|The English speaking NPB experts believe Hotaka Yamakawa will be important for the 2017 season.|
Japan Baseball Weekly released their Podcast episode previewing the Pacific League for the 2017 season on Sunday (in USA time). You can listen to the full episode here by clicking on the link. The episode is also available on iTunes.
In the second half of the episode, John E. Gibson of the Japan News and Yomiuri Shimbun, Jim Allen of Kyodo News, Claudio Rodriguez of Béisbol Japonés and Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times discussed everything regarding the Pacific League with projections in the standings.
Where did they have the Lions? We'll show you where they have them finishing in the Pacific League with a few notes of what they said.
John E. Gibson (@JBWPodcast): 2nd
"The Lions are more like a family that goes to the neighborhood diner. The mom is smoking, the kids are running around the restaurant and the father is trying pick up on the waitress. They don't seem organized."
-Believes Yusei Kikuchi is a No. 3 pitcher at best.
-Likes rookie SS Sosuke Genda believing he can play defense.
-Expects a lot out of Hotaka Yamakawa.
-Is very high on Tatsuya Imai and Shinsaburo Tawata in the long term.
"Somehow, some way, the Lions (who have averaged 68+ wins in the last five seasons) figure out a way to get to 70 wins and sneak into a playoff spot. I have them finishing 2nd because I'm crazy."-Thinks the Lions will be a surprise team with pitchers emerging, whether its from an import like Brian Schlitter or Frank Garces, or someone drafted within the last three years.
Jim Allen (@JballAllen): 4th
"The Lions are an 'old school' Japanese team where the new manager comes in and has a goal/plan and they stick to it."-Expects defensive improvements from manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji as he has emphasized it since coming in.
-Sees Tsuji as a well-organized coach and manager from his time with the Chunichi Dragons. He was a farm manager for one season, but spent most of his coaching career in Nagoya with the Ichi-gun.
-Thinks the Lions can score plenty of runs because of Yamakawa and Asamura.
-Brought up how the last three rookie managers to take over the Lions would win the Pacific League Pennant in 2002, 2004 and 2008 with Haruki Ihara, Tsutomu Ito and Hisanobu "Nabe-Q" Watanabe, respectively.
-Believes the Lions can be a credible No. 2 team, but has another surprise team for 2017.
Jason Coskrey (@JCoskrey): 4th
"The offense is a one trick pony and it's hard to hit every day of the season. How many teams can score that many runs and overcome this pitching staff that's had problems? Tawata can get better. After Kikuchi and an improved Tawata, who's really good on this team? Kona Takahashi has the potential, but I don't see the pitching there."
-Likes Yamakawa, echoing the rest of the group.
-Doesn't like the idea of Tsuji coming in and advocating more bunting. Thinks the Lions aren't built for that.
-Is very high on Yusei Kikuchi.
-Thinks the defense will be a work in progress and believes Genda will help out.
Claudio Rodriguez (@BeisbolJapones): 5th
"They have the potential to be a really good team. They have guys who can hit the ball well (Ernesto Mejia, Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura). My thing for them is always the pitching. They have guys who can put some innings, [but they] lack pitching consistency."-Not convinced with the team's rotation, as it can only last for 2-3 months at best.
-Thinks the loss of Takayuki Kishi will hurt them most.
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