Category > npb draft

Seibu Gets Kikuchi

» 29 October 2009 » In npb draft » 4 Comments

Despite the projections and comments in the media, ‘only’ six teams selected Yusei Kikuchi in the first round of this year’s draft, with the Seibu Lions winning the drawing and the rights to his NPB services. Hanshin, Yakult, Chunichi, Nippon Ham and Rakuten were the other teams that selected Kikuchi.

With half the league going after Kikuchi, the other six teams all got their picks uncontested. Orix (Shuichi Furukawa) and Hiroshima (Takeru Imamura) made pretty good picks in my opinion.

That’ll be all for me tonight, Gwynar is live-tweeting the draft and some nutbar is broadcasting it on, though he has a bad habit of shouting into the mic and displaying an Excel sheet rather than the draft coverage.

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Kikuchi Stays Home

» 24 October 2009 » In npb draft » 3 Comments

Kyodo News and reader Manzino beat me to it, but Yusei Kikuchi is staying in Japan. I’ll have more later in the evening.

(returns after a while)

It’s later in the evening, and here’s more.

This news doesn’t come as a surprise, as even though I had been reserving some skepticism, all the reports over the last few days said that he was staying in Japan. The quotes that are getting repeated by everyone are Kikuchi saying, “I want to be given the chance to play in Japan,” followed by “for now I’m closing the door to the Majors, and after becoming a top pitcher in Japan I want to take on the world.”

I’m glad to see this come to an end. The media frenzy was clearly starting to get to Kikuchi; he acknowledged developing a bad case of acne in the last couple of days and broke down during his press conference. Had he chosen to pursue MLB, the madness certainly would have continued until he signed with a team. I think it took a lot of guts for Kikuchi to challenge the norms even to the extent he did. He’s earned himself at least a footnote in baseball history for that.

Kikuchi is leaving some money on the table with this choice. ZakZak, a site that I normally don’t take too seriously, estimated that Kikuchi’s MLB offers would be in the $4-6m range. I thought that seemed a little high, but ZakZak points out that the top high school lefty in the 2009 MLB draft, Tyler Matzek of the Rockies, signed for $3.9m.

NPB is a clear winner here. Kikuchi’s drawing power is certainly higher having gone through this affair, which will benefit both the league and the team that drafts him. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for take a look in the mirror and look for new ways to compete for talent with MLB. Unlike last year with Junichi Tazawa, we saw NPB bend it’s own rules a little bit to try to keep Kikuchi around, rather than throw together a weak deterrent. It’ll remain to be seen how proactive they’ll be with the next guy that tries this.

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Kikuchi Sets Press Conference For 25th

» 23 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb draft » 3 Comments

As I uh, tweeted earlier in the day, Yusei Kikuchi has scheduled a press conference for October 25th at 11:00 am JST, just four days prior to the NPB draft.

The most recent reports out of Japan suggest that Kikuchi is going to start his professional career in Japan, but we’ve seen a pattern of Japanese media outlets hearing what they want to hear with regards to the highly-regarded lefty. But Nikkan Sports is usually pretty reliable, and they too have just published a report saying that Kikuchi is staying in Japan. So we’ll see what happens.

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Pitcher to Pursue MLB Career

» 23 October 2009 » In amateur baseball, mlb prospects, npb draft » 2 Comments

That got your attention, didn’t it? This isn’t about Kikuchi though.

Sanspo is reporting that Aomori University righty Shota Ichinoseki is looking to begin his pro career overseas. Ichinoseki is a rather obscure player; he didn’t have a page on Draft Reports until this news broke, and even Deanna has never mentioned him. There’s no indication that he appears on any NPB team’s list of draft candidates. The 21 year-old student’s fastball tops out at 144 kmph (90mph) and he compliments it five breaking pitches including a slider and a forkball.

Ichinoseki is apparently willing to consider playing independent league ball in the US, and is planning is to travel to Taiwan to work out in front of MLB personnel in November. Sanspo quoted him as saying, “playing overseas is something I can only do now. I want to do it while I can.”

Lost in the furor over guys like Kikuchi and Junichi Tazawa is the fact that for some kids, playing overseas represents an opportunity that is otherwise not available. I hope Ichinoseki gets a chance to play somewhere.


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Kikuchi to Announce Intentions Oct 24?

» 21 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb draft » 2 Comments

The Yusei Kikuchi watch marches on. Multiple sources out of Japan are saying that the soonest we’ll see a decision from the promising lefty is Oct 24 JST, and  Sanspo quoted Hanamaki Higaashi baseball director Hiroyuki Sasuga as saying “he’s having discussions with his parents in the next few days, and we’ll hold a press conference when he’s made a final decision on how to proceed.” According to Nikkan Sports, Kikuchi has a self-imposed deadline of the 26th.

Daily Sports is reporting that many people around him are advising him to stay in Japan, and speculates that he’ll start his pro career in NPB. The fat lady is still warming up though.

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2009 Draft: What’s in a Name?

» 21 October 2009 » In npb draft » 4 Comments

My draft coverage outside of Yusei Kikuchi has been pretty weak this year, but I have a week to catch up. I’ll start by pointing out how awesome Kazuhito Futagami’s and Masato Kiyashiki’s names are in Japanese.

二神一人 (Futagami Kazuhiro):  “two gods, one person”

鬼屋敷正人 (Kiyashiki Masato):  “demon estate, correct person”

Futagami is a top college pitcher and should be drafted in the first round after the Kikuchi fallout takes place. Kiyashiki is a high school catcher who appears on some teams’ high pick list, and could sneak in to the first round as well.

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Kikuchi Concludes Meetings

» 20 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb draft, Uncategorized » 2 Comments

Yusei Kikuchi has wrapped up his meetings and now has some thinking to do. It may take him a little while to sort things out, based on comments made after the meetings: “(Japan and the US) are but wonderful. I’m more torn now than I was before the meetings.”

Here’s what we know about what each of the last four teams discussed with Kikuchi:

Mariners: has Ichiro, more international than other clubs.

Mets: offered a dedicated translator. Scout Isao Ojimi was quoted as saying “Yusei is a world treasure.”

Yankees: no comment to media

Indians: not at 18, but will have MLB ability in three or four years

And here’s a translation of a brief interview that appeared on MSN Japan:

-after meeting with 20 Japanese and American teams, are you feeling tightened up?

“It’s a wavering 50-50. I’m more torn now than before I had these meetings, in which I made new discoveries. Meeting with each team for 30 minutes was short, I thought I would like to hear them for longer. I think that the MLB teams traveled this far was a great honor.”

-comments on the impression left by both leagues after the meeings

“I thought both were great, and I want to go to both. Japan’s development system is gentle, and in America there is the stepped system of rookie ball, 1A, 2A,3A and the Majors”

-you met a major leaguer

“He had an aura of playing in the best place in the world.”

-what will the deciding factor be?

“I can comfortable play in either league. In Japan, there won’t be any problems with food or training. Even in the Majors, there are teams offering to provide a translator, so there’s no uneasiness. If I go to America, I believe the teams that said ‘don’t worry’. My manager and parents both said ‘we’ll leave it up to you’, so I want to come to a conclusion without regret.

The NPB draft is the 29th. We’ll see what happens between now and then.

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Kikuchi Meetings, MLB Round 1

» 19 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb draft » 4 Comments

Now, it’s getting interesting. Yusei Kikuchi has completed his first round of meetings with MLB clubs. The media reports lack the level of detail that the reports on the NPB meetings had. I think this is reflective of the Japanese teams wanting to use the media to lure, Kikuchi, while MLB teams are being tighter-lipped. Here’s a rundown.

Rangers:  sent Jim Colborn and lefty Derek Holland; espoused the team’s development system and let Kikuchi ask questions.

Dodgers:  sent Logan White, who was quoted in Nikkan Sports: “we didn’t tell him not to go to Japanese team” and the Yomiuri: “he’s among the top class of amateurs from any country. He certainly has the ability to play in the majors.”

SF Giants: pointed out that the Giants have a Japanese trainer for their 3A team; explained the team’s methods of practicing and training.

Red Sox: did not to the the media; it’s unknown what was discussed.

So if any financial details have been discussed so far, no one’s saying. Meetings conclude tomorrow with the Mariners, Mets, Yankees and Indians.

For more on Kikuchi, check out the posts on day one and day two of his meetings with NPB clubs, and our profile of the young lefty.

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Kikuchi Meetings: Day Two

» 18 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb draft » 2 Comments

On Day Two, Yusei Kikuchi met with the eight remaining NPB teams, thus concluding the NPB portion of his schedule. Word is that he’s still 50-50 on which league he chooses, and that should he choose NPB, he doesn’t have a preference on which team he plays for.

Here’s what Kikuchi had to say about the meetings: “I like baseball talk, so it was easy to have the talks. There are a lot of fans in Japan, and solid player development systems. In the case I play in Japan and am drafted, I would give my best effort to any of the 12 teams.”

And his manage, the omnipresent Hiroshi Sasaki: “Each team has it’s own system for maturing individuals. To wait until the last moment before the draft to answer would be an annoyance to the teams, so we should give a decision as quickly as possible after the MLB meetings end.”

Here’s what each of the teams had to say about the situation, again summarized and paraphrased by me:

Chunichi: “Even if there’s only a 1% chance, we’re still going to take the plunge on that arm. We’ll go every day (to see him) until the end of March (when the signing period ends).” Chunichi Chief Scout Hayakawa quoted in Sponichi.

Nippon Ham: “He had extreme interest in things like ‘would Darvish coach me technically?” GM Yamada quoted in Sponichi. Nippon Ham also told Kikuchi “they will select him with their first pick” to which Kikuchi replied “thank you very much”.

Rakuten: “He’s a franchise player. By all means, we want him to play in Tohoku. We’re still a young team, so let’s make team history.” Rakuten team representive Yoneda quoted in Daily Sports.

Yokohama: Yokohama’s first pick was thought to be slugger Yoshitomo Tsutusgo, but chief scout Horii has revealed that Kikuchi is still in the picture. Quoted in Nikkan Sports, Horii told Kikuchi “we haven’t decided on Tsutsugo as our first pick.”

Yakult: “By all means we want this treasure of the baseball world to perform in Japan.” Unattributed quote from the Daily Yomiuri.

Chiba Lotte: “He’s better than our own Yuuki Karakawa.” Senior Scout Matsumoto, quoted in Sponichi.

Hiroshima: The Carp are reportedly out on Kikuchi and will take Seiho HS righty Takeru Imamura, the pitcher who beat Kikuchi’s Hanamaki Higashi at Koshien, with their first pick.

SoftBank: Like the Carp, the Hawks are looking at Imamura as an option for their first pick, and have mostly been quiet on Kikuchi. SoftBank has plenty of pitching, so Tsutsugo probably makes the most sense for them.

Conventional American logic would dictate that Yokohama BayStars, who finished last yet again this year, should have the first overall pick in the draft. That’s not how it works in NPB. For an explanation, please see Ryo’s draft primer.

It’s being reported that as many as ten teams could choose Kikuchi in the first round, which break the previous record of eight set in 1989 by Hideo Nomo. I’d be little surprised if that happens, but if he stays in Japan he’ll have plenty of suitors. There’s really no downside to selecting Kikuchi in the first round (unless you really want Hisayoshi Chono); even if a majority of teams choose him, only one will get to his rights, and most of the other good players will still be on the table.

After a one-day breather, Kikuchi will begin meeting with MLB teams on the 20th. It’ll be interesting to see if the teams come armed with financial offers in hand. We already know what the NPB teams are restricted to a max bonus of about $1m, incentives of about $500k, and first year salary about $150k. We can reasonably expect MLB clubs to outbid NPB here, but by how much and under what terms remains to be seen. This is where the saga really starts, and we’ll learn more over the next few days.

edit – corrected number of teams that drafted Nomo.

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Kikuchi’s First Day of Meetings

» 16 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb draft » 2 Comments

Yusei Kikuchi conducted his first day of meetings on the 16th, and has so far talked with four teams. Here’s what they told him, paraphrased by me:

Orix: “we still have Ichiro’s dormitory room as it was when he played with us.”. From another article: “we developed Ichiro, and Ichiro and So Taguchi train with us in the offseason.”

Seibu: “we had Kazuo Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka who made good numbers in Japan and went to the majors.”

Hanshin:”it would be better to build up your technique, physique strength, and mental strength and then trying (MLB).” Hanshin also said they’d be willing to post Kikuchi later on.

Yomiuri: “we’re drafting Hisayoshi Chono. Thanks for your time.” The Giants reportedly didn’t take their full 30 minutes so it looks like they’re serious about Chono.

It’s interesting that Yomiuri is really sticking to it’s foolish guns with Chono, and that Hanshin is already dangling the posting carrot. The mention of posting at this early phase just makes me glad that Steve Phillips isn’t involved. And I give Orix credit for trying, but if Ichiro is a motivating factor for Kikuchi, he could sign with Seattle…

Meanwhile, Japanese Red Sox pitchers Junichi Tazawa and Daisuke Matsuzaka have offered Kikuchi some advice from a far. I translated these directly rather than paraphrasing:

Tazawa: “it’s his own life so I want him to make a choice he won’t regret,” before commenting on his year with the Red Sox, “the training and 2A start were both good. I didn’t make a mistake with the club I chose. I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone but (the Red Sox development program) was good.”

Matsuzaka: “I thought about it (going to MLB after high school) too, but I didn’t yet have what it would take to make the decision, and I thought I would go after getting results in Japan. If he has confidence that he can do it, either way is good. It’s better that he thinks over a lot of things in this limited time and then decides. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”

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