Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Seibu Lions 2017 Spring Camp outlook: Outfield

Yuji Kaneko is now an outfielder. 
The Saitama Seibu Lions are all but settled in the outfield for 2017 barring no injuries. Depth is always key and it will be interesting to see who is behind the starters.

Last year, we saw a revolving door in right field. The emergence of Yuji Kaneko's speed had him become an everyday right fielder and balanced the lineup where he would even be a leadoff hitter.


Takumi Kuriyama: Kuriyama had a strong start to 2016, but regressed and fell to being normal. Defense was above average, but he doesn't have the greatest arm in LF. He also took a hometown discount to remain with the Lions and passed the torch of his captaincy to Hideto Asamura.

Shogo Akiyama: Akiyama didn't have a record breaking year in 2016, but still showed he can be a fine leadoff hitter. If it weren't for a poor stretch when batting third, he would have hit .300. He was still solid at getting on base for a leadoff hitter and had plus range in CF. Akiyama was the only Lion to play in every single inning for 2016.

Yuji Kaneko: Kaneko had some poor defense at SS for 2016 and the Lions moved him to right field for his speed. He had a better bat than before and was a co-stolen base king for 2016 tied with Yoshio Itoi at 53. He may not steal as many bases, but if he can get on base or be the 9-hitter, it won't be a bad thing.


Fumikazu Kimura: A converted pitcher, Kimura is in his 5th season of being an outfielder. At best, he is a spell outfielder for occasional starts.  

Ryo Sakata: Sakata is capable of hitting, but he can't be an everyday outfielder. He could be the best pinch hitter among the outfield unit and is decent as a 4th OF.

Shogo Saito: Saito played several games in 2015 as the 4th outfielder and defensive sub. His playing time decreased in 2016 where he was only good as a defensive sub for Kuriyama or Kaneko. He will most likely be a replacement player or pinch runner.

Yutaro Osaki: One of the veterans on the Lions, Osaki is mostly a pinch hitter or an outfielder they like when the team sees a pitching matchup in their favor. He saw only four games of ichi-gun action in 2016.

Masato Kumashiro: Kumashiro has been a starter before, but his role has continued to diminish since 2014. He is now seen as a defensive substitute for late in the games.

Shotaro Tashiro: Tashiro is mostly a pinch runner who gets occasional games in the outfield as a defensive replacement. Unfortunately, he was remembered for being picked off by Shota Ono as he was supposed to be the tying run in a game. When the Lions need to deactivate a pitcher with no games ahead, Tashiro is likely to be the roster filler for the few games.

The Farm:

Aito Otaki: Otaki was a high school fourth round draft pick in 2015 out of Hanasaki Tokuharu. His high school is located in Saitama prefecture.

Shohei Suzuki: Suzuki will be playing his first season with the Lions organization and was the team's 4th round pick from 2016. Like Otaki, he is a high school draft pick expected to be a future leadoff hitter.

Daisuke Togawa: Togawa was a former ikusei draft pick and was promoted to the 70-man roster before the 2016 season. He has yet to play an ichi-gun game.



Kaneko, Kuriyama and Akiyama are all but guaranteed to start in the outfield on opening day. Sakata is likely the favorite to land the fourth outfield role while the 5th OF position is up for grabs.

The Lions can be flexible with calling up or sending down anyone they please even though there is a 10-day wait if someone gets deactivated. Saito and Kumashiro are the best defensive choices among who is left, but don't be surprised if Tomoya Mori gets a few games in RF.


Other positions: 






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