Drop Down

Saturday, October 26, 2019

NPB Draft Meeting 2019: Pitcher heavy draft for Dragons; Yoda pulls Takaya Ishikawa

Going into this year's draft all indicators suggested that the Dragons were going to select Summer Koshien finalist, Yasunobu Okugawa as their top pick. Days before the draft however, manager Yoda declared his intention to select local talent, Takaya Ishikawa of Toho High School. Yoda put forward his vision of a line-up core of Akira Neo and Ishikawa as two that would support the Dragons for many years to come.

In a draft that had the generational talent of 100 mp/h hurler, Roki Sasaki, college fireballer Masato Morishita and the aforementioned Okugawa, it was a bit hard to believe the Dragons would go in for a position player, but that's how it played out.

The Dragons ended up having to contest their first round pick once more, this time with the Softbank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes; both teams were suggested to be going in for Sasaki so there were more than a few murmurs of surprise in the meeting room upon the announcement.

Yoda's first job as manager last year was to pull Akira Neo's rights to contract out of the hat and he once again proved to be the man with the hand of god as he pulled out the winning ticket for Ishikawa.

Prior to the draft, Ishikawa had shown his desire to join the Dragons and Yoda's winning hand made it a match made in heaven.

Along with Ishikawa, the Dragons drafted 4 pitchers and a catcher in the main draft as well as a pitcher in the development draft.

PickNamePositionAlma Mater
1Takaya IshikawaIFToho High School
2Yuki HashimotoLHPOsaka Commercial University
3Yuichiro OkanoRHPToshiba
4Yuya GunjiCKeio University
5Yuki OkabayashiRHPKomono High School
6Ryushin TakeuchiRHPOsaka Sousei High School
Development Draft
1Hiroaki MatsudaLHPNagoya University

The team picked a balanced 3 high school and 3 college/industrial league bunch of players. There's  a lot to like about this lot of picks. Yuki Hashimoto threw a no-hitter in the Kansai University league last year, Gunji is a catcher that can hit and Okabayashi is a fireballer from Mie Prefecture. Most outlets are calling this another successful draft for the Dragons and I tend to agree. So, without further ado, lets have a deeper look at who these guys are and then see how it affects the current roster.

1, Takaya Ishikawa (Toho High School)
Name: 石川昂弥
Birthdate: 22nd June 2001
Birthplace: Handa, Aichi Prefecture
Height: 185cm (6'1")
Weight: 87kg (191lb)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Batter Type: Power hitter
Baserunning: 50m in 6.3 seconds

Takaya Ishikawa is a special player. The highest rated hitter in his class, he lead his high school almost single handedly to victory in the Spring Senbastsu Koshien tournament. While he was unable to repeat those heroics for the Summer tournament, Ishikawa maintained his stock throughout the year to be a contested first round pick at the draft. The Dragons have picked up a potential key cog for the team's line-up for the long-term and arguable someone that could grow alongside Akira Neo. Ishikawa wanted to come to the Dragons which only makes the story sweeter. A third-baseman, Ishikawa will have his work cut out for him to make an immediate impact with Shuhei Takahashi blocking his path, but the sky is the limit for one of the first high quality power hitting talents that Dragons have gone after since the aforementioned Shuhei.

Ishikawa was born in Handa city on the Chita peninsula, south of Nagoya city. When he was in Grade 6, Ishikawa was selected for Dragons Jr not unlike a certain Akira Neo. He attended Kamezaki Junior High School where he played short for Aichi Chita Boys. He was later selected for NOMO Japan where he travelled to the United States as part of a camp in his senior year of junior high.

After entering the prestigious Toho High School baseball program, Ishikawa found himself on the bench in the 2017 Spring Senbatsu tournament. He was able to force himself into the lineup in that year's Tokai tournament fielding at short. Some growing pains would limit his next participation to some pinch-hitting appearances in the Summer Aichi Prefectural tournament. From Fall however, Ishikawa secured his spot at third-base and fourth in the line-up where he went 14-6 and hit two homeruns in the Tokai Regional tournament.

His national debut in the Spring Senbatsu of 2018 didn't end as he would have liked going 4-0 where his team was bundled out in the first round by Hanamaki East (Iwate), 5-3. In the summer qualifiers however, Ishikawa returned with a vengeance hitting .737 with 1 homer and 11 RBIs. In fall, Ishikawa's rise continued as he captained his side to their first Tokai regional title in 3 years. As the team's ace he clocked 144 km/h, hitting .636 with an OPS of 1.744.

A return to the Spring Senbatsu in 2019 saw Ishikawa lead his team to it's first national title in 30 years as he registered 5 wins from the mound while hitting 3 homeruns. This brought Ishikawa national attention and no doubt upped his value at the draft.

Ishikawa is a power-hitter with 55 homeruns in his high school career. To give you an idea, this puts him in the company of Takeshi Yamasaki (56), Shohei Otani (56) and Takahiro Okada (55). He also has more homers than Yoshiharu Maru (49) and the Dragons own Nobumasa Fukukda (49). While it perhaps doesn't mean a lot, it is illustrious company to be amongst in any case.

Hitting to right-centre is his strength and he is superb at hitting anything pitched outside. In terms of arm strength, he can throw 120m (393ft) and is marked at reaching first base at around 4.3 to 4.4 seconds.

Scouts Japan over have been effusive in their praise for Ishikawa.

Akinobu Shimizu - Chunichi Scout
"He (Ishikawa) has an effortless swing and is an expert at connecting bat on ball. He particularly has the skills to pull the ball while his defense and arm are very solid."

Yukio Matsunaga - Chunichi Head of Recruitment
"I never had the impression that he swung at the first ball, but since joining the national team, I've noticed he wants to get after the ball more proactively"

Shinichi Kondo - Chunichi Scout
"His swing is better with a wooden bat. The swing is clean and he has adapted well"

Tsuyoshi Yoda's comments have been largely publicised but has said he hopes Ishikawa will be the slugger the team needs in the future forming the core of the order. He has also said that he'd like to see Ishikawa up close at the 2020 Spring Camp but fell short of confirming his invitation to the 1-gun camp.

Over the course of his competitive career, Ishikawa has a ridiculous slash line. 40 games, .469/.574/.938. An OPS of 1.512! There is of course a long way to go before Ishikawa replicates that at the professional level but it's an incredible achievement on it's own.

Upon being selected, Ishikawa announced his desire to slam 30 dingers in a season at the Nagoya Dome while also declaring he was going after triple-three honors .

Some would say that Ishikawa is a luxury pick. And he is but his selection gives the Dragons significant organisational depth. It also means that come the future, the left side of the diamond should all but be wrapped up by Ishikawa and Neo. While Ishikawa won't contribute immediately, he doesn't have to. Shuhei proved last year he is more than capable as both a leader and as a productive bat, so there's no urgency just yet. What I would like to see is maybe Ishikawa getting some reps at DH when interleague rolls around if he's to see any action. At the very least, he'll be battling it out with Masami Ishigaki for reps at third base on the farm.

Ishikawa will be among plenty of friends though as Kento Fujishima, Taisuke Maruyama and Kenta Mark Ishida are all his school seniors with all 4 players having been Toho's ace at some point or another.

A pick that we have a few years to go before we get super excited about, Ishikawa is a big piece in rebuilding the legacy of the Dragons on the field and in the community.

2. Yuki Hashimoto (Osaka Commercial University)
Left-handed pitcher
Name: 橋本侑樹
Birthdate: 8th January 1998
Birthplace: Takahama town, Fukui Prefecture
Height: 183cm (6'0")
Weight: 72kg (158lb)
High School: Nihon University Ogaki High School
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Max Velocity: 152 km/h (94 mp/h)
Pitches: Fourseam, slider, forkball

A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Osaka Commercial University's MVP southpaw pitcher was selected second overall for the Dragons. Hashimoto adds depth to the Dragons left-handed options particularly on the younger end of the scale. Arguably someone who could make a contribution next year, it will be interesting to see how management sees him; as either a starter or a reliever.

Hashimoto is another born within just about what you'd call the Dragons catchment in Fukui Prefecture on the Japan Sea. He went to Takahama Junior High while playing for Wakasa Takahama Boys.

He moved south to Gifu prefecture for high school, attending Nihon University Ogaki High School, a favourite alma mater among Dragons players, where he was assigned as the team's closer. He played at the summer Koshien in his first year pitching only one inning for 3 runs. In his second year, due to an injury, he had to sit out but he returned in his third year to help his team reach the semi-finals of the summer qualifiers.

He would enter Osaka Commercial University in 2016 where he would immediately make a mark in the spring league. Over 7 seasons (fall and spring) Hashimoto had a 9-4 record over 34 games for a 2.64 ERA and a 9.79 SO/9. It was in fall of 2017 however that Hashimoto would capture MVP honours with a 3-0 record and a 1.75 ERA. In 2019, Hashimoto continued to show off his pedigree by pitching the first Kansai League no-hitter since Hiroshi Kobayashi in 2010 making him on the 9th pitcher to achieve the feat.

Mechanically, Hashimoto throws from a 3/4 slot. He has a quick toss from the set-up position with a small take-back. He normally pitches his fastball in the early 140s while his slider sits at around 120km/h. He also hold a 130km/h forkball he uses against right-handed hitters.

Largely under the radar, here's what the scouts had to say:

Masamichi Yamamoto - Chunichi Scout
"A lefty that throws a max 152 km/h. He throws across the batters with a release form that's hard to make out. He' s a power pitcher that can throw a slider, change-up and forkball"

Yukio Matsunaga - Chunichi Head of Recruitment
"With that fastball and that rich mix of breaking balls, he's no doubt a top class lefty"

Masahiro Takumi - Orix Scout
"The spin on his fastball is an attraction"

Hashimoto has already voiced his intention to learn from fellow no-hitting lefty, Yudai Ono. At college he was apparently taught by his manager to always think he was pitching at a 3-0 count to help him throw strikes.  Hashimoto has also said that he feels hardened by the pressure of having played university ball and feels that his sales point is keeping calm under pressure.
Hashimoto will give the Dragons more left handed options most likely in the rotation. Right now the team has 3 reliable options in-house options in Shotaro Kasahara, Yudai Ono and Shinnosuke Ogasawara so adding in another possibility as cover is a wise choice. Ono also is getting older at 31, so a pitcher that will likely be coming into his prime when the other is on the out, seems like a wise choice too.

At 22, there's still a long future ahead for Hashimoto but he does add to a growing, younger pitching staff that the Dragons have been cultivating over the past 3-4 drafts.

3. Yuichiro Okano (Toshiba)
Right-handed pitcher
Name: 岡野祐一郎
Birthdate: 16th April 1994
Birthplace: Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture
Height: 180cm (5'11")
Weight: 85kg (187lb)
High School: Seiko Gakuen High School
College: Aoyama Gakuin University
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Max Velocity: 149 km/h (92 mp/h)
Pitches: Fourseam, slider, cutter, two-seam, curveball, forkball

Blessed with an armory of off speed and breaking pitches, Okano is a polished, battling pitcher who has served as the ace for his Toshiba team this season. A late bloomer, at 26 years old next year, Okano will be expected to slot straight into the first team bullpen or rotation. Adding to a large group of just about reaching their peak pitchers with the Dragons, Okano should add more and more competition to spots on the mound particularly considering the lack of good right-handed options available.

Okano was born in Ishinomaki, Miyagi in Japan's northern Tohoku region. He started playing baseball in his 3rd year of elementary school and was part of the Ishinomaki Chuo Seniors baseball team while studying at Kadonowaki Junior High.

He started his high school career at Seiko Gakuen High School where he immediately made the bench as a reliever. In fall of his second year, Okano pitched 59 innings for 6 earned runs at a 0.15 ERA to help his team to victory in the Tohoku regional tournament. He was also able to throw 7 complete games including 4 CGSOs  over 9 games. In his third year, at the 2012 spring Senbatsu tournament, Okano threw a 5SO complete game shutout against Tottori High school in the first round. However he would be sent reeling against Yokohama where he gave up 7 runs in the second round. Following the tournament, Okano worked on his control and once again led his team from the mound in the summer Tohoku regional tournament but this time falling short of qualifying for the summer Koshien. He was however picked for the U-18 Japan team participating in the World Cup.

Okano would later skip the draft to go to Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo where he made his first appearance in spring against Komazawa University where he pitched 2.2 innings in relief as winning pitcher. In his second year, he was the starting day pitcher in the spring league where he threw a 1 run complete game.
Throughout his time at university, Okano pitched in 41 games for a 10-16 record over 238.1 innings and a 2.23 ERA.

In 2017, Okano would move into the industrial leagues with Toshiba and was an immediate contributor once more. He soldified his spot in the rotation and threw his first complete game against Nippon Seitetsu Hirohata in the Kyushu tournament. After defeating JX-ENEOS with another complete game shut-out, Okano led his team to their 9th straight qualification for the Inter-City tournament.
He started in the quarter and semi-finals and pitched 15 innings for 5 earned runs over the two games. He was subsequently selected for the JABA selection team in the Taiwan Asian Winter League where he took the most strike-outs in the tournament with 38K in 28 innings. He was also selected for the Japanese national team at the 2018 Asia Games where he started two games including the semi-final against Taiwan.

Okano is another that throws from the three-quarter slot. His has a soft follow through which gives him up to a 149 km/h velocity. He normally sits in the early 140s. He has a fastball that generates spin that he pairs with a 120km/h slider, 130km/h cutter, 130 km/h two-seam and 130km/h forkball. The forkball is his main strikeout taking delivery while he also generates a lot of grounders.

Okano was left unselected at last year's draft but he played alongside Akiyoshi Katsuno and the Tigers' Koji Chikamoto and Seiya Kinami at the Asian games last year.

Here's what the scouts have to say about him:

Yoshio Koyama - Chunichi Scout
"At each tournament he's left behind solid numbers. He doesn't have big ups and downs with his performances. He's a guy that could be in the rotation all year round"

Takayuki Saito - Swallows Scout
"I've never seen him throw away a game. From the 1st to the last inning, he's the same speed but with runners on he steps up a gear. It just shows that velocity isn't everything."

Toshihiko Sonada - Carp Chief Scout
"He's one of the few industrial league pitchers this year that could make an immediate contribution. He has the kind of solid approach that could see him contribute as either a starter or a reliever"

Okano was once again selected for the JABA Taiwan Winter League team, but commented that "as I didn't get selected last year, I'm honestly happy. My image of the Dragons is one of younger pitchers contributing a lot so I want to do my best. My best point is my ability to get out of bad situations. I just want to do what I can to add wins for the team."

Okano is by far the most ready to go talent of the draftees. All going well, he could contribute to the starting rotation from day one. It will be interesting to see how Yoda wants to use him. Kazuki Yoshimi and Daisuke Yamai have continued to fall down the pecking order. Yuya Yanagi is currently the only right hander that kept his place in the rotation all year. Takumi Yamamoto, Tatsuya Shimizu and Kodai Umetsu all otherwise shouldered the burden at different parts of the season so someone like Okano who could just slip right in, could definitely help the team's push into the top 3 places next year.

4. Yuya Gunji (Keio University)
Name: 郡司裕也
Birthdate: 27 December 1997
Birthplace: Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture
Height: 180cm (5'11")
Weight: 86kg (189lb)
High School: Sendai Ikuei High School
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Baserunning: 50m in 6.1 seconds
Pop Time: Home to second in 2 seconds

Chatter before the draft speculated the Dragons were after a young catcher to challenge Kota Ishibashi to the long-term catching mantle with the team. In Yuya Gunji the team have captured an all-round good looking catcher who can hit for power, lead a game and has a relatively strong arm. One of many Dragons catchers in the past to come through the Tokyo Big6 University League, Gunji will be right in the mix of it from day one.

Gunji was born in Ichihara on the Tokyo bay side of Chiba prefecture. He started playing baseball in year 2 while at Mizunoe Elementary. While at Chiharadai South Junior High, Gunji played for Chiba City Senior. In 2012, he helped his team to a national championship win.

He was accepted to the prestigious Sendai Ikuei High School program and sat on the bench for his first year. In his second year, he created a battery with former Buffaloes pitcher, Sena Sato where he helped his team to victory at the 2014 Jingu tournament. Gunji was largely used at 4th in the line-up for his clutch hitting and power where he hit .475 over 26 plate appearances. In the following year's Senbatsu and summer Koshien, Gunji started all 8 games and was part of the team that reached the semi-finals for the first time in 26 years in summer. In the final, Gunji squared up against then Tokai Sagami High school ace, Shinnosuke Ogasawara, where despite hitting an RBI, ultimately couldn't lead his team to victory. He would later pull on the mask for all of Sena Sato's starts in the U-18  World Cup and helped his team to their first shut-out win against the United States in 11 years.

Gunji became a first team regular behind the plate from fall of his first year at Keio University. He provided impressive game leading skills to 2016 #1 pick for the Carp, Takuya Kato, aiding him to no-hit Tokyo University on opening day. During his time at college, his batting was held in high regard as he made the Best 9 in Spring 2018. From 2019, Gunji was made captain of Keio where he hit .275/.420/.375 in the spring. Over the course of his college career, Gunji has hit .285, 9 homeruns and 46RBIs. 2 of those homeruns have come off the pitching of Hiroshima Carp's first pick in 2019, Masato Morishita.

Gunji is considered a balanced catcher. A right-handed batter that can spray the ball across the park for distance from a full-swing. Known for his clutch-hitting, his ability to hit the ball to right-field is considered one of his talents. His game calling from behind the plate is professional and has a relatively strong arm. From home to first base, he has been clocked at 4.5 seconds.

Here's what the scouts say:

Shinichi Kondo - Chunichi Scout
"He looks at everything carefully and has a very high potential with his game calling. His hitting is also one of his good points and he provides leadership"

Akira Yonemura - Chunichi Chief Scout
"We rate him based on how he leads pitchers and how he gets out of a pinch. During his time at high school he was a straight-A student, so we rate that as well"

Fumitoshi Takano - Eagles Scout
"He is really good in clutch situations. During the game his returns are fast and he has the power to be picked up on just as a university level catcher."

Gunji recently met with the scouting staff where he said "my sales point is my lead and game calling as well as signs throughout the entire game as well as communication. These things are hard to see with the naked eye, but try to look out for these things too." Gunji also made his goal to be with the first-team on opening day. In another more interesting side of things, he is writing his final year thesis on Pawapuro, a popular baseball game in Japan, trying to find out if those who play the game are good at baseball and if there are any other notable correlations.

Gunji quite easily comes in and replaces the released Shota Sugiyama. He also is still of a young age meaning he'll be able to challenge Kota Ishibashi for the future mask but also just about be ready to try and challenge for a position behind the plate almost immediately. I'm slightly concerned that Gunji will take away development time from Ishibashi, but perhaps the competition will push both of them to be better players.

5. Yuki Okabayashi (Komono High School)
Right-handed pitcher
Name: 岡林祐樹
Birthdate: 22nd February 2002
Birthplace: Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture
Height: 177cm (5'8")
Weight: 73kg (160lb)
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Max Velocity: 153 km/h (95 mp/h)
Pitches: Fourseam, slider, forkball, curve, change-up

As per usual, 5th pick was used for a backyard talent with the Matsusaka born fireballer, Okabayashi being picked up. A popular pick among fans, while diminutive, packs a punch with a fastball topping out in the early 150 km/h range. Another high school arm, Okabayashi adds further stocks to the growing young brigade of pitching talent being collected by Yoda and his team.

Born in Matsusaka, Mie prefecture, Okabayashi started playing baseball in grade 2 following the influence of his older brother, now Carp development player, Tsubasa. He joined Matsusaka Umemura Senior while at Kubo Junior High where he helped his team to the top 16 of the national tournament. Okabayashi was selected to be apart of the Toyota squad that won the 2016 Taipei International tournament.

Okabayashi started on the bench at Komono High School but would debut against Eishin Hight School in the Mie prefectural tournament in a perfect 3K inning in relief. From 2018, Okabayashi was back-up to Norihiko Tanaka (now at Hiroshima) and showed off in the spring agasint Shirayama High School with 12Ks for only one hit. In the following Summer, Okabayashi clocked a personal best 148 km/h but eventually fell 3-4 to eventual champions Shirayama with his team exiting at the round of 16. From fall of that year however, he became the team's main pitcher where he K'd his team to victory in the prefectural tournament taking 40K over 30 innings for only 3 earned runs. In the Tokai regional tournaments, he would once again improve velocity with a 149 km/h showing against Chukyo Gakuin High school who would eventually dump out his team. Focused to improve his control, Okabayashi looked to improve his form by raising his glove higher. As a result he was able to throw 152 km/h in the first game of the summer prefectural tournament.

Okabayashi has little to no wind-up and relies on a quick motion of his arms
followed by a quick follow through to generate his velocity. He usually pitches in the mid 140s while also throwing a slider in the 120s. Okabayashi can also hit as he has 22 high school homeruns where he hit from the number 4 position from his second year at high school.

What do the scouts say:

Akinobu Shimizu - Chunichi scout
"His max 152 km/h velo and sharp turning slider are very appealing. Given his athleticism, I also rate his ability with the bat. He has very natural flexibility."

Akimitsu Ito - Swallows Head of Recruitment
"In the first (tournament) match he tried a bit too hard, but you can't do much about that. There aren't that many power pitchers, so he's one to look out for."

Takahiro Aoki - Giant scout
"Just rolling his arm like that is great. His batting and running look good too."

Upon being selected Okabayashi said he was "relieved but it woke me up. It's a hard world to go into so I want to take it one ball at a time, maintaining my hunger." As a pitcher, he said he wants to "take the title for most wins and become a pitcher that the team can trust to put out there."

According to some sources, Okabayashi could be used in a two-way role given the vast exodus of position players.This of course will be left up to the player himself

Okabayashi gives us more organisational depth. I'm concerned that the heat he's throwing at his age might be a problem, but given his natural athleticism, hopefully he won't be on the sidelines too often. It will be interesting to see if the 2-way option actually goes through, but if not, I could see Okabayashi maybe projecting to be a set-up man.

6. Ryushin Takeuchi (Sapporo Sousei High School)
Right-handed pitcher
Name: 竹内龍臣
Birthdate: 11th December 2001
Birthplace: Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture
Height: 178cm (5'8")
Weight: 80kg (176lb)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Max Velocity: 147 km/h (91 mp/h)
Pitches: Fourseam, slider, forkball, curve, change-up, two-seam

Well, this one took me off guard. A stocky pitcher from Sapporo, Takeuchi is a pick I don't think many saw coming. Another pick from Tomoya Yagi that looks like it could be a diamond in the rough. Under the tutelage of a former Dragons player in Seiji Enda, Takeuchi apparently had dreams of playing for the Dragons some day growing up watching the likes of Masahiro Araki and Hirokazu Ibata in their heyday.

Born in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Takeuchi started playing baseball in grade 2. He played for JBC Sapporo while at Arakawa Junior High school.

Up until the second year of his high schooling, he hadn't put up any statistics of note but in the off-season he got stuck into weight training and gained 15 kilograms where he was able to increase his velocity by 7 km/h to 140 km/h. Following that he was able to increase to 145km/h in May and then 147 km/h in July. His rapid rise in velocity caught the attention of pro clubs as a result. In the summer of 2019, Takeuchi pitched 19 innings in relief helping his team to the quarter finals. While he gave up 22 hits, he was also able to take 21 strikeouts for a 9.95 SO/9. In the southern Hokkaido tournament, he threw a complete game against Shiriuchi High School in a 3-2 win, the first time Sousei had passed the first round in 18 years.

From the set-up position, he start movement, stops slightly before bringing his
weight forward with a quick release.

What do the scouts say about him:

Tomoya Yagi - Chunichi scout
"He has a nice throw. His pitch offerings are well balanced"

Takeuchi becomes the first pro baseballer from Sapporo Sousei High School. He's said to be relieved to have been selected and has big dreams of becoming a major leaguer. He has also said he wants to make it to the first team as soon as possible.

Takeuchi's massive rise of putting on 37 km/h of velocity from starting high school to finishing it is quite amazing. It reminds me of Shotaro Kasahara who also put on 10 km/h after starting university. Players that have the desire to grow like this are valuable for teams and I wish Takeuchi all the best. I don't expect too much of him but there might be a future in him for some relief innings. Similar type of pick to Kenshin Kakikoshi last year.

Development Draft Pick #1 - Hiroaki Matsuda (Nagoya University)
Left-handed pitcher
Name: 松田亘哲
Birthdate: 17th May 1997
Birthplace: Iwakura, Aichi Prefecture
Height: 176cm (5'7")
Weight: 83kg (182lb)
High School: Konan High School
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Max Velocity: 148 km/h (92 mp/h)
Pitches: Fourseam, slider,vcutter, curve, change-up

The narrative! Oh the narrative that Matsuda bring. I don't know if this is a pick to sell papers, but if it wasn't it's certainly a pleasant flow on. Much like Kohei Miyadai, who was drafted from the academically prestigious Tokyo University by the Fighters in 2017, Matsuda is a player in a similar vane coming from the academically prestigious Nagoya University. Both Nagoya and Tokyo are not known for their baseball teams however, it is perhaps Nagoya University, who play in the 3rd division of the Aichi College Baseball League, that have more surprisingly contributed to professional baseball. More astonishingly, Matsuda didn't even play baseball in high school. He played volleyball for 3 years before picking up baseball again in college. THE NARRATIVE, PEOPLE!

Already fans are lining up at erstwhile empty games for Nagoya U trying to ogle their new guy and to be honest, his journey warrants a bit of inspection. Also, it wasn't just the Dragons that were interested in him either....

Matsuda was born in Iwakura, Aichi prefecture where he started playing baseball in grade 1. He played for Komaki JBC while at Iwakura Junior High School. At Konan High School, Matsuda turned away from baseball and played 3 years in the school's volley ball club.

After entering Nagoya University, Matsuda took up baseball again. From his first year he served as a reliever but from fall of his second year he became the team's main starter. In his second game as starter, Matsuda threw a complete game shut out against Doho University. The following spring, he threw 8 innings for two runs against Nagoya Commercial University in a good showing.
Matsuda and his team have been caught between the 2nd and 3rd division of Aichi's college baseball league where his best result so far has been a 5th place finish in the second league of fall 2017.

It was after hitting 148 km/h that Matsuda started attracting scouts and it is this fourseam delivery that is his most appealing point. Leading up to the draft up to 7 clubs had been scouting him but it was the Dragons that picked him up.

His black rimmed glasses are seen somewhat as a trademark.

What do the scouts say:

Akinobu Shimizu - Chunichi scout
"He's smart, and has the ability to think for himself. He's come along quite nicely"

Tomofumi Matsumoto - Carp scout
"He's appealing, that's why so many scouts are coming to see him. The spin on his fastball is good and he delivers off-speed pitches too. "

Seiya Kumazaki - Fighters scout
"He's done really well to get noticed by so many given he has no high school baseball experience." 

Upon becoming the first ever pro baseballer to be selected from Nagoya University, Matsuda said he was "happy, but it's become a strange feeling. From here on in I'll be taking on players of a much higher level so I'd like to put in study time toward learning about batters timing, when to press as well as understanding my own limitations."

I find Matsuda a little more appealing than Takeuchi actually. I quite like the fact that he's a smart guy (he'll fit in well with Koji Fukutani) and that he was able to get to such a level without having those extra three years of development through high school. Given the level he's playing at though, it might be a very hard slog for him to make it to the top team or even on to the roster.

Concluding Notes

The team have gone very pitcher heavy. Given Yoda and Awano making use of almost everyone this year, perhaps this is a ploy to continue that bullpen management philosophy employed so successfully in 2019. The team future needs however remain the same as they have been for the last 3 years. There are two aging, star outfielders that will need replacing eventually. Yohei Oshima and Ryosuke Hirata will leave big ol' gaping holes if they experience any big downturn. Oshima looks set to sign an extension while Hirata still has a few years before he will truly be going south, maybe it's not as big of a concern as once thought. Kengo Takeda's addition through the trade market this year has also provided us with stop-gap solution to centre-field so perhaps the team will manage.

There's a good mix of potential contributors for 2020 with a lot for the future. Hashimoto, Gunji and Okano all look like they could make a splash next year. Ishikawa, Okabayashi, Takeuchi and Matsuda on the other hand look like they'll spend the majority of the year picking up experience under Toru Nimura's watchful eye on the farm.

Overall, this was a draft where the Dragons could go after whoever they wanted with no specific needs requiring filling. The outfield question will however remain for a while to come though. Hopefully the Dragons are keeping a keen eye on Shota Morishita at Chuo University like I am to replace Hirata one day.

In the end, in terms of the talent gathered. There's not much to complain about. The Dragons took 7 players with varying skills and gifts that could all do a job. Spring camp can't come soon enough!

* Acknowledgement: Much of the information about player histories leading up the the draft was sourced from the Japanese language resource ドラフト・レポート whom I recommend for any information on Japanese prospects. Much of the player histories are translations and paraphrases of the player profile pages available on the website.

1 comment: