Friday, October 14, 2016

2016 NPB Draft: Where do the Lions go from here?

The 2016 NPB Draft will happen on October 20, right when the Climax Series ends and the Japan Series will soon commence. All 12 teams will have a table to themselves selecting players with some going to a drawing. 

For those who need a reminder, the first round is a free for all where everyone selects who they want and if anyone wants the same player, they draw for his rights with a winning ticket out of a box. Teams that miss on their player will go again until all 12 teams have their first round selection.  The record for most teams wanting one player is eight.  

Hideo Nomo was one of the two instances where this happened.  A video of the first round in 1989 is here below. 



Most recently, you can view the entire first round of the 2015 draft here. 


(If anyone wants to see a draft gaffe, go to 11:18, where Mitsuru Manaka thought he won the rights to Shun Takayama) 

From the second round and on, the draft order is like a traditional one where the worst team of one league goes first, then it reverses to the worst of the opposite league then flops back to the second worst of the original etc.

In this case, the draft order after the first round was decided by the head-to-head interleague play record, where the Pacific League won. Rather than the worst team going first in the next round, it's a snake draft so the best team will go back-to-back by selecting first in the third round.

Here is how the draft order will look in the second round, while the odd rounds will be this list in reverse:

1. Orix Buffaloes (Pacific League, 6th place)
2. Chunichi Dragons (Central League, 6th place)
3. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (PL, 5th)
4. Tokyo Yakult Swallows (CL, 5th)
5. Saitama Seibu Lions (PL, 4th)
6. Hanshin Tigers (CL, 4th)
7. Chiba Lotte Marines (PL, 3rd)
8. Yokohama DeNA Baystars (CL, 3rd)
9. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (PL, 2nd)
10. Yomiuri Giants (CL, 2nd)
11. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (PL, 1st)
12. Hiroshima Carp (PL, 1st)

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This draft is done for the convenience of students, where high school baseball players who declare, but go undrafted, can go to University while undrafted university players can go to an Industrial League etc.

This year, a total of 216 high school (105) and University (111) players are eligible for the draft. This number does not include Industrial and Independent League players. Those from the Industrial League become eligible automatically after three years removed from high school or two years removed from University. They do not need to file or declare for the draft and remain eligible once they cross the threshold. (Kazuhisa Makita turned 26 when he was selected by the Lions)

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There will be two posts as we cover the 2016 NPB Draft. This one will cover the basic needs and other thoughts on the Lions. Here is a breakdown of each position:

Pitcher:

The Lions have shown in recent years that you can never have enough pitchers. When Takayuki Kishi and Yusei Kikuchi went down, the rotation depth took a major hit that they couldn't recover from. Kishi is also scheduled to be a free agent, so it becomes uncertain if he comes back or not. 

While the rotation was flawed, the bullpen was also average and could be decent with an addition or two. The Lions have multiple pitchers they are linked to including the consensus "best player" Seigi Tanaka and Chihaya Sasaki out of University. Taisuke Yamaoka is also an intriguing industrial league pitcher who can help right away. 

There are also high school projects available including 2016 Koshien champion Tatsuya Imai, Shoma Fujihira and Naruki Terashima. With the Lions having pitching as a priority, they will most likely go for a pitcher with their first round pick and are all but guaranteed to take someone for the mound in this draft. 

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Infielder:

Shortstop was a glaring problem last year with a revolving door, however, the Lions drafted multiple infielders in the past to compete for the now. Shuta Tonosaki and Nien Ting Wu both succeeded in ni-gun and could get a shot for 2017. It always won't hurt to take another infielder with versatility as Yota Kyoda is a a possible fall back choice out of University. Problem is, can he help right away? That becomes the question. There should be a long term high school pick or depth selection in the later rounds.
 
Other infielders that they are linked to includes Kazunari Ishii out of Waseda University and Momotaro Matsumoto out of Sendai University.

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Oufielder:

The Lions initially had a revolving door in the outfield as the right field job was done by committee. That all changed when Yuji Kaneko took over due to poor defense on the infield and his speed was a threat at the top of the lineup. Of course it won't hurt to take more depth with an aging Takumi Kuriyama and Shogo Akiyama won't be with the team forever. 

However, they can afford to take a high school project like how the team did last year with Aito Otaki. Majority of the Lions outfielders are either pinch runners or defensive substitutes. There shouldn't be an outfielder selected until the mid rounds.  

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Catcher:

The Lions released Takanori Hoshi, who is now an Ikusei coach as he used to work with the ni-gun pitchers. One spot is now void, but the Lions have multiple catching options at the ichi-gun level. Ginjiro Sumitani can still play defense, Masatoshi Okada is a decent spell backup, Tatsuyuki Uemoto (a pending free agent) is a good pinch hitter and Tomoya Mori looks to be getting more time behind the plate due to his bat. 

If the Lions have no plans to keep Uemoto, then they will most likely take one catcher to put in the farm and develop. They're linked to a high school catcher named Ryuhei Kuki and University catcher Yuya Ikuta. It's possible the Lions are just high on both players that it's worth stashing this talent in the organization, but it wouldn't be surprising if either of them are selected.  

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Conclusion:

The Lions need to take multiple pitchers like last year and fill up the depth chart replacing the guys they just released. There are currently seven roster spots available with six players released and Atsushi Okamoto retiring. The team can always make more corresponding cut moves like last season and create more space. 

I would personally go for Tanaka and take the risk knowing he can help the team right away. Even if the odds are tight, it's worth trying to go for the most talented player of the bunch. I'd also be happy if Sasaki or Yamaoka were taken with the first round pick. If the Lions want to compete in 2017, they need a pitcher taken within the first three rounds who can either help their bullpen or rotation immediately.

It would be good to add position depth as well both at the infield and outfield, but I'm expecting more infielders and a catcher to be selected. The minimum of this class could be a small as five players, but I want to see a class with at least seven players taken with four pitchers, one infielder, one outfielder and a catcher. If they take more than seven, I'd be thrilled because the team needs to expand themselves as much as possible.  

In a dream scenario, it would be nice if the Lions took an entire ikusei roster and organized a san-gun like the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Yomiuri Giants do. However, that's easier said than done to put it together and have a coaching staff to work with them. It would be good to a least take one ikusei project, just so Hoshi's name isn't just an empty title.  

The future of every team will be decided through the draft, which begins promptly at 17:00 JT on 10/20.  This should be entertaining.  


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