Tag Archive > Takashi Ogino

Game Notes: Karakawa Dominates Orix

» 27 April 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Last night I caught most of Lotte’s 12-1 drubbing of Orix. Here are my notes.

  • The story of the day was Yuki Karakawa. As his 8 IP, 12 K, 3 H, 1 ER line suggests, Karakawa was masterful. He had command of everything he threw, and great movement on all his breaking stuff, particularly his changeup. I wouldn’t call Karakawa’s fastball an “out pitch”, but he was able to get a couple swinging strikeouts with by setting batters up with his breaking pitches.
  • It was windy in Chiba. The scoreboard consistently showed wind speeds of 12-13m, though I must plead ignorance to exactly what metric they use. Fly balls carried to right field, and high pop ups were nearly unplayable. Orix was collectively charged with three errors on dropped foul pop-ups, and Seung-Yeop Lee missed a fourth. It was pretty harsh to call those drops “errors” as they were all extremely tough plays.
  • Orix starter Hayato Terahara wasn’t quite as bad as his 6.0 IP, 8 ER line would have you believe. All of the damage was done in two innings, the 2nd and the 7th, but he did scatter mistake pitches throughout the game.
  • Terahara’s four run 2nd inning was really the turning point of the game. All of the damage came with two outs, and Lotte’s hitters handled Terahara’s mostly better stuff. Shoitsu Ohmatsu singled on a 147 kmph fastball, Tomoya Satozaki took a walk, Takumi Kohbe singled off a mistake fastball over the plate, Toshiaki Imae hit an opposite field triple off a good forkball over the lower outside corner after being down 0-2, Yoshifumi Okada slapped a fastball the other way for a line drive single. Lotte’s lineup was simply better in that inning.
  • Orix came right back with a threat in the top of the 3rd, but Karakawa K’ed mid-lineup guys Mitsutaka Gotoh and T-Okada with runners on first and third. It turned out not to matter, but Gotoh in particular waved at a bad pitch for a third strike, in a situation where any almost any kind of fair contact would have resulted in a run.
  • Saburo hit an opposite field home run in the 3rd, on a fastball over the outside corner of the plate. The homer was aided by the wind, but Saburo clearly managed to drive a pitch I always thought he struggled with.
  • Lee looked horrible at the plate against Karakawa, and a glance at his stats is revealing: .163 BA, 21 K’s in 43 ABs. I wonder how long it’ll be before we see Mike Hessman.
  • Terahara picked Takashi Ogino off first base in the 5th inning. This is not the first time I’ve seen Ogino picked off this year, I think it was Hisashi Iwakuma that got him before. It seems that every pitcher expects Ogino to run every time he reaches first with second base open, so he’ll have to refine his approach.
  • Ogino does, however, have a pretty good arm at shortstop. I haven’t seen it really tested but he makes good throws on routine plays.
  • The Lotte cheer girls looked pretty cold.
  • Masahide Kobayashi relieved a tired Terahara in the 7th. It looked Terahara strained his hamstring or something before he left, but he should have been removed two batters earlier anyway. Kobayashi looked absolutely horrible; it was almost painful watching him. No command, no velocity, no movement. It really looks like he’s done.

At this point, it was 10-1 in favor of Lotte, so I turned the game off.

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Watching Baseball, April 18

» 19 April 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

Last night, thanks to some justin.tv channel surfing I was able to catch bits and pieces of three NPB games, and I’m catching up on Yu Darvish’s start against Orix as I write this. Here are a few things I noticed.

Seibu vs Lotte

  • Crowds were sparse at all the games I watched. Yokohama appeared to draw the best audience for their game against Hiroshima.
  • Takashi Ogino is a threat to steal every time he reaches first with second base open. I’d like to see him dig in and go after third as well.
  • Hideaki Wakui’s fastball velocity was in the 142 kmph range, which is a little bit sub-optimal for him. Lotte seemed to get better looks at him after the first time through the lineup.
  • Yoshihisa Naruse, on the other hand, was pretty much vintage in shutting out the Lions. He only K’d six, but he made few mistake pitches and induced a large quantity of pop up outs.
  • The defensive play of the game was rookie Shogo Akiyama’s jumping catch at the wall, on Saburo’s long fly ball to right field. I had always perceived Saburo as being vulnerable to hard pitches away, but the pitch he hit was a fastball over the outside corner, and he drove it the other way. Maybe Saburo has refined his approach, or maybe Wakui’s velocity wasn’t enough to make that pitch effective.
  • Akiyama’s bat is still way behind his glove. He struck out in his only two at-bats, the first time on three pitches.
  • Tadahito Iguchi has really filled out. He and Tae Kyun Kim have got to be the portliest right side of any infield in Japan.
  • Seibu infielder Hideto Asamura again looked extremely confident at the plate. He wound up going 1-3 with a double.

Chunichi vs Yakult

  • Yahoo had identified Kazuki Yoshimi as Chunichi’s starter, but it was actually Kenichi Nakata that took the hill.
  • Joel Guzman looked absolutely terrible against Masanori Ishikawa, and finished 0-4 with three strikeouts. NPB pitchers, take note —  Guzman should not see anything other than breaking balls out of the zone until he proves he can lay off them.
  • Kazuhiro Hatakeyama has stepped in to Yakult’s lineup with Josh Whitesell temporarily sidelined. He’s responded by going 5-8 with three home runs in the two games he started.
  • Despite his offspeed woes, Wladimir Balentien made contact with a couple of breaking pitches yesterday. Yes, they were groundouts, but there may be hope for him.
  • As noted by Jason Coskrey, it got darker at Jingu Stadium as the game progressed. Jason tweeted that NPB would consider using stadium lights for safety purposes during the night game ban.

 

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2011 Breakout Candidates

» 13 April 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

Tonight we take a look at eight guys who could take a step forward this season.

Sho Nakata (1B/LF/DH, Nippon Ham Fighters) — Nakata was on my list last year, and had an interesting season: a slow start followed by an injury, then a hot stretch immediately after the injury, and finally a slump to end the season. The important thing is that he showed he can handle ichi-gun pitching, which was a new development. If he can put together a full year he’ll likely be Ham’s best or second best home run hitter.

Shota Ohba (P, Softbank Hawks) — Like Nakata, Ohba was on my list last year, and also like Nakata he’s had stretches of success. Last year he only threw 9.1 innings at the ichi-gun level; if he were to make 20 starts this year it would be a boon to Softbank’s lefty-dominated rotation.

Naomichi Donoue (IF, Chunichi Dragons) — The Arakibata Combi can’t continue forever, and when the Hirokazu Ibata half was down with an injury last year, Doue was there to fill in. He’s been touted as a prospect for some time now, we’ll see if this is the year he breaks through.

Keijiro Matsumoto (OF, Yokohama BayStars) — Developing young talent should be a high priority for a Yokohama team that can’t realistically expect to compete this year. But ‘Hama has started the season with an outfield of Termel Sledge, Hichori Morimoto, and Yuki Yoshimura, and to get playing him he’ll have to take it from one of those guys. Matsumoto hit for average at ni-gun last year, but without many walks or home runs.

Wirfin Obispo (P, Nippon Ham Fighters) — Obispo has always had a good arm, and showed a lot of promise in 2009 with Yomiuri. In Hokkaido he’ll be a part of a deep pitching staff, but won’t have to compete for a roster spot with more established foreign veterans, so he should get a few more innings at the top level.

Takashi Ogino (SS, Chiba Lotte Marines) — Ogino’s not strictly a breakout candidate, given that he performed extremely well prior to his injury last year. But he’s new to shortstop and if he stays healthy, he should be a lot of fun to watch.

Yusei Kikuchi (P, Saitama Seibu Lions) — After a disappointing rookie season, Kikuchi had a strong spring and made Seibu’s opening day roster, in a middle relief role. I only saw him pitch one inning this spring, and while his velocity topped out around 142 kmph, his mechanics were smooth and he kept the ball down in the zone. There’s no doubt about his talent.

Hideto Asamura (IF, Saitama Seibu Lions) — I’m cheating on this one a little bit, as Asamura has started Seibu’s first two games at first base. I first saw Asamura this spring, in an exhibition game against Yomiuri, where the announcers were describing him as a potential successor to Hiroyuki Nakajima. I was impressed at how much confidence he showed at the plate against Brian Bannister. That swagger has apparently carried over to the regular season as he’s 5-9 so far.

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90 Minutes of Baseball on Opening Day

» 12 April 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

The NPB season is finally upon us. On Monday evening (Pacific Time) I found about 90 minutes to spend watching two games, and talking baseball on Twitter. Here are my notes from what I saw of the games.

Chunichi vs Yokohama

  • The ‘Stars drew a pretty nice crowd.
  • Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson looked a little rough around the edges early on.
  • Yokohama starter Shogo Yamamoto can get a bunt down.
  • Forkballs and low fastballs still to work against Brett Harper.
  • Hirokazu Ibata has cool glasses.
  • Yamamoto left a mistake out over the plate for Joel Guzman, who tagged it for the first NPB home run of 2011. Yokohama manager Takao Obana wisely brought in righty Shintaro Ejiri before Guzman’s next at bat, and he made quick work of both Guzman and Tony Blanco.
  • Right after Guzman’s home run, yet another earthquake struck, shaking the lighting towers at Yokohama Stadium.

Yokohama eventually won 5-4, on a Yuta Naito walk-off hit off Takuya Asao.

Rakuten vs Lotte

  • There were quite a few fans holding signs encouraging the Tohoku region at QVC Marine Field. Lotte has great fans.
  • I thought the “Ganbarou Tohoku” patch on the Rakuten uniforms was a little small. Lotte wore black stripes on their shoulders.
  • Lotte starter Yoshihisa Naruse was locked in early on, and had six or seven strikeouts in the first four innings. I thought he was getting some low strikes called in his favor.
  • Takashi Ogino’s showed of his speed in the fourth inning: after singling, he stole second, and advanced to third on a hard fly out to left field. He then scored on a ground out to third base, though he probably would have been out if Motohiro Shima had been able to hang on to the ball. Ogino looked like he got into Hisashi Iwakuma’s head a little bit, as he seemed distracted when he was on first base.
  • Kim Tae Kyun looks fatter than last year.
  • Iwakuma got himself into a couple of minor jams in the fourth and fifth, but came away unscathed. His fastball velocity wasn’t great though.
  • I wasn’t impressed with Rakuten’s 1B/DH duo: Takeshi Yamasaki started at first, but hisfielding days should rightfully be behind him, and Randy Ruiz looked bad in his first two at bats against Naruse.
  • Just as I was signing off, Shima took Naruse deep for a three-run homer, giving Rakuten a lead they would extend and never relinquish. As great as Naruse is, his control has to be spot on, because he throws so softly that his mistakes can be very costly. Last year he struck out 192, but gave up 29 home runs.

Lotte mounted a comeback against Iwakuma in the ninth, but Justin Speier relieved him and stopped the Marines for his first NPB save. The final score was 6-4.

Other items of note from games I didn’t watch:

  • Matt Murton hit a home run in his first at bat of the season
  • Yu Darvish got lit up for seven earned runs in seven innings, in the worst opening day performance of his career.

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Offseason Changes: Chiba Lotte Marines

» 20 February 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Bob McCrory, Kazunori Yamamoto, Takayuki Takaguchi, a player to be named from Hanshin

Going: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Bryan Corey, Juan Muniz, Akira Otsuka, Koichi Hori, Yuta Shimoshikiryo

Staying: Bill Murphy, Hayden Penn, Tae-Kyun Kim

Summary: You gotta have wa. After a decidedly wa-challenged Bobby Valentine farewell campaign in 2009, first-year manager Norifumi Nishimura made that single word his team’s slogan last year. He was a rewarded with a lineup that scored 88 runs more than they did in 2009, leading to a 13 win upward swing in the standings, a playoff berth and a Cinderella Nippon Series win. One good turn deserves another, so Nishimura has brought back the wa slogan for 2011.

The two big changes for Lotte this year were both subtractions: the Twins-bound Tsuyoshi Nishioka; and Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who is headed to Hanshin after failing to attract a suitable MLB offer. Nishioka leaves the bigger gap to fill, and I’ve already written a bit about the candidates Lotte has to take his place. Kobayashi was outstanding in his first year as Lotte’s closer, but his shoes will be easier to fill. Kobayashi’s departure leaves an opening for a guy like Tatsuya Uchi to step up to, and Bob McCrory was signed as well. Lotte is also still owed free agency compensation from Hanshin, which will either take the form of a player, or cash the Marines can use to sign another import.

Losing Nishioka hurts, but should his absence should be offset from a healthy season from Takashi Ogino. Aside from that the lineup is populated with steady performers. The only obvious regression candidate is the hot-and-cold Toshiaki Imae, who seems to be just as capable of hitting .250 as he is .320, and completely lacks the stabilizing presence of walks in his arsenal. On the plus side, Tae-Kyun Kim could improve in his second trip through the Pacific League, and maybe we’ll see Shoitsu Aomatsu find a little more power.

On the defensive side of the ball, Yuki Karakawa is reportedly healthy which will be a big boost for the rotation. Hayden Penn’s peripherals actually weren’t that different from Bryan Corey’s, but he won a Nippon Series game and should be a solid rotation presence. If those two guys are healthy and effective, the rotation should be deeper, though still not as good as Nippon Ham or Rakuten.

So what are the odds of a Lotte repeat? The Pacific League is incredibly balanced this year, so they have a shot but not a guarantee.

And on a final, semi-related note, our old friend Ryo Shinkawa will be working as Nishioka’s translator in Minnesota this season. Congratulations, Ryo and best of luck to both you and Nishioka!

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Post-Nishioka

» 16 January 2011 » In npb » 5 Comments

Last season, the Chiba Lotte Marines rode the Pacific League’s top offense to a playoff birth and a Cinderella Nippon Series win. This year, the Marines will return with largely the same lineup, though with one notable absence — Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who was posted to the Minnesota Twins. Lotte hasn’t gone outside their organization to find a full-time replacement, so they’ll open camp with a group of in-house options.

  • Takashi Ogino – Based on media reports, second-year man Ogino making the swith from center field seems to be the preferred option pre-camp. And for good reason: as a rookie in 2010, Ogino impressed with the bat before his season ended very prematurely on May 21, and after his injury fellow rookie Ikuhiro Kiyota emerged in center field. Ogino has shown he can hit at the ichi-gun level, but how well he shakes of the injury rust and transitions to the infield will be open question marks this spring.
  • Shunichi Nemoto - Spare a thought for Nemoto. In his only extended look at the ichi-gun level (314 ABs in 2008), he posted a strong .799 OPS, but was was immediately buried on the depth chart by the arrival of Tadahito Iguchi.
  • Kei Hosoya - Lotte’s third option is newly-minted 23 year-old Hosoya. Hosoya spent most of of 2010 at ni-gun, where he was competent at the plate with a .295/.359/.487 line, but lacking in the field, with a .944 fielding percentage and 15 errors in 58 games at short. I always take minor league stats with a grain of salt, but that fielding percentage is concerning

The one infield acquisition Lotte made was getting Takayuki Takaguchi from Nippon Ham, but as far as I can tell he looks like a utility guy. He, along with utility incumbents Keisuke Hayasaka and Hisao Horiuchi, could also see more playing time in Nishioka’s absence.

It would be unrealistic to expect this group to replicate what Nishioka did in 2010, but then again you could say the same about Nishioka himself. It should be possible, however, for some combination of these players approach Nishioka’s pre-2010 level of performance.

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2010 At The Half

» 27 July 2010 » In npb » 5 Comments

This post is a little late — we’re officially in the second half of the season as the first post-All-Star games were played on Monday. The All-Star game is only a symbolic marker anyway though, as all the NPB teams have played at least 87 games out of the 144-game schedule. Still it’s a good time to take stock of the season that’s been played so far. Here are some thoughts conveniently split up into three categories.

A few general observations:

  • The Central League is again a three-team race between Yomiuri, Hanshin, and Chunichi. This makes the playoff race somewhat uninteresting but the playoffs themselves should be good.
  • The Pacific League is much more balanced, with SoftBank, Seibu, and Lotte nine or more games over .500, Orix even and Nippon Ham one game under. Rakuten is in the cellar at 40-49, but they have the second best pitching results in the league and could get into contention for a playoff spot if they start to hit.
  • We’re seeing a strong performances from a number of starting pitchers.

Follow up from previous posts:

  • The answers to my six storylines so far: no, yes, unfortunately not, maybe, yes/not yet, probably none.
  • Yokohama is again a doormat. I thought they’d be a little more competitive this year.
  • My rookies to watch are either injured (Yusei, Kazuhito Futagami, Takashi Ogino), fat (Ryoji Nakata) or Hisayoshi Chono (Chono).
  • A couple of the imports I put on my watch list, Matt Murton and Kim Tae-Gyun, have taken off in Japan. Gio Alvarado is getting it together as well.
  • The veterans I picked to watch have mostly been duds, which isn’t a surprise as I deliberately listed a bunch of guys with question marks. That said, Yoshinobu Takahashi is having a nice bounce back season, Aarom Baldiris has contributed some a performance to Orix, and Sho Nakata is showing some signs of life.

NPB Tracker mid-season awards:

  • My first half MVPs: Central League – Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi), Pacific League - Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu)
  • First half Sawamura Award winner: Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima)
  • First half RoYs: Central League – Chono (Yomiuri), Pacific League – Ogino (Lotte) despite missing significant time on the injured list
  • Breakout players: Central League – Shun Tohno (Yomiuri), Pacific League – T-Okada (Orix)

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Rookies to Watch in 2010

» 23 March 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

In the last of my “things to watch” in 2010 series, today will look at this year’s crop of rookies.

  • Yusei (P, Seibu Lions): The Pitcher Formerly Known as Yusei Kikuchi is kind of a no-brainer for this list. Yusei starts the year at ni-gun but if all goes well I would expect him to spend some time with the top team this year.
  • Ryoji Nakata (1B, Chunichi Dragons): Nakata is fat to the tune of 118kg. He insists his weight is an asset, but I think it’s reasonable to question how it will play over the course of a season.
  • Hisayoshi Chono (OF, Yomiuri Giants): Chono’s old school insistence of playing for the Giants finally paid off when they drafted him last year. I’ve been skeptical of Chono since seeing video of him struggle with Industrial League breaking pitches, but he’s had a good spring. The Giants’ aging outfield could use an injection of youth, so he’ll get his at bats.
  • Kazuhito Futagami (P, Hanshin Tigers): Hanshin’s rotation woes should open up some innings for Futagami, if he were not injured himself
  • Takashi Ogino (OF, Chiba Lotte Marines): Ogino has started Lotte’s first three games and is a robust 5/11 so far. At 24 and with Industrial League experience, like Chono he’s a little more ready to contribute at the top level than some of the younger players.

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Looking Ahead to the Draft

» 05 September 2009 » In npb draft » 7 Comments

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.

Orix

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.

Yokohama

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.

Chiba Lotte

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.

Hanshin

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.

Rakuten

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.

Hiroshima

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.

Seibu

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.

Yakult

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.

SoftBank

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.

Chunichi

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.

Nippon Ham

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.

Yomiuri

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”.

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