Last month, on the 25th, suits from all the major teams gathered in a hotel ballroom to draw/pick the negotiation rights to the next generation of NPB players. The Swallows came into the night vowing to pick RHP Shintaro Fujinami from Osaka Toin High School. We here at Tsubamegun are so focused on pro ball that we couldn’t really tell you whether this was a wise choice or not. But the fact that other teams were interested enough in Fujinami meant we wanted him. Unfortunately, Lotte, Orix, and Hanshin all wanted Fujinami and the Swallows were forced to draw for the youngster’s negotiation rights. Ogawa drew for Fujinami wearing a hideously bright tie, and couldn’t draw the lucky envelope. Fujinami’s envelope was drawn by Hanshin keeping the youngster in Koshien. The Swallows subsequently picked 7 players and we’ll be introducing them below. As I mentioned before, we’re not experts on amateur/semi-pro ball here in Japan, so the opinions presented below are distilled from other sources. So without further ado, here are your (probable) future Swallows!
2012 Swallows' Draftees
|Rd||Name||Position||Last Team||T/B||Date of Birth (Age)|
|1||Taichi Ishiyama||P||Yamaha||R/R||September 1, 1988 (24)|
|2||Yasuhiro Ogawa||P||Soka University||R/R||May 16, 1990 (22)|
|3||Kengo Tagawa||P||Kochi Chuo High School||R/L||May 22, 1994 (18)|
|4||Masaya Emura||P||Y-Tec||L/L||July 5, 1987 (25)|
|5||Yudai Hoshino||C||Kagawa Olive Guyners||R/R||October 19, 1988 (24)|
|6||Ryota Yachi||SS||Kokugakuin University||R/R||February 3, 1991 (21)|
|7||Tatsuya Oba||P||Hitachi||R/R||March 10, 1989 (23)|
The Swallows’ consolation prize after losing out on Fujinami was industrial league RHP Taichi Ishiyama. Ishiyama didn’t seem to be on many people’s radar as my printed drafted magazine didn’t even have an entry on him, and Draft Repo only had a relatively limited profile on the right-hander. But apparently the Swallows’ scouts had Ishiyama listed as the top right-handed arm in the industrial leagues. Ishiyama throws a fastball that tops out at 148 km/h and can also throwa slider, fork, and curve. The Swallows are looking for Ishiyama to start and provide back-of-the-rotation help immediately.
Yasuhiro Ogawa from Soka University was being projected by some to be a potential first round pick after the dust settled on all the top prospects. The short right-hander has an unorthodox leg-kick in his delivery that makes timing his delivery difficult. Ogawa’s fastball tops out at around 147 km/h and he throws a myriad of undefined breaking balls. While Ogawa didn’t always face top-flight competition at Soka he put up good numbers as a university pitcher. Ogawa’s unorthodox delivery and quality stuff will probably mean that he can make an immediate impact, but the question will be whether he can maintain a high level of play once a full scouting report is drawn up on him. The Japanese Nolan Ryan, as the Japanese media has dubbed him, will probably find himself on the top team sometime during the next season.
Kengo Tagawa was the lone high schooler picked by the Swallows in this year’s draft. The tall righty (187 cm) pitcher can throw decent heat clocked in at around 146 km/h. The coverted outfielder already has a sharp slider and the Swallows apparently see Tagawa as a high ceiling prospect and potential future ace. As with most high school players, don’t expect Tagawa to make a splash any time soon.
The Swallows continued picking pitchers with their fourth pick, as they picked up LHP Masaya Emura from Y-Tec of the industrial leagues. No doubt the Swallows would like Emura to be this year’s version of Kentaro Kyuko. What Emura lacks in velocity (Max 138 km/h), he makes up for in good movement on all his pitches including his fastball. The Swallows are looking for Emura to step in to provide yet another southpaw out of the bullpen. As the saying goes, you can never have enough lefty pitchers.
The Swallows finally took a position player with their fifth pick, choosing Yudai Hoshino a catcher from the Kagawa Olive Guyners of the independent Shikoku Island League. Hoshino comes highly rated for his defensive and decision-making abilities. Hoshino has a strong arm and a quick throw to second. Not much information is available on Hoshino’s offensive abilities except for a bare stat line from the last Island League season. The Hoshino pick is an insurance pick to cover the retirement of Masakazu Fukukawa, and give the Swallows an option in case Aikawa, Nakamura, and Kawamoto all go down with injury. While the latter situation may seem unlikely, the Swallows came awfully close to hitting that point late last season.
Ryota Yachi seems to be another project drafted by the Swallows. The shortstop from Kokugakuin University gets high praise from the Swallows for his athletic and fielding ability. While the Swallows’ own player introduction doesn’t include any comments on Yachi’s hitting ability, he did put up good numbers for second division Kokugakuin. We’ll see how well Yachi adapts to pro-pitching but I doubt we’ll be seeing Yachi with the top team any time soon.
The last pick for the Swallows in the 2012 draft was another Industrial League pitcher. Tatsuya Oba is a tall righty with a blazing fastball and killer forkball. While Oba has control issues, I think the Swallows are hoping Oba can become an immediate impact relief pitcher that can clear up his own mistakes with strikeouts.
After being hit hard by injuries last year, the Swallows went for players that could provide immediate depth in case the team suffers from more injuries next season. While most baseball drafts usually take several seasons to truly evaluate, it looks like the Swallows expect this year’s draft class to contribute sooner than usual. The Swallows also did not participate in the ikusei portion of the draft this year, and the team may be moving in the direction of not carrying ikusei players. Also, none of the players mentioned above have technically signed with the team, the team only holds exclusive negotiation rights to them. Although there’s no indication at this time that any of these players will choose not to sign with the Swallows