Friday, October 23, 2020

2020 NPB Draft Preview: Where do the Lions go from here?


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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: 

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Catcher: 

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. 

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Infield:

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. 

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Outfield: 

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. 

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Pitcher: 

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) 

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University options: 

Shota Suzuki (Hosei)

Taisei Irie (Meiji) 

Hiroto Mori (Nittadai) 

Haruki Ohmichi (Hachinohe Gakuin)

Ryota Heinai (Asia) 

Kento Ogo (Tokai) 

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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. 

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Outlook:

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. 


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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Sunday, October 18, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Another stalemate

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions went 3-3 against the Fighters and Buffaloes for the week. They retained their fourth place standing in the Pacific League with only 1/2 game behind the Rakuten Eagles for third. 

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Game 1: Kona Takahashi vs. Naoyuki Uwasawa

Kona Takahashi pitched eight shutout innings and a mixture of timely hits made this game a laugher. The Lions scattered nine hits off Uwasawa through six innings, which was good for five runs. Timely hits came from everyone including Sosuke Genda, Ernesto Mejia and Tomoya Mori. Shuta Tonosaki also reached a new milestone for his 100th career stolen base in this 7-0 win. 

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Game 2: Shota Hamaya vs. Drew VerHagen

The Lions walked eight batters and Taishi Ota hit a two-run HR off Hamaya to set the tone of this game. Drew VerHagen threw eight shutout innings and the Lions didn't score until the 9th off a reliever. Seiji Kawagoe had RBIs late while Ichiro Tamura struck out a few as a consolation in this 7-2 defeat. 

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Game 3: Zach Neal vs. Nick Martinez

The Lions couldn't solve Kensuke Kondo early on and Neal gave up five runs through two innings. Tomoya Mori hit a three-run HR, but the Fighters pulled away as the Lions lose 8-3. 

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Game 4: Tatsuya Imai vs. Taisuke Yamaoka

Imai lasted 5.1 innings with his best outing in months. After leaving two runners on base, Steven Moya had a timely hit to break the deadlock in the 6th. The bottom of the 6th is where the magic came as Takumi Kuriyama had a gapper with two runners on, giving the Lions the 2-1 lead they wouldn't give up. Their bullpen did the usual 7-8-9 work with Ryosuke Moriwaki, Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda though there was drama in the 9th. Masuda loaded the bases, but got a ground ball to end it, snapping a 2 game skid. 

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Game 5: Ken Togame vs. Yaku Cho

Yaku Cho had six scoreless innings against the Lions with eight strikeouts, on what was a fitting Taiwan day at MetLife Dome. Seiichiro Oshita and Steven Moya each had a home run as the Lions bats were near silent. Nien Ting Wu recorded a consolation RBI in the 7th, but it wasn't enough.  

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Game 6: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Hiroya Miyagi

In a battle of first round picks and the opposition being a rookie, the Lions scored just enough offense in a tough battle. A three-run inning for the Lions including timely hits from Yuji Kaneko and Sosuke Genda were key to this win. Matsumoto went six innings with only one run allowed while there was drama in the 9th. Tatsushi Masuda gave up one run and had the tying run on third base, but two outs were recorded to preserve the win and a split for the week. 

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Even with the game results being in the middle, having Takahashi, Imai and Matsumoto with solid starts is progress for the long run. Fans should enjoy the growth of the youth while Takumi Kuriyama sets himself up for 2,000 career hits in 2021. 

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Monday, October 12, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Rain cuts series short

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions had a 3-1-1 week against the Softbank Hawks and Rakuten Eagles. They sit in fourth place and were nearly in third, but some games were called off due to rain. 

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Game 1: Kona Takahashi vs. Kodai Senga

Tomoya Mori had all three RBIs for the Lions with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and a timely double. Kona Takahashi went 6.1 innings without allowing a run and walking one batter while striking out eight. Kaima Taira came in for the 7th with inherited runners and got a key double play to keep the Hawks off the board. Tatsushi Masuda denied the shutout, but the Lions broke a small skid to start the week with a win. 

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Game 2: Shota Hamaya vs. Shunsuke Kasaya

Hamaya allowed three runs including a HR to Yuki Yanagita and that looked like it could be over. However, the Lions chipped away at the lead slowly with timely hits by Takumi Kuriyama and a solo HR when the game was eventually tied in the 7th. For the bottom of the 8th, Fumikazu Kimura had a gapper with a runner in scoring position to give the team their first lead of the night. 

The bullpen was also key as Reed Garrett, Kaima Taira and Katsunori Hirai continued to strand runners. As a result of this win, the Lions took the series. 

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Game 3: Tatsuya Imai vs. Shunta Ishikawa

Imai gave up four runs on eight hits in a span of only three innings, however, the Lions bullpen held their ground. Ishikawa gave up a three-run HR to Hotaka Yamakawa which tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the 7th. There was a chance for a win in the bottom of the 9th when the Lions had a leadoff double off Yuito Mori. They failed to cash in and had to settle for a draw. 

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Game 4: Zach Neal vs. Takahiro Shiomi

Neal escaped an early jam only giving up one run in the bottom of the 1st and the Lions were able to score from there on out. Yuji Kaneko cleared the bases with a timely base hit and some strong base running brought a third runner home. Neal went six innings and allowed only two runs. Cory Spangenberg and Hotaka Yamakawa added runs through a sacrifice fly and timely hit in the top of the 8th for insurance as the Lions won their third game of the week. 

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Game 5: Ryota Ishibashi vs Daiki Enokida

Both teams played for three innings after a rain delay, but the game was called after another storm hit Sendai. 

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Game 5: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Ryota Takinaka

Takinaka nearly shutout the Lions until the 9th inning as the Eagles cruised to an easy 8-2 win. Matsumoto coughed up five runs in four innings with a makeup game being forced the following day. 

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Game 6: Katsunori Hirai vs. Yuya Fukui

This game was called due to the rain in Sendai nearly four hours before scheduled first pitch. 

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It was a good week overall with no loss to Softbank. Unfortunately the Lions still showed they can't hit, but the pitching has remained promising. 

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Sunday, October 4, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Series Digest: Fate not in their own hands

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions lost the series against the Chiba Lotte Marines over the weekend. They currently sit in 4th place of the Pacific League. 

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Game 1: Zach Neal vs. Kota Futaki

Neal went seven innings without allowing a run. Both sides were pitching well and got double plays when necessary to escape the jams. It wasn't until the 10th inning when Ernesto Mejia broke the deadlock with a solo HR to left field. The 1-0 lead was enough for the Lions to win this as Ryosuke Moriwaki got a double play in the bottom of the frame for his first career save. 

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Game 2: Reed Garrett vs. Toshiya Nakamura

Garrett was a short starter and this bullpen game for the Lions started out well with HRs by Fumikazu Kimura and Takumi Kuriyama. however, things went south when Tetsu Miyagawa came in for the 6th inning and gave up a three-run HR to Shuhei Fukuda. With the Marines getting another chance in the 7th of Ryosuke Moriwaki, Hisanori Yasuda went yard for a game-losing three-run HR. 

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Game 3: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Minabu Mima

Mima had a near perfect game with only a solo leadoff HR given up to Yuji Kaneko in the first. The Lions next 20 batters were retired in an easy win for Chiba. Matsumoto gave up four runs in five innings, including a HR to Fukuda in the 5th. This marked the Lions first losing week since mid-August. 

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This season is still a mess. Offense isn't there, pitching has been mediocre, but the bullpen is still a strength though Saturday was a stinker. Hatsuhiko Tsuji was asked about how the postseason is no longer in the Lions hands as they need help to win, but he said to the media how they're not thinking about it. 

Nobody should be thinking about postseason with this squad. This isn't giving up, but not paying attention to the standings. It's about progress and growth of the current progress more than wins and losses in the standings. 

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Thursday, October 1, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Franchise reaches 3,000 wins in Seibu era

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions went 5-4 in their last nine games against the Fighters, Eagles and Buffaloes. 

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Game 1: Kona Takahashi vs. Naoyuki Uwasawa

The Lions bats had no answer for Uwasawa, who drew two double plays and went seven innings with only one run allowed. Sho Nakata and Yushi Shimizu both hit home runs off Takahashi, which was all the offense the Fighters needed. Takumi Kuriyama had two hits to boost his totals including a timely in the 6th, but it was too late. Yuji Kaneko recorded his 200th career stolen base as a consolation. 

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Game 2: Shota Hamaya vs. Drew VerHagen

Hamaya allowed three runs in the second inning from a timely hit by Shimizu and a sacrifice fly from Go Matsumoto to start. The offense responded in the 4th when Fumikazu Kimura, returning from an injury, hit a three-run HR to tie it. Rookie Sena Tsuge also had a timely hit to make it 4-3. Two more timely hits from Takumi Kuriyama and Kimura gave the team enough runs to hang on. Sho Nakata hit a HR and Hamaya went 5.1 innings, but the bullpen stopped the team in its tracks with the tying run on base in the 6th and 9th innings. Ryosuke Moriwaki and Tatsushi Masuda got key strikeouts with two outs. 

With the Lions winning, it was their 3,000th win in franchise history since 1979, the first season since moving to Tokorozawa and being in the Seibu era. 

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Game 3: Sho Ito vs. Kenta Uehara

Ito could't escape the Fighters bats and was lit up for four runs over 3.1 innings. The Lions allowed at least one run for seven consecutive innings, including a HR from Haruki Nishikawa. With the mop up duty team destroyed by the Fighters bats, Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura hit a consolation HR which was his 200th at MetLife Dome.  

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Game 4: Zach Neal vs. Takahiro Shiomi

Ernesto Mejia had three RBIs with two timely hits as well as a smart slide on a double to score a run. Cory Spangenberg was the hero in the top of the 7th inning with the go-ahead run when the game was tied 4-4.  Neal, gave up four runs and couldn't record an out in the sixth, but the game remained tied when Tetsu Miyagawa was able to cover up any further damage. This game snapped an EAgles five game losing streak. 

Mejia also announced his uncle passed away that day during his hero interview, having a "CM" written on his cap.  

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Game 5: Sean Nolin vs. Ryota Ishibashi 

Nolin left after one inning due to shoulder tightness, forcing the bullpen to take majority of the game in relief. When the game was tied 1-1 in the 5th, Fumikazu Kimura was in CF and threw out a runner trying to score. It proved to be vital as the Lions bullpen stranded runners nearly each inning. Sosuke Genda broke the tie with a two-run triple in the bottom of the 7th and earned a modasho for his efforts. it was his first hero interview of the 2020 for the new Lions captain. 

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Game 6: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Ryota Takinaka

Matsumoto went seven innings and Mejia had two key doubles to bring in three runs. It resulted in a sweep of the Eagles as Matsumoto had another promising performance. 

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Orix Buffaloes

For those who have been following on Twitter, I took a recent vacation. From hearing the blunders of two shutouts and Takumi Kuriyama reaching 1,900 career hits, this series was a mess on offense with the pitching being subpar. 

At least it ended on a good note, when the Lions came back from trailing late as Hotaka Yamakawa hit a two-run game winning HR. By pitching a scoreless 7th inning, Tetsu Miyagawa earned his first career win. 

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This season has already been over and the series in Osaka already forced the issue that this team isn't good enough. Can only enjoy the good things in these dark times of no offense. 

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Monday, September 21, 2020

2020 NPB Trade Deadline: Possible candidates to send away

 

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There is always one dark day in the sports world. Unfortunately, entering the second half of any baseball season means the time will be ticking on certain players with their respective teams. While some will reach free agency, others will be let go and not offered a contract for the following season, better known in Japanese as senryokugai. 

This year's NPB trade deadline is on September 30 and while the trades and transactions are minor, every team needs to start thinking ahead at who could be gone soon. The NPB Draft takes place in October while the regular season is still ongoing, but it's usually a hint at when senryokugai lists are announced for each team in order to make room for the new players taken. 

Putting yourself in the General Manager's shoes, some players need to show life or their careers in NPB could be over. In North America on this kind of day, players are always reminded and even telling the media "it's a business" when they're sent packing via trade, cut or being released. 

As with usual in NPB, trades mostly happen because teams don't know what to do with the player they have, hoping to acquire cheap depth or find a change of scenery for the individual. They're often expendable. 

For those reading in Japan, this is not a hit piece for any players who may not have been good, but it's a warning to project who could be gone from the Lions after the 2020 season concludes. We have also provided an update for all foreigners under contact, which is always a year-by-year case. Ikusei players will not be listed here. 

Here are the players who could be sent away by trade or senryokugai:

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Shunta Nakatsuka: Once a second-round draft pick in 2016, he was thought to have major upside with his velocity and size for a pitcher. He had control problems and it still lingers today. The upside is likely gone as he turns 26 this December. He'll be remembered as someone who had potential and showed it with the Melbourne Aces in Australia through strikeouts, but can't crack the ichi-gun due to the number of walks. Recently, he was called up this week for the first time in two years. Could they be showcasing him? It's an uncertain future. 

Shota Takekuma: A veteran who has been with the Lions since 2007, he fell out of favor in 2018 and has mostly been a spot starter or mop up pitcher since. Takekuma was a solid left-handed option out of the bullpen in the past and even earned setup innings, but it's unlikely he'll ever return to form as he sits off the ichi-gun roster today. He was last seen taking low leverage innings. 

Makoto Aiuchi: Aiuchi was recently banned by the team for violating COVID-19 rules. However, Aiuchi has been a repeat offender for multiple infractions with the law in the past from driving without a license to smoking underage. He saw a total of 21 ichi-gun games from 2014, 2016-2019 where it has mostly been spot starts. While he nearly got a win in one outing, he's now 26 and others have leapt him on the depth chart. 

Koki Fujita: His career started out slow due to an injury and skipping the entire 2016 season as a result. A 9th round draft pick in 2015, he has only seen ni-gun games and has played four of them in 2020. He turns 23 in December, but it isn't unheard of to part ways to someone that age, as Isamu Sato was there previously. 

Tsubasa Kokuba: Kokuba played 15 ichi-gun games and stayed on the roster to finish 2019. However, he couldn't build on that momentum in 2020 and has a 9.90 ERA in only 10 ni-gun innings. With other relievers beating him in competition, he could be on the outside as he turns 27 this December. 

Shogo Noda: Noda had meaningful innings in the Norio Tanabe era and was thought to be a lefty specialist. His ichi-gun time has dwindled since 2019, where he only reached 19.2 innings and is on pace to see fewer in 2020. In one of his games this year, he allowed inherited runners to score all while failing to be a threat. Currently 27, there is likely better left-handed options. 

Daisuke Matsuzaka (Retirement): After being let go by the Chunichi Dragons, Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Lions this past winter hoping for one more ride. He just turned 40 this past month and has been injured, something that hurt his career since being with the Boston Red Sox. He'll be hoping for one retirement ceremony game in October or November as a farewell to baseball. It's unlikely he's nothing more than a spot starter for the Lions if healthy. 

Hitoto Komazuki: Komazuki was a converted outfielder who switched to catcher starting in 2017. He spent majority of the 2019 season as the emergency third catcher due to his lack of hitting. Last year, recorded his first and only career base hit to date, but has spent the 2020 season in ni-gun. With Sena Tsuge emerging as a better option and Daichi Nakaguma possibly getting promoted from ikusei, there's a chance Komazuki is the odd man out being the second oldest on the roster. 

Yuto Morikoshi: The former Chunichi Dragon and Hanshin Tiger was signed by the Lions this winter and it's likely Hatsuhiko Tsuji remembered him from his time in Nagoya. Thought to be a defensive substitute, but he has failed to crack the ichi-gun all season, which isn't a good sign for someone who is 32. Nien Ting Wu, Masato Kumashiro, Kakeru Yamanobe and Daichi Mizuguchi have received more playing time as depth options. He's older than all of them. 

Kyohei Nagae: Arguably one of the best defensive players on the Lions, his role diminished the moment Sosuke Genda was drafted. His inability to his has cost him any chance at ichi-gun playing time as he's only useful as a replacement player. Like Morikoshi, others have been playing on the infield in front of him on the depth chart. Nagae is 27 years old and was drafted by the Lions out of high school in 2011. 

"Aito" Takeda: Once drafted out of Hanasaki Tokuharu high school, Aito has failed to play an ichi-gun game in 2020 with Wataru Takagi, Seiji Kawagoe and Shohei Suzuki all passing him on the depth chart. It's possible he's fallen out of favor after playing 42 games in 2019. 

Daichi Mizuguchi: Mizuguchi was the first ikusei player in Lions history to play in an ichi-gun game. While he's currently on the ichi-gun at the time of this writing, he's just a defensive substitute and pinch runner for depth. Yamanobe is a younger option and depending on how the draft goes, the Lions could find another infielder to take his spot. He's on the bubble given he turned 31 this year. 

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Free Agents:

Tatsushi Masuda: Masuda has been the closer of thee Lions having a stable role from 2019-2020 after an off 2018. Instead of taking the multi-year option, he signed a one-year deal in the offseason, earning domestic free agent rights. It's likely he wants to test the market and see what he's worth no matter what the Lions offer in negotiations. There's a good chance he'll get a multi-year offer before he exercises his domestic free agent option, but it won't matter. He wants to see a bidding war and given the track record of the Lions valuing pitchers, his chances of staying don't look good. There will be compensation for the Lions if they lose him in free agency. 

Masato Kumashiro: Kumashiro earned domestic free agent rights earlier this year and has mostly been a reserve outfielder since 2014. He's versatile enough to be a defensive substitute and spell player, but can't be starting on a regular basis. There's no idea if Kumashiro wants to leave or not, but it's not like he'll get offers the way Masuda will. Regardless, the Lions will be in good shape with or without him in the event he exercises his domestic FA option. 

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Foreigners: 

Stats are reflective of 2020 ichi-gun numbers through September 21

Zach Neal (3-6), 5.18 ERA: Neal is under contract through the 2021 season after he signed a two-year deal right before he left Japan in 2019. He doesn't need to worry about this situation for another year. 

Cory Spangenberg .283/.332/.527, 11 HR: Spangenberg was humbled through July and adjusted well since the beginning of August. His biggest concern was the walk rate, but his OBP has gone above .330, making it very likely he's on pace to earn another contract in Japan. It doesn't hurt he's had multiple hero interviews and his defense at 3B has been solid when the Lions lost Takeya Nakamura to injury. 

Reed Garrett (3-2), 3.69 ERA, 16 HLD: Garrett had an invincible first month and looked unstoppable in July. However, August was the beginning of his demise where his pitches became flat and he wasn't missing bats. While he can throw 100 mph, it's a cautionary tale that control and command are also important as opposing hitters have begun fouling off anything fast he's thrown. As a result, he's been playing pinball on the mound and became a pitch to contact player. 

Garrett lost his setup role on September 5 when he was already struggling to allow at least one or two batters on base per game. In that outing during a tie game scenario, he loaded the bases and gave up a three-run triple to Haruki Nishikawa to lose the game. Garrett has been in mop up duty since and if the season ended today, he would likely not return for 2021. 

Ernesto Mejia .248/.310/.530, 9 HR: Mejia began the year in ni-gun and was offered a team-friendly contract to stay around for 2020. Spending 2019 as a true bench player, his 2020 has already featured more home runs, starts and at-bats than last year. 

Recently, he's been playing first base with Hotaka Yamakawa not healthy and for what his salary is, Mejia has been worth every yen. It's possible Mejia was brought back for being a great locker room guy with his relationship being fine with everyone around. It's possible he'll be a Lion for life and could be working for the organization when his playing days are over. 

Sean Nolin (1-2), 7.08 ERA: Nolin didn't play an ichi-gun game until nearly the halfway mark to the 2020 season. He won his debut in Sendai with a good start and followed it up with another decent outing in Sapporo. However, his last two games have been forgettable. For now, Nolin is on the fence depending on what happens. It's a classic wait and see approach. 

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Outlook: 

There's currently 67 players under contract on the 70-man roster with five others being ikusei. With the 2020 NPB Draft happening in October, which occurs during the regular season, teams could be making senryokugai announcements shortly after it. Usually the final week of the regular season is the beginning of this dreaded news. Expect at least five domestic players being let go with possibly more depending on the draft. 

In terms of trades, it's also unlikely, though the Rakuten Eagles just acquired D.J. Johnson for a cash purchased from the Hiroshima Carp. 

If I'm the Lions, I would call Eagles GM Kazuhisa Ishii and try to offer someone on this list in exchange for Louis Okoye. Since taking over at GM, Ishii has shown no attachment to inherited players by making the roster his own. From picking up Ren Wada, Yuya Fukui, Stefen Romero, Daichi Suzuki, Hideto Asamura while also and sending away Zelous Wheeler and Yuhei Takanashi, they've made plenty of transactions. 

Okoye is only 23 and has played zero ichi-gun games in 2020, leeading to believe his chances of making an impact in Sendai are all but done. Others are ahead of him on the depth chart and Ishii has no attachment to Okoye since he didn't draft him. With Okoye's ties to Saitama prefecture and possible depth needs in the outfield, there's a chance he can benefit from a change of scenery while the Lions can market his connection to the area. 

Don't expect any trade to happen, but be ready for a few senryokugai announcements next month. 

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Sunday, September 20, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Hamaya earns first win

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions went 3-3 this week against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Orix Buffaloes. They sit in fifth place of the Pacific League, only 1/2 a game behind the Fighters for fourth. 

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Game 1: Kona Takahashi vs. Ayumu Ishikawa

Takahashi dug himself a 2-0 hole when Seiya Inoue and Yudai Fujioka had timely hits in the second inning. After a third timely hit from Hisanori Yasuda, the Lions looked like they'd lose trailing 3-0. 

However, Wataru Takagi hit his 2nd career HR in the 7th and Yuji Kaneko had a timely hit in the 8th when the Marines left Ishikawa in the game too long. With Frank Herrmann pitching and the tying run on third base, Cory Spangenberg took the first pitch he saw into the RF stands for a two-run HR. Tatsushi Masuda had the tying run on second base, but closed out the game with a strikeout of Shohei Kato on full count to give the Lions a comeback 4-3 wi. 

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Game 2: Shota Hamaya vs. Kazuya Ojima

Hayama went six innings with only one run given up on a timely from Shogo Nakamura in the sixth inning in his first career start. He struck out three batters and allowed only four hits. The day belonged to Takumi Kuriyama, who went 4-4 with a solo HR and timely hit to make most of the Lions offense. This one finished with the textbook 7-8-9 bullpen lineup of Ryosuke Moriwaki, Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda having clean innings, not allowing a base runner for the rest of thee night in the Lions third straight win.  

For Hamaya, his first career start was also a victory. 

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Game 3: Tetsuya Utsumi vs. Daiki Iwashita

Leonys Martin hit two HRs and Utsumi had no chance going only four innings for the night. On offense, the Lions couldn't score off Iwashita until the 9th inning, when Sosuke Genda had a timely hit. This ended in an 8-1 defeat. 

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Game 4: Zach Neal vs. Taisuke Yamaoka

Neal allowed five runs to score in three innings and the Lions couldn't recover from it. Steven Moya hit a two-run HR and that summed up this game in a nutshell. Taisuke Yamaoka allowed a chance in the first inning, but recovered only allowing two runs through six innings in an 8-2 laugher. 

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Game 5: Sean Nolin vs. Sachiya Yamasaki

The game was tied 1-1 in the top of the 6th inning when Sosuke Genda hit a sacrifice fly, but Nolin struggled in the bottom of the frame. He loaded the bases and had five walks. With Tetsu Miyagawa pitching, Aderlin Rodriguez hit a two-strike double in LF to score two runs. Orix pulled away off Reed Garrett to make it 6-1. Takumi Kuriyama hit a two-run HR in the 9th as a consolation, but it was already too late. 

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Game 6: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Andrew Albers

Matsumoto gave up three solo HRs to Moya, Ryo Ohta and Hayato Nishiura as he dug himself a 4-0 hole through five innings. The Lions came back and got two runs through a two-run HR by Hoktaka Yamakawa off Albers. In an unlikely fashion, the bases were loaded with a chance for Tomoya Mori in the 8th inning, as he was pinch hitting for Masatoshi Okada. It worked to perfection as he hit the wall from a pitch off Ryo Yoshida for a 5-4 lead. The 7-8-9 combo of Moriwaki, Taira and Masuda had no trouble closing this one as the Lions had another .500 week. 

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In another disappointing week, the bats weren't good enough and neither was the pitching from both imports when facing Orix. Close any thought of postseason baseball as this Lions team has too much to overcome. 

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