Jim Allen on Tazawa, round 2

» 05 December 2008 » In mlb prospects »

Lots of people saw Jim Allen’s ESPN piece on Junichi Tazawa, but I don’t think as many will happen across his work in the Daily Yomiuri. So I’m posting it in hoping a few extra eyes might see it.

The whole entire is worth a read, but I find this passage interesting:

Tazawa was expected to be a top draft pick in Japan, causing one to question how other top-round pitchers his age have done here. The answer, surprisingly enough, is not very well.

Since 1983, 13 pitchers his age were signed as either first-round picks or amateur free agents. Seven failed to win 20 games in their entire careers, three have won 50 or more games, and only one can be considered a star. The lone success story belongs to the man who had a chance to go Tazawa’s way in 1999, Koji Uehara. Instead, Uehara joined the Yomiuri Giants and won 112 games.

Now that the 33-year-old Uehara is likely joining Tazawa in the States for next season, it will be interesting to see which of the two ends up with the better major league career.

That is surprising. Tsuyoshi Wada (70-42 in seven seasons) would be one of the other 22 year-old draftees to win 50+ games. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of who the other might be. 

Some time in the next week or so I’ll take a look at how other recent high draft picks out of the industrial leagues regardless of age have fared in NPB. I haven’t looked at the big picture yet, but anecdotely there seems to be a pattern of needing a year or two to ramp up.


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  1. Patrick
    05/12/2008 at 12:08 pm Permalink

    Well, Hirofumi Kawano, Fighters first-round draft pick in 1984 out of Komazawa University at the age of 22. was 54-72 in his career…

    Hideyuki Awano, Kintetsu first-round draft pick in 1986 out of Asia University at the age of 22 was 75-68 in his career…

    Yukihiro Nishizaki, Fighters first-round draft pick in 1986 out of Aichi Tech at the age of 22 was 127-102 in his career…

    Kazuhiro Takeda, Fighters first-round draft pick in 1987 out of Meiji University at the age of 22 was 89-99 in his career…

    and that’s just me eyeballing the 1980’s draft picks on a whim. I’m sure I’d find more if I kept looking. I kind of wonder how they decide “his age”. Does it mean industrial league picks only? Or 22-year-olds? Or what? Since you said Tsuyoshi Wada, and he mentioned Uehara, I figured it includes college. Or maybe he just means won 50 games and posted WINNING career W/L records? I mean, the Fighters are quite the happy hunting ground for first-round college pitchers. Seriously.

  2. Patrick
    05/12/2008 at 12:30 pm Permalink

    Jim just said “first-round” and “his age”, so I didn’t distinguish between college and industrial leaguers. I thought Nomo was about 22 as well. Kei Igawa came out of college too, and Kenshin Kawakami came out of college ball too.

  3. Patrick
    Keith Law
    05/12/2008 at 1:03 pm Permalink

    Is there a selection bias at stake? Are amateur pitchers typically drafted before age 22 in Japan?

  4. Patrick
    Keith Law
    05/12/2008 at 1:04 pm Permalink

    at work, not at stake. I have no idea where that came from.

  5. Patrick
    05/12/2008 at 1:21 pm Permalink

    Most pitchers in Japan are drafted pretty much at 18 (out of HS) or 22 (out of college). For the most part, thanks to the Japanese laws about everyone in school being the same age, there’s not much deviation in those categories.

    The other ages are pretty much all industrial/club guys. I mean, the Fighters drafted both of the current Takedas out of the industrial leagues at older ages, Hisashi when he was 25 and Masaru when he was 28, something like that. Lotte’s Yasutaka Hattori was drafted last year from Toyota at the age of 25, he was playing in the Hawaiian Winter League this year. I’m not sure what the oldest guy ever drafted from the industrial/club leagues was, to be honest. (I feel like I should know, but just can’t remember. Oh well.)

    Oh, and Nomo was 21 when he got drafted out of Nippon Steel. 🙂

  6. Patrick
    05/12/2008 at 1:49 pm Permalink

    I’d also add that the typical draftee from the industrial league tends to spend about three years there. I think that may be an eligibility rule. Atsuya Furuta and Tetsuya Utsumi spring to mind as examples of guys who spent three years in industrial ball who went on to NPB success. Tazawa spent four years in the industrial league.

    Koji Mise is the oldest draftee I can think of — he was about 28 when Daiei took him a few years ago.

    How old was Michael Nakamura when Nippon Ham drafted him out of MLB?

  7. Patrick
    05/12/2008 at 4:33 pm Permalink

    Hi Patrick, love the blog.
    I live in U.S. now but I’m from Japan, and I am following NPB.

    I think Rakuten’s Daisuke Kusano is the oldest player ever to be picked (Picked in 8th round of 2005 Draft, he was 29 years old)

    BTW, Michael Nakamura was 28 years old when he was selected.

    Industrial League is considered the top in amature baseball, so players drafted from industrial league are called “Soku-Senryoku” (instant prospects), meaning it is likely to play in majors (Ichigun) right out of the draft.

    By the way, what do you think of Hisayoshi Chono, who turned Chiba Lotte’s offer down, decided to stay with amateur team.
    His love for the Giants is amazing in this era, because Giants have lost few of its legacies the since late 1990’s.

    Keep up the great work!
    I’ll be commenting on few occasions.

  8. Patrick
    05/12/2008 at 5:50 pm Permalink

    Well, there’s definitely some rule about how people have to wait two years before being drafted again if they turn down the team that takes them (and Utsumi turned down Orix in 2000, because his grandfather played for the Giants or whatever, so that’s why he was in the industrial leagues for a bit). Teams avoided drafting Furuta out of Ritsumeikan because of his glasses, supposedly. (How stupid is that?)

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen guys drafted who only spent a year playing for a company before being drafted… they just didn’t get taken right out of school for some reason. Like Tomochika Tsuboi only spent a year or so with Toshiba, or Takahito Kudoh only spent a year with JR… but they were out of college before the industrial leagues, I’m having trouble thinking of HS guys.

    Anyway, I’m not Patrick, but MY opinion of Hisayoshi Chono is fairly well known. Teehee. (Or at any rate, I don’t know anyone else who bothered going to the 都市対抗野球大会 just to root against him.) Seriously, Fighters fans all have thought he was an idiot for the last few years and now Marines fans probably do as well. Does he seriously think his value is going to go UP by being a 26-year-old outfielder next time he’s eligible? Or that the Giants are ever seriously going to take him?

  9. Patrick
    05/12/2008 at 6:22 pm Permalink

    Re: Chono, I was thinking about writing about him in a separate post but it’s kind of a low priority to me. There’s a parallel between Tazawa and Chono — each has rejected the NPB Draft to pursue their personal choices.

    I didn’t have an emotional response to Chono, but I think Deanna is right for baseball reasons. Even if the Giants draft him, who knows if he’ll be able to start? I’ve only seen short video of him but I don’t like his approach at the plate. I think he may be compromising his career with his choices, but it’s up to him.

    Also to add a bullet point as a response to Keith’s question, at least two of the best pitchers of the last generation were drafted out of high school at age 18: Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Masahiro Tanaka is another star drafted at 18.