Changes for 2012: Hiroshima Carp
Coming: Kam Mickolio, Nick Stavinoha, Yusuke Nomura (1st round draft pick)
Going: Gio Alvarado, Mike Schultz, Dioni Soriano, Kiyoshi Toyoda, Wilfreiser Guerrero, Masaki Hayashi, Chad Tracy
Staying: Bryan Bullington, Brian Barden, Dennis Sarfate, Kenta Kurihara
The key offseason move for Hiroshima was the one that didn’t happen. For the second straight winter, the Carp failed to lure its former ace, Hiroki Kuroda, back from his successful Major League tenure. Had Kuroda returned, Hiroshima would have opened camp with a good shot at having the best rotation in Japan. Even without Kuroda though, Hiroshima’s rotation has some solid pieces to work with. Kenta Maeda and Bryan Bullington are strong at the top, second-year man Yuya Fukui showed proimsed in 2011, and perhaps rookie Yusuke Nomura and sophmore Kyohei Nakamura will join the mix. Veteran Kan Ohtake showed signs of life toward the end of last season, and 24 year-old lefty Yuki Saito should return from the back injuries that sidelined him for all of 2011. Kuroda would have been a great addition to this group, taking the pressure of the younger guys and the injury returnees.
At the plate, Hiroshima suffered a severe power shortage in 2011, hitting a league-low 52 home runs. To that end if Nick Stavinoha can establish himself and slug .450, it will be a huge addition. The retention of Brian Barden is a sound move, as he hit a respectable .280/.368/.371 over half a season last year. Simply getting a full season out of him at third base, which has been a hole since Takahiro Arai departed, will be a plus and if he can find some pop, all the better. We’ll see about the rest of the lineup once the open-sen season opens.
So while their approach is contingent on the younger players maturing and contributing, Hiroshima seems to be headed in the right direction.