Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Three years later: Progress report on the 2014 draft class
The Saitama Seibu Lions were coming off a poor 2014 season with one of their lowest finishes in a decade. They had higher priority in the draft for once when it came to the second round and then some. How did this class shape up?
Note: These grades are not written in stone and are more of a progress report. This entire class is too early to evaluate from everywhere and the league.
First round: P Kona Takahashi (Maebashi Ikuei HS, Gunma)
Kona Takahashi won the 2013 Koshien tournament as a junior and was taken by the Lions without opposition in the first round. A big difference of opinion ended up favoring the Lions to land his rights.
In only three years since being drafted, Takahashi alerady has two shutouts and three complete games and he isn't even 21 yet. He has struggled with control where it showed in 2016, but the he was able to pickup a workload of innings. Last year, he was injured for majority of the season and got work with the Melbourne Aces in the winter where he struggled. However, there has been good progress for a high school pitcher. Grade: B
Hindsight: The Baystars won the rights to Yasuaki Yamasaki as a second choice, where they had a 50-50 chance of landing him against the Hanshin Tigers.
Second round: P Yasuo Sano (Heisei Kokusai Univesrsity, Saitama)
Sano was given a spot start in 2015 and had some time in the bullpen for 2016, where he earned a win. His role expanded in 2017 as he became the sixth starter and the Lions were tight, giving him strictly four to five innings at most. He showed good progress as the starter and earned plenty of run support, but a knee injury in June ended his season. If he can fully recover from that knee injury, things look bright for a possible left handed starter the Lions are waiting for. Grade: B-
Hindsight: The Hanshin Tigers drafted Tsuyoshi Ishizaki in this round and the Giants found Chiaki Tone as both have been relievers for their teams.
Third round: IF Shuta Tonosaki (Fuji University, Iwate)
Tonosaki started off as a pinch runner and defensive replacement as he earned ichi-gun playing time by the end of 2015. His role diminished under Norio Tanabe in 2016, but he spent the entire 2017 at the ichi-gun level. Hatsuhiko Tsuji initially had him as a defensive replacement, but some poor hitting in the outfield made Tonosaki start in left field and later right field, a position he held for the rest of the year.
The Lions ended up finding an everyday outfielder with speed, where he can easily be a threat on the base paths. His trajectory is looking better than it was under Tanabe. Grade: B+
Hindsight: The Giants drafted Hayato Takagi, Fighters took Daiki Asama, Baystars took Toshihiko Kuramoto.
Fourth round: P Yusuke Tamamura (Tsuruga Kehi HS, Fukui)
Tamamura graduated high school a year before and likely dropped out of Asia University, but it didn't prevent the Lions from taking him as a 19 year old. He's become a regular starter at the ni-gun level, but he came off a poor 2017 with a 8.39 ERA in 39.2 innings of work. Tamamura will be 23 next year and he will need to make significant strides if he wants to find his way to the ichi-gun. Grade: D
Hindsight: None for now
Fifth round: IF Haruka Yamada (Saga Kogyo HS, Saga)
Yamada was called up briefly to the ichi-gun as an emergency infielder in 2017 for a week. However, he didn't play a game and has been a regular ni-gun starter. With the current voids, he will have to work his way to the ichi-gun as a third baseman or possibly second baseman. In 106 ni-gun games, he hit .245/.293/.346. He will be 22 next season. Grade: C
Hindsight: None for now
Ikusei: OF Daisuke Togawa (Hokkai HS, Hokkaido)
Togawa earned a promotion to the 70-man roster one year after being drafted when the 2015 season ended. After hitting below the Mendoza Line in ni-gun for 2016, Togawa had a slashline of .271/.370/.426 in 52 games at teh farm level. He will be 22 next year and has more upside than a few reserve outfielders who were recently cut. Grade: C
Hindsight: None for now
The Lions found an everyday starter in Tonosaki assuming he stays healthy and hits his own weight. In the long term, the future of this team will hinge on Kona Takahashi to be the ace. They're hoping Takahashi can develop while Sano can be a starter or reliever. Getting two starting players and a contributor in this class would be excellent if it all goes right. Grade: B
Hindsight: This class is still too early to review with plenty of high school players taken around the league. In two years, the jury could be out.
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Posted by Christian Gin at 12:13 PM