Saturday, February 4, 2017
Seibu Lions 2017 Spring Camp outlook: Infield
The Saitama Seibu Lions were flawed on the infield, as the errors piled up in 2016. They led the league in errors with 101 total, but a majority of these issues defensively were in the first half.
This year, the Lions are hoping for some redemption with improved defense and a rebound season from others as well as more stability at shortstop.
Hideto Asamura: Asamura is now the team's captain and was given No. 3 with the expectations that he will be the team's premier hitter. Many called him the heir to Hiroyuki Nakajima at SS, but he found a home at 2B.
Ernesto Mejia: Mejia had a strong first half to 2016, but started to get cold when the second half came along. He would still rack up a career high 35 HRs for 2016, but he hopes to be more consistent with his bat and not just a HR hitter.
Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura: Okawari-kun is hoping to rebound after an ugly 2016, which saw him get deactivated for performance reasons. He hit 21 home runs, but was not the same after an injury and not being conditioned properly throughout last year. Nakamura did reach one career milestone in playing at least 100 games for three consecutive seasons, something he never did prior to 2016. Could he see more time at DH like last season or go back to 3B which is his natural position?
Shortstop is a wide open competition after there was no stability. Yuji Onizaki had the most games at SS with 60, but not all of them were starts. There is a possibility that the losers could be seeing time at 3B if Okawari-kun becomes a DH. It will be interesting to see how this shapes up for 2017.
Nien Ting Wu: Wu was the team's starting SS by the end of the year. He didn't have the greatest bat, but his fielding was adequate.
Shuta Tonosaki: Tonosaki was a 3rd round pick in 2014 and struggled to stay at the ichi-gun level in 2016 despite showing promise in 2015. He has the speed to be a pinch runner, but can he be a complete hitter and fielder?
Yuji Onizaki: Onizaki is the BABIP king, where he would put the ball in play and get the result of hits. His fielding last season was ugly, but he has shown in 2015 that he can play defense.
Sosuke Genda: Genda is the rookie among the mix and can earn a starting role right away. He was a gold glove player in the Industrial Leagues and has the speed to steal bases. Can he hit and can his defense live up to the hype?
Naoto Watanabe: Watanabe will be in ni-gun camp and become the team's utility infielder. His defense is solid, but he can't be an everyday starter. It's possible he gets more time at 3B compared to the rest of the field.
Kyohei Nagae: Nagae will make the ichi-gun team for his defense. However, his bat is not good enough to hit his own weight. He's arguably the best defensive infielder on the Lions as Norio Tanabe used him as a replacement player for the last three innings of a game.
Hotaka Yamakawa: After having a strong preseason in 2016, he would flop to start the year and spent several months in ni-gun. Yamakawa would come up in the second half and have an impressive amount of pop in a small sample size. He can hit it deep and his fielding is average, but is there room for him at 1B? Yamakawa also has experience at 3B, but we have yet to see the Lions utilize him there.
Daichi Mizuguchi: A former ikusei pick, Mizuguchi would play a handful of games as a pinch runner and could play 2B as well as 3B. He is one of the shortest players on the team at 5' 4".
Kazuki Kaneko: Kaneko was a fourth round draft pick out of high school in 2013.
Haruka Yamada: Yamada was a fifth round pick out of high school in 2014.
Shogo Kimura: Kimura was signed after passing a tryout in 2016, but he would be a part time infielder at best. The Lions signed him to an ikusei contract for 2017 as he recovers from a torn ACL injury. There is room on the main roster to promote him if he appears to be healthy.
The shortstop competition becomes the ultimate must-watch situation. Hatsuhiko Tsuji is open to anyone playing it as Genda will be with the ichi-gun camp. The use of Okawari-kun remains a question mark as well, but the weight of the offense will be on Asamura with high expectations.
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Posted by Christian Gin at 9:34 AM