a huge drop-off between his 2014 and 2015 seasons – last year he basically hit home runs, played terrible D, and struck out a lot. Name any player of his type who has actually improved in his third year in Japan – I can’t think of any.
Okawari-kun is awesome but he’s turning 33 this year and does not exactly inspire confidence that he will either stay healthy or perform at that level much longer. No way Akiyama comes close to hitting as well as he did last year, though he will be good. Mori can hit but has no position, Ginjiro has a position but can’t hit.
And that bullpen. That. Bullpen. I can’t see them anywhere above 4th, and I’m calling them 5th.
There’s a reason this team is the universal pick to land in the PL cellar.
Rakuten picked up our hero Imae in the offseason – he’s pretty much the best position player on the team. Shima’s a quality catcher, Fujita’s defense is sublime. Okoye is a really exciting, young talent.
I don’t know how they are going to score runs, and I doubt they can prevent runs from scoring outside of Norimoto and Matsui.
This is just a poorly constructed team that needs an infusion of talent ASAP.
That’s my list, feel free to disagree in the comments!
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