Sunday, February 21, 2016

Seibu Lions 2016 Position Outlook: Infield

How often will we see Okawari-kun in the field?
The Saitama Seibu Lions infield will have some minor changes with the recent loss of Ryota Wakiya in free agency. However, they will have more depth through some recent changes.


3B Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura: After coming off a great 2015 season, the Lions are expected to reduce his time in the field and have him as a designated hitter in 2016. His track record shows that he has yet to play there consecutive seasons of at least 100 seasons in his career. Based on trends, he would have a significant injury this season, which is something the team doesn't want.

2B Hideto Asamura: The starting 2B should still be playing, but there are question marks if he can put it together for a full season. He may never repeat his 2013 season, but last year saw a good first half followed up by a dismal second half.

1B Ernesto Mejia: Mejia is the second-highest paid player on the team behind Okawari-kun. Despite having a "down" year hovering around the .220 mark for much of it, the Lions still rewarded him with a raise to bring him back for 2016. He still amassed 27 home runs and fans hope he can have a better rebound season compared to the frequent ground balls last year.

SS Yuji Kaneko: Kaneko started a good number of games at SS, but a conditioning problem sidelined him for most of the second half. At minimum, he should be on the ichi-gun, but no guaranteed everyday starter.

SS Shota Tonosaki: Tonosaki made his ichi-gun debut in his rookie season last year. They gave him an extended look at SS, but now he will be the 3B behind Okawari-kun. He has good speed, but his bat is still a question mark.


Yuji Onizaki: Onizaki is mostly a shortstop there for defense. His bat is poor, but can make great plays in the field.

Naoto Watanabe: The Lions put Watanabe in ni-gun camp, but he is the most versatile veteran among the infielders. He can at any position if needed and provide a respectable bat as well as glove in a reserve role.

Shogo Kimura: Kimura is the newest Lion, where the team secured him after a tryout. He's capable of playing all over the infield if needed, but could spend more time at SS due to the lack of a bat. Kimura can hit for a better average, but defense is nothing spectacular.

Hotaka Yamakawa: Yamakawa was a second round draft pick in 2013. After spending two years in ni-gun, the Lions feel he could be ready for more time with the ichi-gun. He was a former teammate of Shinzaburo Tawata at the college level and is capable of playing 3B and 1B. Most likely he will see time at 1B if they want to give Ernesto Mejia a day off. It's possible that he could be a defensive substitute. With Yamakawa being recently injured, it's unsure how long he is out.

Kyohei Nagae: Nagae is a defensive specialist who comes in for the late innings. He's solid defensively at SS, but doesn't have the bat to be an everyday player. With Kimura on the ichi-gun, he could be buried down in ni-gun for 2016.

Daichi Mizuguchi: Mizuguchi was a former ikusei draft pick who earned a promotion to the 70-man roster in the middle of 2015 for hitting above .300 in ni-gun. He has been pegged as a reserve 2B with speed, but most likely will spend the year in ni-gun.

The Farm: 

Kazuki Kaneko: Kaneko was a fourth round draft pick in 2013.

Haruka Yamada: Yamada was the Lions' fifth round draft pick in 2014.

Nien Ting Wu: Wu was drafted in the 7th round in 2015. He was born in Taiwan, but went to school in Japan, meaning he will not count as a foreign player when he is on the 28-man active roster.



The Lions lost Wakiya in free agency, but picked up Kimura to the roster. They were able to expand themselves at the SS position with another option, but does that mean Watanabe gets bumped down to ni-gun? Defense at shortstop should not be a problem and it becomes flex position.

Tonosaki will be learning on the fly in the field, as he saw time at SS last year in the second half. It's possible he gets eased into 3B when Okawari-kun is playing DH. There are more pinch hit options on the bench while Nagae and Yamakawa provide depth. I don't see Mizuguchi playing much unless there's an injury to Asamura.

Can Mejia and Asamura have good seasons for the full year? Or do they become only good for half a season, bringing the team down? Okawari-kun was healthy last season, which was a rare exception. Kimura should be plugged in at 3B or even 1B as he can play multiple spots on the infield.


Other positions in the series: 

Starting Rotation




Manager Norio Tanabe


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