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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Staff Update: Master Yoda decides on his council

This year with Tsuyoshi Yoda coming in for Shigekazu Mori, it was expected there would be a few changes to the backroom. Key changes really needed to happen with pitching coaching after it was confirmed that Kenta Asakura and Shinichi Kondo were stepping down. It has taken longer than it should have to confirm the backroom with Yoda wanting to finalize things before the draft, but it seems to have been put together relatively well now and there's a significantly refreshing feel to the backroom staff this coming season.

Let's take a look at what the staff looks like now.
*Numbers updated as of 19/11/2018

Tsutomu "Shadow Shogun" Ito
92  Tsuyoshi Yoda (52) - Manager
91  Tsutomu Ito (56) - Head Coach
85 Takayuki Murakami (53) - Batting Coach
71 Toshio Haru (48) - Batting Coach
74 Hideyuki Awano (54) - Pitching Coach
84 Motoyuki Akahori (48) - Pitching Coach
80 Takeshi Nakamura (51) - Battery Coach
83 Hiroshi Narahara (50) - Infield and base-running coach
78 Takahito Kudo (37) - Outfield and base-running coach

82 Michihiro Ogasawara (45) - Manager
Ken "The Chin" Kadokura
79 Akio Ishii (63) - Batting Coach
75 Masahiko Morino (40) - Batting Coach
84 Takashi Ogasawara (41) - Pitching Coach
82 Takuya Asao (34) - Pitching Coach
87 Ken Kadokura (45) - Pitching Coach
72 Fujio Tamura (59) - Battery Coach
88 Masahiro Araki (41) - Infield and base-running coach
89 Hidenori (42) - Outfield and base-running coach
90 Mitsuo Tateishi (60) - Roaming outfield coach

1-2 Gun Conditioning Coaches
96 Kousei Katsuzaki (52) - Conditioning Coach
93 Takemi Miyamae (48) - Conditioning Coach
95 Hiroshi Tsukamoto (42) - Conditioning Coach

There's very much a Kintetsu Buffaloes flavour to this backroom with the additions of Murakami, Awano and Akahori. I think it's quite possible that Awano, being of the same alma mater as Yoda (Asia University) was contacted first and this lead to bringing Akahori and Murakami in. 

The other big addition is that of of Tsutomu Ito as head coach. I'm a little bit concerned about this appointment as it has the potential to undermine Yoda's authority. Ito is older than Yoda and already has a successful track record as a manager. It doesn't make much sense to me unless he's going to be the "shadow shogun" in the backroom much like Shigekazu Mori was during Motonobu Tanishige's ill-fated tenure. If Ito has been appointed with the intention of aiding Yoda in his direction of the team, I'm all for it, but I don't want this to be another case of what has gone before. There is just this niggle that says to me that in Yoda the front office got there born and bred Chunichi manager, but they brought in Ito to actually be the brains...

Former Kintetsu stars Hideyuki Awano, Motoyuki Akahori and
Hideyuki Murakami are part of the all new 1-gun backroom.
Of the new additions, Awano, Akahori and Murakami were all team-mates for the Kintetsu Buffaloes. Awano was a southpaw starter, Akahori a closer and Murakami a hard hitting short-stop. Awano has had extensive coaching experience with the Giants in particularly most recently finishing up a stint as their 3-gun pitching coach. Akahori previously saw time as the Orix Buffaloes pitching coach but most recently was working with the Yakult Swallows farm team's pitchers. Murakami, interestingly, up until now has been managing independent league and club teams. He started off with Osaka Gold Villicanes in the short-lived Kansai independent league in 2009 where he guided the team to a league win. Murakami then went on the manage the 06BULLS who have played in the Baseball First League since 2013. Murakami successfully led the team to 2nd place finishes in 4 consecutive years.
Also worth noting that Murakami is part of the talent agency run by Yoda's former manager at Rakuten, Masataka Nashida. Perhaps another connection used.

Takeshi Nakamura comes back into the fold after he was last part of the Chunichi staff under Morimichi Takagi in 2013. Nakamura has been coaching in Korea with the Kia Tigers for the past few seasons. Nakamura was one of the catching stalwarts of the Hoshino-era Dragons as the regular dish protector between Takayoshi Nakao and Motonobu Tanishige. Certainly a pick I'm happy about as he's a man with not only a lot of playing experience, but plenty of experience in the backroom. His experience coaching overseas as well I feel will be very valuable. One could also hope he might also bring some connections to players in the KBO.

Takahito Kudo's addition is probably a good one but seems a little forced. Kudo retired all of a sudden after the season had finished and rumors were he was enticed into retirement to be given this coaching job.  Quite remarkable that a recently retired player slots straight into the 1-gun coaching set-up but given his defensive and base-running skills as a player, he has the potential to be a good choice.

Among the other choices, Masahiro Araki and Takuya Asao are confirmed as coaches in the 2-gun set-up with former Dragons and Giants starter, Ken Kadokura joining the fold. Comparatively, the 2-gun staff hasn't had as much of a shake-up. Fujio Tamura has moved down from the 1-gun staff while Morino, T. Ogasawara and Hidenori maintain the core with Guts Ogasawara as manager. There's a lot of familiarity anyway. Akio Ishii staying on is a bit of a surprise for me as I didn't have high hopes for him last year as he was coming out of the office from being a scorer for some years, but he seems to have made the right impressions as a hitting coach for the time being.

Hitoki Iwase has decided to take a rest from baseball despite having a part-time coaching role last year. Iwase, a fairly humble man has been said to be enjoying his retirement at home for the time being.

The majority of the coaches that have been cut from the backroom are likely to find other roles within the organisation with only a few leaving all together or perhaps retiring. Kazuo Hayakawa and Shinichi Kondo were the two longest serving coaches with the team with Hayakawa ending a 20+ year tenure with the Dragons while Kondo had been coaching since 2003.

Overall, it all looks very fresh which is probably a good thing. Not a lot of recycling, plenty of new faces from inside and outside the organisation. My only concern is that Yoda hasn't had the pull power that someone like a Kazuyoshi Tatsunami might have in bringing in an all-star backroom. By all reports, many former Dragons players turned down his overtures with the likes of Kazuki Inoue and Shinji Imanaka supposedly in the mix.

It is however a new beginning, so let's sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

NPB Draft 2018: GET HYPE!!

Draft day. My favourite day of the year and the time seemed to crawl along in the lead-up. The Dragons had been mentioned to be in for Osaka Toin HS' Akira Neo. Shigekazu Mori, a notable absentee from the draft, had gone on record saying that the Dragons would be selecting Neo. Similarly, 5 other teams were predicted to select Neo in the first round.

Tsuyoshi Yoda's first job as manager was to be the one to pull out the ticket to claim Neo's signature. He, along with representatives from the Swallows, Fighters and Giants all had their hands on a ticket, and it was the former closer that closed the deal, pulling out the winning ticket. This is the first time in a long time the Dragons have gone after the tastiest pick at the draft, let alone with so much competition for the signature and it was to be the perfect start to Yoda's tenure.
Neo himself kept a demure posture after being selected. Neo was a Dragons fan when he was in primary school and being a native of Gifu prefecture falls well into the Dragons catchment. Neo is a short-stop but can pitch. It is possible he could be targetted to be a 2-way player with Yoda suggesting he would listen to what Neo wanted to do and go from there. He feels he has a superstar on his hands and wants to ensure he can be a productive member of the team in whatever way possible.

Neo himself has said that it's a team that he has a familiarity with as it was the team that was on TV when he turned it on as a child and he has said he has an image of the Dragons as as strong team. He feels that there is a connection between him and the team saying he wants to do his best as a member of the Dragons.

Akira Neo is "the one" for the Dragons

Apart from Neo, the Dragons has a wonderful draft with most players being taken being one's on the scouting team's shortlist for quite some time.

1Akira Neo根尾 昂SS18Osaka Toin HSGifu
2Kodai Umetsu梅津 晃大RHP22Toyo UniversityMiyagi
3Akiyoshi Katsuno勝野 昌慶RHP21Mitsubishi Heavy Industry NagoyaGifu
4Kota Ishibashi石橋 康太C18Kanto Daiichi HSChiba
5Kenshin Kakikoshi垣越 建伸LHP18Yamanashi Gakuin HSGifu
6Kaname Takino滝野 要OF22Osaka Commercial UniversityMie

Kodai Umetsu looks good in blue.
For the second year running the Dragons have pulled of a bit of a coup with their #2 pick Kodai Umetsu who was mentioned in the lead-up to be a back-up pick to Neo much like how Sho Ishikawa was mentioned as  a possible back-up 1st round pick last year. Somehow, all other teams took a pass on Umetsu and it was the Dragons that picked him up. Umetsu could work out the bullpen but scout reports say he could be a very good starter but is still a bit raw.
Katsuno is another that could be quite close to contributing.

Ishibashi is a hard-hitting slugger-catcher that I'm sure the Dragons will be over the moon to have on the books. He'll be the youngest catcher in the team by some way and it might also mean a goodbye to one of our existing catchers. Ishibashi was regarded as the top high school catching prospect at the draft this year.

Kota Ishibashi knows how to bashi
a baseball.
Kakikoshi is a lefty who actually played with Neo in Gifu as part of the same boys team. He'll boost the numbers in the LHP department as we're pretty bare bones there. Takino looks like good pick-up at 6th as he'll give us depth in the outfield that we so sorely need.

Overall 10/10 draft for me. The Dragons addressed a lot of areas here that they wanted to address and captured some great players along the way.

I will be sure to provide more detailed profiles by the weekend. For the time being, a great day for the Dragons. Doraho~!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

BREAKING NEWS: Tsuyoshi Yoda, the new manager is.

As of today, Rakuten Eagles 2-gun pitching coach, Tsuyoshi Yoda has been appointed manager of the Chunichi Dragons for next year.

Prepare or don't prepare, there is no gambaru.
New manager, Tsuyoshi Yoda to lead the Dragons in 2019.

Yoda has been repeatedly mentioned in reports in the competition for the next manager which has also seen former Seibu Lions and Chiba Lotte manager, Tsuomu Ito mentioned as a successor to Shigekzazu Mori. If you believe the papers there were only 3 options, Yoda, Ito or more Mori and it appears the ownership have decided a new face was needed.

When selecting their new man, one of the criteria put forward was someone that was a born and bred Dragon. This means, someone originally drafted by the Dragons who, I guess supposedly knows what it means to play baseball in Nagoya. Out of all the born and bred Dragons out there, Yoda probably struck no-one as an obvious choice. As a pitching coach, perhaps, but not as manager. Whatever the case, we now have Yoda (yes, just like the little green Jedi master) to lead the team on the basis he can supposedly rebuild the broken pitching ranks.

As a player, Yoda is probably best known for throwing the fastest ever pitch by a Japanese player (at the time) in 1990 as a rookie out of NTT in the industrial leagues, clocking 157 km/h on the gun which is still equal to the fastest pitch thrown by a Japanese born Chunichi player.

Born in Kyushu, Yoda captured the rookie of the year award after recording 31 saves to lead the Central League. Yoda unfortunately had his troubles with injury (as many hard throwing hurlers do) and apart from 23 saves in his 3rd year failed to register any mound appearances of note. He was released in 1997 and while he had stints at the Fighters and the Tigers, he ultimately fizzled out.

Yoda as a coach with the Eagles.
Between 2001 and 2015, Yoda appeared as a colour analyst on NHK as well as writing columns for Tokyo Chunichi Sports. He started coaching at club level with Thousand Leaves Ichihara in Chiba Prefecture and also had a stint as the pitching coach for the women's national team. He was the Samurai Japan pitching coach at the 2009 World Baseball Classic under Tatsunori Hara and contributed to Japan's 2nd consecutive victory. In 2012 he was once again brought in to the Samurai Japan fold to be pitching coach and in 2015 claimed he first NPB appointment as the 1st team pitching coach of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. In the 2015 off-season he was linked with the managerial job at the Eagles but ultimately lost out to Masataka Nashida (whom was removed from his position this year). In 2018, Yoda was demoted to working with the Rakuten 2-gun pitchers and in October was told by the club he was no longer needed.

As for random information about Yoda, he is apparently well known for the breadth of his shoulders and was once questioned by Yu Darvish who has 10cm on Yoda in height "what's going on with your shoulders?" Apparently his shoulder breadth stands at 60cm which is a fair bit for a man of 182cm in height. Those broad shoulders hopefully can hold a lot of the burden of expectant Chunichi fans.

He's also rather famous for inciting a brawl with former Yokohama Baystars slugger, Glen Braggs. There had been an altercation between Dragons catcher Takeshi Nakamura and Whales infielder Yoshiyuki Shimizu in a previous game where revenge was struck through a body blow pitch where Yoda showed little remorse. This boiled over in a following game where Yoda plunked Braggs, barely lowered his head and the brawl broke out. He was ejected from the game along with Braggs as a result. (It's the second brawl in the below video)

He also apparently hates the words 頑張れ (do your best) and 努力 (try hard) and prefers the word 準備 (preparation).

Yoda was managed by Senichi Hoshino and Morimichi Takagi as a player and it was under Hoshino where he shone the brightest. It was also Hoshino that brought him to the team and most likely had a big say on him joining the Eagles backroom in 2015.

Yoda has a clean slate, whether for better or for worse. I'm not sure he's the right guy, but he may well do a decent job. Apparently many of the current Dragons players have no idea who he is so I'm sure they'll be furiously googling highlights and other information tonight.

This then leads us to what happens to the rest of the backroom staff and most
importantly Mori himself. Mori has not done a poor job in his tenure. By all means, there is a lot to be applauded for what he has done for a team that is rebuilding and personally I think his removal is premature. The legacy that Mori leaves behind is actually a pretty impressive one when you break it down. The below is thanks to user @Hirata_6_bot. Under Mori's watch:

  • Ryosuke Hirata and Dayan Viciedo have come alive
  • Has recruited amazingly astutely with the captures of Garcia, Almonte and Rodriguez all of whom have been stars for the team.
  • Has harnessed the Matsuzaka effect bringing in more spectators to the stands.
  • Introduced a new batch of young pitchers in Kasahara, Fujishima, Ogasawara and Sato who have begun to find their feet at this level.
  • Position players are 2nd in the league in WAR
  • wRC+ is 2nd in the league
  • UZR tops the league
  • Least amount of errors in the NPB
  • Second lowest starter ERA in the league
  • Second highest QS percentage in the league
Considering all this, it's a bit...well..astounding that we are getting a new manager. The bullpen was awful this year, but had it been even a few ticks better, we would have made it to the Climax Series. Also, in addition to the above, the direction he has taken the team with his recruiting at the last two drafts has to be applauded. He took Yanagi and Kyoda with his top 2 picks in 2016, and then Suzuki and Ishikawa with his top 2 picks in 2017. There is a focus on youth and a focus on quality. There is a sense of direction. Under Ochiai as GM we went after odd picks like Ryosuke Nomura and filled up the farm with bang average mid-20 y/o talent from the industrial leagues. This is why I am very relieved to hear that Mori is heading into the scouting/recruiting department to perhaps become the next general manager. If Yoda is going to be the man on the ground I am very happy that Mori will be the man in the front office to drive the team. The team, if nothing else needs someone adept at identifying talent to drive the team forward and I think Mori has shown that he can be that man.

In terms of staff turn-over it is likely that Yoda may want to bring in some of his own staff perhaps. The team already need to search for a first team batting instructor as Masahiro Doi has confirmed he will be leaving the club at the end of the year. With Araki and Iwase also seemingly joining the backroom after their retirements, there may be a bit of a shuffle to come. Asao has also been mentioned for a backroom role as well. I personally hope that Yoda looks to bring in his old battery mate, Takeshi Nakamura who is the 2-gun battery coach with the Kia Tigers in Korea. He was with the top team and helped lead the team to their first league win in quite some time, but I think he'd be the kind of guy that would help out the team in it's current state. A turn back to perhaps some of the grit and agro that Senichi Hoshino brought to the team might be right formula for the Dragons moving forward.

Yoda's first real work will be attending the draft and pulling out a ticket if the Dragons go into a competition of Akira Neo.

For the time being, I'm skeptical but will approach Yoda's appointment with optimism and an opportunity to make mountainloads of Star Wars puns and perhaps some dank memes. If we can secure Akira Neo, I can add The Matrix puns to my repertoire.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

2019 Roster Construction: Where to now?

With the season looming to a close we're starting to get a better look at what faces won't be present going into 2019, so far, the following players are confirmed to be leaving the team.

Masahiro ArakiRetirementInfield41
Hitoki IwaseRetirementPitcher43
Takuya AsaoRetirementPitcher33
Kei NomotoRetirementOutfield34
Shunta Wakamatsu ReleasedPitcher23
Tetsuya TaniReleased/RetiredInfield33
Shu YoshidaReleasedPitcher22
                   Mikihiro NishihamaReleasedPitcher25
Masashi YamamotoReleasedPitcher23

This list only includes the latest senryokugai/release notices. There will likely be another round of culls occurring later this year. For the time being however, the team has lost 6 rostered players and 3 development players. As mentioned in my last post, the loss of Araki (not yet confirmed) and Iwase is a shame, but something that will be covered for while Asao and Nomoto's departures leave room for younger players to develop on the farm.
Senryokgai Suit Day

In regards to Wakamatsu and Tani, the other bigger departures, patience has simply run out with Wakamatsu and the team showed last year with Ryosuke Nomura that they're quite happy to cut high profile youngsters if they're not cutting it. Wakamatsu put up numbers beyond expectation when he posted 10 wins in 2015 but it's been a steadily declining slope from there. While his change-up remains a dangerous weapon, he has nothing else to pair it with. His fastball velocity is in the high 130's and none of his secondary pitches are all that inspiring. There is also some murmurs that Wakamatsu has been a disruptive influence among other players and generally not behaving in a manner expected of a Dragons player. While some fans may lament over cutting this one-trick pony, I'm glad that no further innings on the farm will be wasted trying to get him back up to speed. Wakamatsu will go to try-outs and my gut feeling is that someone will pick him up and try to work with him for a year.

Tetsuya Tani has always been on the fringes but last year saw some extra time at the plate as a pinch-hitter thanks to some solid performances on the farm. The utility man however is now seen as surplus to requirements and has been cut from the team. Tani took it fairly well and has decided to retire.

The other 3 development pitchers haven't done enough in the years they've been with the team to be given full-rostered status and as such have been cut. Yamamoto was originally a on the roster but was demoted in 2016 to a development contract. The Dragons however have seen enough and he along with Nishihama and Yoshida have been shown the door.

Overall, the first round of senryokugai notices fills me with hope regarding the direction of the team. Solid decisions have been made over players that weren't contributing. Last year, similarly level-headed moves were made to refresh the team. If anything, we're seeing a lot of the Ochiai GM class get shafted for new blood. I've been impressed with what Mori and his staff have done to shake up the club, and so far so good. I expect to see a couple more cuts in the coming months as players like Masataka Iryo, Shota Tomonaga, Taiki Mitsumata, Shun Ishikawa, Issei Endo and Ryota Ishioka might find themselves of little use depending on how FA, foreign and draft recruitment goes. All the players listed above are in their mid to late 20's with very little experience in the top team. As fillers on the farm they serve a purpose but nothing much more than that.

FA status will apply to 3 Dragons this off-season as Kazuki Yoshimi, Naomichi Donoue and Takahito Kudo are all eligible. Yoshimi has already firmed his stay in Nagoya but Donoue and Kudo could attract some offers as utility men.

FA Market

Let's now look forward at who's available on the FA market that we might be able to make use of or at least have a realistic shot at:

OrixYuki NishiPitcher1.2億
SoftbankHayato TeraharaPitcher4500万
HanshinHiroki UemotoInfield4300万
YakultKyohei MuranakaPitcher2800万
LotteTomohisa OtaniPitcher8800万

Some of these guys still haven't decided if they're going to explore the market yet, but Nishi and Uemoto look like they're going to have a look.
Yuki Nishi, coming home?

Nishi is by far the most interesting piece but also costs the most by a long shot.  He made his name throwing a no-hitter in 2012 in his third year of pro-ball.  He's had his ups and downs but the last two years have been solid posting 3.60 and 3.44 ERAs. Nishi, a native of Mie prefecture, is a childhood fan of the Dragons and given the ever constant need of good pitching, it would only make sense that the Dragons kick the tires on the 28 year-old.

Out of the other pitchers, Otani would be the nicest pick-up but looks unlikely to leave Chiba while Muranaka is perhaps too big a risk to look at seriously. Terahara was actually targeted by the Dragons in the 2001 draft as their #1 pick, but given his age and his current team's proximity to his hometown, a trip to Nagoya seems unlikely.

Hiroki Uemoto is an interesting one for me and one I think the Dragons should look at. While the in-house options of Shuhei and Kamezawa offer enough, having a right-hander to platoon at second and fill-in at third when necessary is useful. I don't see this being a priority at all, but if certain picks don't work out at the draft, Uemoto would be a signing. He'd be a good pick-up for just about anyone really.

2018 NPB Draft

Next, the draft. This obviously gets harder and harder the further you go down but here is a list of players that the Dragons have been linked with for their first round pick:

Osaka Toin HS
Akira Neo
Toyo University
Hiroshi Kaino
Toyo University
Taiga Kamichatani
Ritumeikan Uni
Ryosuke Tatsumi
Yuki Nomura
Toyo University
Kodai Umetsu
Nihon PE Uni
Wataru Matsumoto

Is Neo, the one?

Top of the list is Summer Koshien winner Akira Neo. Neo has been billed as a possible two-way player. He tops out at 150 km/h and has very good hitting tools. He has been billed as one of the top talents at the draft this year. Short appears to be his preferred position, so should the Dragons move in for Neo, it means that there might be a future headache of where to put Shuhei and Kyoda. Why are the Dragons going after Neo and not a pitcher which seems like the most logical? Key reason, the boy is local. A native of Gifu prefecture, Neo has the ability to be one of those homegrown superstars. Competition for his signature will however be fierce and Mori will have to have the magic touch to pull out the right ticket.

Should the Dragons fail to nab Neo with their first pick, there's a number of fall-back options to be explored. Another pitcher seems to be what the Dragons would most likely to go with and fits with last year's strategy of getting Hiroshi Suzuki after failing to get Shosei Nakamura. I can see one of the above pitchers being the next the Dragons go after.

Kamichatani is a mouthful, but he
looks one of the best college arms
this year.
Taiga Kamichatani seems to be the most likely to avoid being picked outright from the start but would also give the Dragons a good option. Kamichatani clocks out at 152 km/h and has a decent arsenal of secondary pitches. He was the MVP in his senior year at Toyo University after taking 93 strikeouts in 75 innings pitched. He seems to have decent control as well. His K/9 is around 11.11 with his BB/9 close to 2.5 this year which looks pretty impressive on paper. Scout Director, Muneo Tanaka has checked on him a few times this year and thinks he's certainly worthy of a top draft pick but just about every other team is looking at him too. Former Dragon infielder and now Rakuten scout, Toru Nimura has rated Kamichatani as the most complete university pitcher available regarding now as his growth period.

While Kamichatani looks pretty good, I hold out hope that Hiroshi Kaino could be added to the team to pump more velo into our pitching stocks. Kaino tops out at 159km/h and has a bit of height on his side at 186cm tall. His fastball is said to have elite spin at 2400 rpm. Kaino represented the Japanese Collegiate National team earlier this year as their closer and showed some of that velocity hitting as high as 156 km/h. Not as much control as Kamichatani, but I would just love to see back-end bullpen trio of Joely Rodriguez, Hiroshi Suzuki and Kaitani just to see some face melting fastballs. If Koji Fukutani could sort himself out I'd be even more excited.

In the end it's a bit hard to see exactly where the Dragons will go at the draft but Ryuji Kuribayashi, another fireballer, from Meijo University in the Dragons backyard might be a possible 2nd pick. After that, I'm lost. I do think we'll see a couple more high school kids mixed with some more college talent.

O/S Talent

Viciedo is guaranteed a payday, but what lies ahead
for Moya and Almonte?

In terms of foreign talent, I think the Dragons will do what they can to keep a hold of what they have. Onelki Garcia and Dayan Viciedo have been outstanding, Almonte has made a significant impact, Joely Rodrigiuez has settled very well into his bullpen role after some early bumps and Steven Moya has been a good backup when called upon. Assuming there's enough dosh to go around, most of these guys should be retained. The will certainly is there I feel. Moya is the only one I would feel could go either way. He does seem however happy to be living in Japan and we might get another season out of him as a rotational option. Raidel Martinez is the only other foreign player, but I dare say he'll also be retained given the minimal outlay he's on. From what it appears however, much of what can be done with Garcia and Almonte will be linked to what Viciedo's demands are. The Tank has done more than enough with the bat this year to warrant an extension and given the trauma over Guerrero leaving last year, I think they'll lock him up early. Whether that will be at the cost of someone else is however to be seen.

Lastly, the construction of the team may come down to how the back room shapes up in the off season. Bungo Shirai, the Chunichi chairman has given no assurances to Shigekazu Mori about managing for a third year. Reports are saying that senior management at the club has a clean slate to work from in regards to selecting a manager for next year with some mention of Mori perhaps making the move to General Manager which was vacated by Hiromitsu Ochiai in January last year. Unlike Ochiai, I think Mori would be quite a good GM. His evaluation of talent seems fairly good and he's been a big influence in two of the best drafts we've had in while in 2016 and 2017. I can't think of anyone better to drive recruitment and the shaping of the club more than Mori in the mid-term. As a manager I still like him and I'd be happy to see him come back next year, but it may be time to bring in a younger manager to grow with the team. I personally think the Dragons are at least another 2 years away from being a credible threat so maybe one more year under Mori might be the way to go. We'll see how Mr Shirai sees it.

Overall, there will be a bit of a shakeup to the squad following the draft as well most likely as poor performances in the Phoenix League may see some additional chopping.