Looking Ahead to the Draft
One of my favorite sites, Draft Reports, has published a rundown of what’s known about each NPB team’s draft plans for this year.
Obviously Yusei Kikuchi is the consensus favorite this year, but there are a couple other names to watch as well. The popularity of Kikuchi as a pick could lead to some interesting strategies for other teams — will teams use the popularity of Kikuchi as a pick to swoop in a grab other top candidates uncontested? To get a sense of how the the NPB draft works, please see our overview of the topic.
On to the projections.
1st pick candidates: Yusei Kikuchi (Hanamaki Higashi HS), Kazuhito Futagami (Hosei University), Masato Nakazawa (Toyota), Masanori Fujiwara (Ritsumeikan University), Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama HS), Shota Dobayashi (Chukyo HS)
Other high-round candidates: Takashi Ogino (Toyota), Masato Kiyashiki (Kinki-Dai HS)
Orix appears to be undecided among the 1st-round candidates listed above.
1st pick candidates: Tsutsugo, Kikuchi, Nakazawa, Fujiwara
Other high-round candidates: Dobayashi, Kiyashiki
The latest reports suggest that Yokohama has narrowed its first pick choices down to Kikuchi and Tsutsugo. I would expect them to default towards local boy Tsutsugo, but he’s a slugging first baseman, and the organizational need is pitching.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Futagami, Toshiya Okada (Chiben Wakayama HS), Ikuhiro Kiyota (NTT East), Takayuki Makka (Tokai Boyo HS)
Other high-round candidates: Ogino, Kenta Imamiya (Meiho HS), Masato Mashiro (Nissan), Shota Ohmine (Yae Sho HS)
Latest word is that Lotte is set on Kikuchi with Okada and Imamiya to fall back on.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Nakazawa, Futagami, Fujiwara, Ogino, Makka, Okada, Nobuaki Nakabayashi (Keio University), Hisayoshi Chono (Honda), Hisashi Takeuchi (Hosei University),Tetsu Anan (Nittsu), Hiroyuki Kawahara (Fukuoka University Ohori HS),
Other high-round candidates: Dobayashi, Kiyota, Kiyashiki, Takahiro Araki (Kinki University), Yutaka Ohtsuka (Soka University), Yusuke Matsui (Tokyo University of Agriculture), Masato Matsui (Jobu University)
Now it gets interesting. Hanshin has Kikuchi in their sights as well, but is actively planning a contingency in case they don’t get him. Hanshin has been floating the idea of Chono with their first pick if they miss out on Kikuchi. My guess is that this is a bluff to get the Giants to spend they’re first pick on a guy who isn’t really first round talent.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo
Other high-round candidates: Ogino, Dobayashi, Imamiya
Things have been quiet on the Rakuten draft front. On the surface Tsutsugo would appear to better address the organization’s main need, which is offense.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Dobayashi, Imamiya, Futagami
Other high-round candidates: Takeuchi, Kenta Matsushita (Waseda University), Nobuyoshi Yamada (Tsuruga Kehi HS), Yutaro Sakurada (Hachinohe University)
Pretty familiar looking names on Hiroshima’s first pick list; but some new ones on their secondary list.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo, Futagami
Other high-round candidates: Ryoji Nakata (Asia University)
First mention of Nakata, the short, round college first baseman. On paper, I have my doubts about that guy’s ability to succeed at the pro level, but to see him bookended in the infield with the pudgy Okawari-kun would be interesting to say the least. Reportedly looking at Futagami as their top pick, and they could probably get him easily in the first round.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo, Nakazawa
Other high-round candidates: Imamiya, Makka, Katsu Nakamura (Kasukabe Kyoei HS)
Pretty vanilla list, with the exception of Nakamura, who draws comparisons to Yu Darvish. His delivery is clearly Darvish-inspired. Yakult is currently between Tsutsugo and Kikuchi for their top pick.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Kawahara, Takeru Imamura (Seiho HS)
Other high-round candidates: Imamiya
Another unexciting pool, SoftBank is looking at Kikuchi or Imamura with their top pick according to the latest issue of Shukan Baseball.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Imamiya, Fujiwara, Makka
Other high-round candidates: Futagami,Takahiro Suwabe (Honda), Yohei Oshima (Nihon Seimei)
Same players, different team for Chunichi. Chunichi has quietly drafted consistently well over the last few years, so we’ll see how they do with this group.
1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Makka, Tsutsugo, Imamura, Futagami, Okada, Fujiwara
Other high-round candidates: Imamiya, Masayoshi Kato (Kyushu International University)
Kikuchi would give Ham a golden boy to go with Darvish; while Tsutsugo would be a contemporary for Sho Nakata.
1st pick candidates: Chono
Other high-round candidates: unknown
The Kyojin-gun hasn’t deviated publicly from their intent to select Chono, but there has been some speculation that they’re interested in Kikuchi like everyone else. Not too long ago, however, I read an article that quoted a member of the Giants’ front office as saying to the other Central League teams “go ahead and pick Kikuchi”.