Draft! Draft! Draft! It’s been on your mind as much as it has been on mine, I am sure. And let me tell you, this year’s draft looks to be a really nice one.
Perhaps you took a look at the draft preview I wrote on Wednesday. No? Feel free to take a look, we’ll wait…. OK, done.
I want to bring up this draft preview because somehow I managed to get it kinda correct, shock of shocks. Let’s take a look at who will be joining Our Marines in 2016.
Oh, and this whole post probably looks bad if you are reading this on a smaller sized screen. Sorry!
1 Taiga Hirasawa
From: Sendai Ikuei HS Born: 1997/12/24
Height/Weight: 176cm/76Kg Throws/Bats: Right/Left
While most everyone else was fighting over pitchers in the first, Rakuten selected local product and national star of both this year’s Summer Koshien HS baseball tournament and the Samurai Japan U-18 baseball team, Taiga Hirasawa. What a story, young Hirasawa wants to play for his hometown team, too.
But no, Chiba decided to go after probably the most talented young player in the draft with the first selection, who happens to be Hirasawa. Rakuten team president Tachibana and Lotte’s Itoh went to draw envelopes, and Tachibana practically fell over when his revealed Lotte won the rights to Hirasawa. What a coup for the Lotte front office, the bold selection paid off.
Why the love of Hirasawa? He’s a solid shortstop, solid enough to probably stay at shortstop as a pro with good range and a strong arm. He can do basically everything well both in the field and at the plate, with three homers in six games at Koshien this year. Lotte’s front describes him as the “complete package” and that he has the potential to be a future superstar.
Here he is in action at Koshien.
Oh, you wonder if he was destined to play for Lotte? Listen to this:
仙台育英 3番 平沢 応援はスキラン！！ pic.twitter.com/TMzFs8EpoR
— ゆうと@ファン感！？！？！？ (@mygmarin) July 21, 2015
Yeah, he’s batting to the old Lotte “Skinhead Running” chance music. Tremendous.
2 Ryota Sekiya
From: JR East Born: 1991/05/10
Height/Weight: 180cm/84Kg Throws/Bats: Right/Right
Lotte was looking for left-handed pitching help, but the top lefty names (Ogasawara, Uehara, Imanaga) were off the board already, so Chiba selected righty with the second round pick, former Nichidaisan HS and Meiji University pitcher Ryuta Sekiya. He comes out of the industrial leagues and JR East (get ready to hear some more of that) and is expected by the team to fight for a spot in the rotation “soon”.
He throws a slider, changeup, fork, curve, and a two-seamer and can hit the low-90s. I’m not sure why he was not drafted two years ago as his university career seemed quite solid.
Here he is with JR East last year.
3 Kakeru Narita
From: Akita Shogyo HS Born: 1998/02/08
Height/Weight: 170cm/70Kg Throws/Bats: Left/Left
Finally, a left handed pitcher, but not one we’re likely to see in action at ichi-gun for a while. Kakeru Narita is a really interesting talent, Hirasawa’s teammate on Samurai Japan and the ace of Akita Shogyo HS. Interestingly, Narita’s HS team lost to Hirasawa’s Sendai Ikuei team at Koshien this year, but it was their best showing in 80 years.
Narita is small, which is probably the biggest knock against him, but he has a good variety of pitches and nice control. The team expects he will be at ichi-gun fairly quickly; we’ll see. Anyway, I really like the pick.
This video has a great selection of his pitching with the U18 Samurai Japan squad.
It’s worth mentioning that the 1-2 punch of Lotte taking both Hirasawa and Narita really pissed of Rakuten twitter this evening. Great!
4 Taiki Tojo
From: JR East Born: 1991/08/15
Height/Weight: 177cm/81Kg Throws/Bats: Right/Right
It’s not an official draft without someone with an odd delivery being selected. In the 4th round pick Taiki Tojo, it looks like Lotte has taken a guy who throws like a righty Matsunaga with a longer stride. He went to Toko Gakuen and Aoyama Gakuen University before pitching the last two years with JR East.
He’s been used mostly as a reliever, and the team sees him as someone with potential to be a setupper. Here he is throwing for JR East.
5 Shu Hara
From: Senshudai Matsudo HS Born: 1997/12/06
Height/Weight: 185cm/85Kg Throws/Bats: Right/Right
Alright! Local kid Shu Hara from Chiba HS champs Senshudai Matsudo comes to Lotte in the 5th round. He’s definitely more of a long term project, though the team does see him as a starting candidate in the future. I like him because we share a birthday (though, ahem, a few years apart).
His motion is a bit strange (borderline illegal 2-stage motion) so that will likely change a bit before we see him at ichi-gun. Here he is at Koshien.
6 Akifumi Shigaraki
From: Miyazaki Umeda Gakuen Born: 1991/12/26
Height/Weight: 180cm/84Kg Throws/Bats: Right/Right
I’ve gotta put this right up front; we just drafted a driving instructor in the 6th round.
Yes, of course he is a pitcher as well, but here he is at his job as driving instructor. You are probably going to hear about that a lot if he ever makes it to ichi-gun. He pitched for Fukuoka University before moving to Miyazaki Umeda Gakuen, and he’s pitched for JR Kyushu in some sort of swapping arrangement that I will not pretend to understand.
Here he is pitching for JR Kyushu.
7 Keisuke Takano
From: JR West Born: 1991/12/28
Height/Weight: 178cm/76Kg Throws/Bats: Right/Right
Another train guy! That’s 4 of the 7 draftees who have pitched for the various JR units. Perhaps there is a train otaku collaboration in the works?
He’s another right handed pitcher with a 147 km/h fastball. The team is looking to use him out of the pen.
Here he is in his school days pitching for Shikoku Gakuin University.
I-1 Takamasa Oki
From: Kagawa Olive Guyners Born: 1991/11/22
Height/Weight: 174cm/73Kg Throws/Bats: Right/Left
Another local guy, Oki’s from Kimitsu City in Chiba, now playing for the Shikoku Island League Kagawa Olive Guyners. Kakunaka’s also out of the SIL, so who knows? Here he is batting with them this summer.
I-2 Tomoya Kakinuma
From: Japan University School of International Relations (!) Born: 1993/05/12
Height/Weight: 180cm/82Kg Throws/Bats: Right/Right
I know nothing about Kakinuma, I must be honest, and there is very very little about him online. It looks like Our Marines not only have a Kyodai Engineer and a driving instructor, now we’ve added a diplomat as well.
Verdict I like this draft a lot. This is pretty much exactly the sort of strategy I was hoping to see coming into this draft – first round to the best player possible regardless of need, then fill in the pitching staff with young arms (2 HS pitchers) and guys who can contribute soon (4 industrial league players). There’s a LOT of potential in this draft, and I think plenty of reasons to be excited.