Japan Baseball Weekly released their Podcast episode previewing the Pacific League for the 2019 season on Sunday. You can listen to the full episode here by clicking on the link. The episode is also available on iTunes.
After a portion of the episode discusses some milestones and answers a question, John E. Gibson of the Japan News and Yomiuri Shimbun, Jim Allen of Kyodo News, Claudio Rodriguez of Béisbol Japonés and Zac Ikuma of Sankei broadcasting discussed everything regarding the Pacific League with projections in the standings.
Where did they have the Lions? We'll show you where they have them finishing in the Pacific League with a few notes of what they said:
John E. Gibson (@JBWPodcast): 4th
"I'm calling this the 'Wish-casting' team. An example is how I don't think they have a good rotation, but fans think they can get the first four guys out there and hopefully get good performances from [the other two guys] in a week."-Expects the loss of Hideto Asamura to hurt offensively, but believes he came off a peak season that won't be matched in Sendai with the Rakuten Eagles.
-Thinks Shuta Tonosaki will be fine at second base.
-Sees no positives in the bullpen outside of Deunte Heath.
-Finds too many holes in the rotation while they already lost Yusei Kikuchi. Thinks Tetsuya Utsumi will be shredded by Pacific League hitters.
-Offense can come close to their production last season despite losing Asamura.
Jim Allen (@JballAllen): 3rd
"If Hotaka Yamakawa makes good on his quest to make better contact, then he'll have MVP numbers for the second straight year."-Says infield defense will improve with Asamura gone from second base.
-Announced Shogo Akiyama will be in his last NPB season (he has international free agent rights for 2020). Said Akiyama is one of the best players in Japan.
-Believes the young pitching staff could take a step forward from last year.
-Made it a point to add that first round pick Wataru Matsumoto has less mileage on his arm by only beginning to pitch in high school. Makes him a good long term candidate for ace.
-Thinks Utsumi could be a plus to the rotation.
Zac Ikuma (@ikumaisaac): 3rd
"I just don't think they have enough pitching. There are good prospects and developmental guys. I'm sure they'll win a lot of games, but I just don't think they can get it done when they need to. "
-Sees Tawata as the only front line pitcher, finds Utsumi to be injury prone and a liability. Utsumi's presence alone is a hint that the Lions pitching staff is in trouble.
-Thinks the Lions can out-slug opponents, but at some point, there will be struggles.
Claudio Rodriguez (@BeisbolJapones): 2nd
-While there is expected regression, Claudio thinks the Lions can take second by default comparing the competition below them. (He has the Softbank Hawks in first)"I agree mostly with what Jim said. I still think they're going to have a solid season even though they lost some key players."
Consensus Pacific League thoughts:
-Softbank Hawks are once again the unanimous favorites to win the Pacific League and even Japan Series championship.
-Buffaloes could be a sleeper given Norifumi Nishimura is the manager. Only doubt is the fact they're Orix.
-Fighters are the hardest team to predict. Can have a good season one year followed by a bad year. Lots of raw talent, but some believe they can play up.
-Marines have a mixed bag. Some think they'll be ready in a few years, but not in 2019. Offense will be a work in progress.
-Eagles are a consensus B-class team with a lack of bullpen and questions on who steps it up as Takahiro Norimoto is out for half the year. They all found Kazuhisa Ishii being named the GM as a puzzling decision.
Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall