The 2020 NPB Draft takes place on Monday, October 26. This year, it will happen during the regular season, as opposed to the traditional break right before the Japan Series.
Every year is different, but this year, the information becomes even more slim with limited tournaments, games and no Koshien for the Spring and Summer available in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's possible that less high school prospects have submitted paperwork for this draft and opted to go to a shakaijin league or university if they want to continue their baseball careers.
Here is a look at each position and where the Lions stand in the long run:
This position appears to be set for a few years with Tomoya Mori, Masatoshi Okada and the recently drafted Sena Tsuge at the ichi-gun. They also have Shoya Makino and Masato Saito downstairs while they can choose to promote Daichi Nakaguma from ikusei. This position shouldn't be an issue now that Tsuge, a shakaijin, helped bring early impact and should remain a keeper as a reserve. There are currently no catchers listed on the Lions scouting sheet.
The Lions had Takeya Nakamura playing 3B on occasion, but Cory Spangenberg has been the band aid fix with foreign help. There was thoughts that Ryusei Sato would be the long term replacement, but he recently got into trouble with the law and remains suspended indefinitely. Kakeru Yamanobe is at 2B with Shuta Tonosaki while Sosuke Genda and Hotaka Yamakawa should remain on the infield.
There are also multiple high school projects from Ryusei Tsunashima and Ryota Kawano who are there for the long run. It wouldn't hurt to add an infielder for depth.
Early options could be Shugo Maki (Chuo University) as a fall back first round choice. Long term high school choices include Tomoya Inoue (Hansaki Tokuharu), Kendai Gen (Chukyo) and Yuki Watarai (Yokohama). Teruaki Sato (Kindai Univrsity) can also play 3B, but more on him in the next section.
This is where things get interesting. The Lions had plenty of high school projects who have been unable to make the ichi-gun as regulars. Currently, they've used Fumikazu Kimura, Yuji Kaneko, Cory Spangenberg and Tonosaki. Everyone else has been a flash in the pan, but no mainstays resulting in possible expendable cuts or glorified bench players. Takumi Kuriyama can't be here forever.
The aforementioned Teruaki Sato out of university is considered to be the best position player in the draft. If he could make instant impact, it wouldn't hurt to have his bat, barring it lives up to the hype. His bat has drawn comparisons to Yuki Yanagita and can hit opposite field. Having him as a part-time 3B would also be a great fit for the Lions if they won his rights.
Other first round university options include Ryota Isobata (Chuo) and Ryosuke Nishikawa (Tokaidai Sagami). Ryoto Kita (Akashi Shiritsu) is a high school option who is a fast runner and possible leadoff hitter candidate. The already mentioned Tomoya Inoue can also play outfield.
The Lions pitching can always be better. Currently, they're looking for starters, but having someone in relief doesn't hurt either. LHP Takahisa Hayakawa (Waseda University) is the main prize among pitchers in this class. On paper, he could be inserted into the Lions rotation. Another top alternative is Hiroto Takahashi (Chukyo University).
Other short term options include Naofumi Kizawa (Keio University), Hiroki Ito (Tomakomai Komazawa University) and shakaijin Ryoji Kuribayashi (Toyota Motors). Shunpeita Yamashita (Fukuoka Ohori) is one of the top high school options.
When it comes to fallback choices, the options are endless with plenty of university and high school pitchers that the Lions have looked at.
High school choices:
Shunsuke Nakamori (Akashi Shiritsu)
Tatsuto Kobayashi (Chiben Wakayama)
Takuto Takada (Shizuoka Kenritsu)
Ryonosuke Matsumoto (Yokohama)
Shota Suzuki (Hosei)
Taisei Irie (Meiji)
Hiroto Mori (Nittadai)
Haruki Ohmichi (Hachinohe Gakuin)
Ryota Heinai (Asia)
Kento Ogo (Tokai)
The list is much larger and there is no time to include them all, but majority of the Lions scouting page has indicated they're looking at pitchers. Expect at least four or five taken in this draft. Even an independent league pitcher from the Hyogo Blue Thunders is listed.
Of course the big subplot is Junichi Tazawa being eligible for this draft after his initial ineligible ruling took place when he left for North America as a shakaijin pitcher. Someone should take him in this draft if they want a reliever who can help immediately.
The Lions have shown that they'll announce their draft pick publicly if it's an obvious player like Hayakawa or Sato. However, if they conceal their pick until draft day, it indicates they want somebody and hope he goes unopposed or few teams go for him.
An announcement could be made any moment if they announce their pick. Previous first round pick attempts and announcements since we've been following the Lions are shown as followed:
2015: Shinsaburo Tawata: Announced
2016: Tatsuya Imai: Hidden
2017: Daiki Tajima: Announced, lost, drafted Hiromasa Saito
2018: Wataru Matsumoto: Hidden, but most media members speculated this was happening.
2019: Roki Sasaki: Announced, lost, drafted Tetsu Miyagawa
Most mocks have the Lions going Hayakawa or Sato, but if there is no team announcement, expect something else.
When polling Lions twitter, early results showed a near split on Sato and Hayakawa. However, our latest poll was leaning towards Hayakawa as shown below.
2020年ドラフト、ライオンズのドラフト1位には誰を指名して欲しい？— Graveyard Baseball (@GraveyardBall) October 15, 2020
Who do you want the #seibuLions to nominate with their first round pick at the 2020 #NPB Draft?
Please spread @64Uni_Lions @Cape_Lions @nerimamo #早川隆久#佐藤輝明#高橋宏斗 #埼玉西武ライオンズ#npbeng
One last second poll may be conducted unless the team makes an announcement soon. As earlier mentioned, expected a load of pitchers to be taken by the Lions based on needs, but it's possible they attempt to take Teruaki Sato given his talent evaluation and the need for short term help in the outfield.
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