The 2019 NPB Season is one month through and we're already seeing several storylines come on each team. As it is now May 1 in Japan, the Heisei era has ended with Reiwa beginning.
Here's how our power rankings look after March/April:
Reminder: Power rankings are not solely based on win-loss record. That's what standings are for.
1. [=] Fukuoka Softbank Hawks: 15-10-2
The defending champions have dealt with Yuki Yanagita out, but Hawks still appear to be the team to beat given their depth. What's scary? This team could be even better as first round draft pick Hiroshi Kaino is already making an impact with a scoreless stretch to begin his NPB career. Kenta Imamiya picked up any slack for players who had a slow start.
2. [^] (3) Yomiuri Giants: 16-10
The Giants are back. Call the Tatsunori Hara effect, but the pitching staff has thrived with C.C. Mercedes and Taylor Jungmann picking up where they left off from last year. Shun Yamaguchi is off to a dominant start while Tomoyuki Sugano has shown vulnerability to begin the year. Despite all the strange additions in free agency, it's safe to say Yoshihiro Maru has lived up to the hype in bringing a big bat to their lineup. Currently, they could have several candidates to hit at least 20 home runs.
3. [^] (6) Tokyo Yakult Swallows: 16-11-1
Swallows started well, but fell off in pitching outside of Juri Hara. So far, they're hitting their way into A-class. It's unclear whether to take this team seriously or not, but they're competing. They're getting good value out of Hirotoshi Takanashi and Kengo Ota, both players they acquired from the Fighters.
4. [=] Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters: 12-12-2
Kohei Arihara has been dominant, backing up our reasons why he was put in their Core-4 unit before the season began. Hitting is suspect, but Po-Jung Wang remains the most interesting prospect on the team as we continue seeing his development as the season goes on. Ryo Akiyoshi could find his form as a closer, something he did with the Swallows previously, but the depth in middle relief is questionable outside of Naoki Miyanishi and Katsuhiko Kumon.
5. [=] Saitama Seibu Lions: 12-12-1
This might seem a little high based on standings, but in perspective, this group has played well despite having Tetsuya Utsumi, Daiki Enokida and Wataru Matsumoto not playing a single game in the month. Offense is still there and they can get on base, but the pitching is all over the place while it can still get better. Their lineup without Hideto Asamura is still something to be feared.
6. [^] (11) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: 13-11-1
The Eagles have done a tremendous job without Takahiro Norimoto, but a lot of things are going their way with average pitching. Eigoro Mogi is off to a hot start. If anything, he is the most important position player for the Eagles as he could determine if this is an A-class team or not.
Yuki Matsui is also looking good, on pace to continue his trend of a bad season followed by a good one. Is this pace from April sustainable? Just maybe.
7. [v] (2) Hiroshima Carp: 12-15
Yusuke Nomura and Daichi Osera have done their job in the rotation, but Kris Johnson and the bullpen have not. Offense looks streaky, but the Carp appear to have overcome a slow start by winning eight in a row after looking awful through the first 14 games.
8. [^] (12) Chunichi Dragons: 13-13
The Dragons have competed through one month, not looking like the last place team that majority of experts project. They can score at will and hit for average in a pitcher's ballpark, which is a plus. However, the bullpen is hard to watch as the starter can keep the team in games. Hiroshi "Kimbrel" Suzuki is going through the classic growing pains of a young pitcher. If he can become a reliable closer as the season goes on, A-class is a realistic possibility. Yudai Ono through one month is also on a huge redemption path.
9. [v] (7) Hanshin Tigers: 13-14-1
The Tigers have had a mixed bag of results from their prized free agent signings thus far. Onelki Garcia has a nightmare beginning while Yuki Nishi has lived up to the hype. Unfortunately, Randy Messenger had a poor April and the very hyped up Yusuke Oyama has been hard to watch. Koji Chikamoto, the shakaijin first round pick is off to a good start, which is good for their outfield having a group of aging players who won't be there forever.
10. [v] (8) Chiba Lotte Marines: 11-13-1
If the Marines didn't see the Lions, they'd be 11-8. This appears to be a competitive group, but the starting pitching is not where it needs to be if they want A-class. Bullpen could keep them in games down the road, as they're off to a hot start to the season. Home runs aren't a problem with the new HR terrace at home, but is it also hurting the pitching staff in this double-edge sword?
11. [v] (10) Orix Buffaloes: 9-14-3
The tie games might help Orix down the stretch, but this team continues to find creative ways to lose. From a walkoff error to a walkoff HR, to a game where walks piled up in one inning, they'll do everything in their power to blow a game. Starting pitching is there as Yoshinobu Yamamoto has been impressive as a starter, but the bullpen and lack of hitting have hurt them. If the back-breaking mistakes can be reduced, they can still compete, but they usually play well enough to lose, being the classic Orix.
12. [v] (9) Yokohama DeNA Baystars: 10-17
The Baystars have fallen as much as Toshiro Miyazaki's batting average has through the first month of the season. A 10-game losing streak has them in the cellar with poor starting pitching outside of Shota Imanaga.
Defense in the field has also been hard to watch. They need to have a consistent offense, or else Alex Ramirez's job is all but gone by seaosn's end.
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