On October 24th, the NPB conducted it’s annual draft. As we wrote in our draft preview, the Swallows had gone into the draft with public interest in Yuki Matsui and Daichi Osera. After all the initial picks had been announced, the Swallows found themselves in competition with the Hiroshima Carp and Hanshin Tigers for the services of Osera. Matsui was named by the Nippon Ham Fighters, Yokohama BayStars, SoftBank Hawks, Chunichi Dragons, and the Rakuten Eagles. Manager Junji Ogawa went to draw for Osera along with Carp scout Kei Tamura and Tigers’ manager Yutaka Wada. If post-draft interviews are to be believed Tamura’s strong feelings toward Osera, cultivated from scouting him for five years, lead to the Carp scout drawing the winning envelope. The Swallows continued their streak of not getting their top pick which dates back to the 2008 draft. The team proceeded to name Kokugakuin RHP Toshihiro Sugiura as their make up pick. Having lost out to Rakuten in the Matsui sweepstakes, SoftBank had similar ideas. Luckily for the Swallows, Ogawa managed to draw the winning envelope and got their (second-choice) man. What follows is a brief summary of all of our picks.
2013 Swallows' Draftees
|Rd||Name||Position||Last Team||T/B||Date of Birth (Age)|
|1||Toshihiro Sugiura||P||Kokugakuin University||R/R||February 25, 1992 (21)|
|2||Naomichi Nishiura||SS||Hosei University||R/R||April 11, 1991 (22)|
|3||Ryo Akiyoshi||P||Panasonic||R/R||March 21, 1989 (24)|
|4||Keiji Iwahashi||P||Kyoto Sangyo University||L/L||April 23, 1991 (22)|
|5||Yuto Koyama||P||Kanzei High School||L/L||September 1, 1995 (18)|
|6||Ryota Fujii||C||CityLight Okayama||R/L||Sepember 30, 1988 (25)|
Sugiura was rated highly by many sources going into the draft. After going undrafted out of high school, the tall right-hander joined Kokugakuin’s baseball team. Sugiura throws a fastball that tops out at 147 km/h along with a curve, slider, and splitter. In college exhibited good control, painting the corners and averaged 1.07 BB per game. Scouts have mentioned his smooth form, although Sugiura has admitted to making adjustments to his form after getting hit hard during the Japan-US University baseball series. The adjustments lead to a rocky fall season which saw his ERA balloon to 3.48 after recording 1.71 in the spring. The Swallows expect Sugiura to compete for a spot in the rotation. Sugiura will join former Kokugakuin teammate Ryota Yachi (drafted last year) in the pros. It has been reported the Swallows intend to issue number 18 to Sugiura if/when he signs.
Every source I have read agrees that Nishiura is an outstanding defensive shortstop. After some early struggles at Hosei University, Nishiura finally began to show greater offensive production that was expected of him when he went 17-for-21 during the Nara prefectural tournament in his senior season in high school. This spring, Nishiura hit .320 and hit a personal best 3 home runs (tied for the league lead), lead the league with 18 RBIs, and made the Tokyo Best 6 Best Nine. Although his numbers fell back down in the fall as he hit .189 and lead the league with 14 strikeouts. Nishiura is still a work in progress when it comes to offense, but given the defensive weaknesses the Swallows displayed last year, it appears that the Swallows will give Nishiura an opportunity to compete for playing time at short.
After an injury riddled college career, Akiyoshi joined Panasonic and worked hard to increase his durability and stamina. Akiyoshi throws a mid-140 km/h fastball, slider, and two kinds of changeups with a sidearm motion. Akiyoshi pitched for Japan in the Asian Baseball Championships allowing no runs over eight innings over three games.Akiyoshi was also key to Panasonic reaching the quarterfinals in back-to-back Intercity Baseball Tournaments, the most competitive Industrial League tournament, the last two years. As with most Industrial League draftees, expect Akiyoshi to pitch with the top team right away.
The first thing that immediately catches your eye watching Iwahashi is his quick windup. It looks like Iwahashi just kicks his leg up and throws. The unorthodox motion makes it hard for the batter to see the ball coming out of Iwahashi’s hand. Despite his imposing frame, Iwahashi doesn’t throw very hard. Iwahashi’s fastball tops out at 141 km/h, but generally settles in the mid-130’s. The slow fastball means there’s less change of speed between it and Iwahashi’s breaking balls. Iwahashi uses his good control to exploit the subtle differences in his pitches to jam batters and get them out. It seems scouts are divided as to whether Iwahashi can make it without a big league fastball, but expect the Swallows to give him a shot next season at least in the bullpen.
The tall southpaw from Kanzei High School impressed many with his 142 km/h fastball. Koyama has also shown good control of his breaking pitches but will need time to develop into a first team pitcher. Koyama showed tremendous improvement through his high school career and pro scouts expect him to keep improving. Needless to say, don’t expect to see Koyama pitch for the top team next season.
Fujii was the only player drafted by the Swallows that wasn’t featured in my draft magazine, but reading scouting reports on the internet he seems like a strong defensive catcher and the ultimate utility man. Fujii is a left-hitting catcher that is fast enough to steal bases. With his high athletic ability, Fujii can play in the infield and outfield and has a strong enough arm to throw out base stealers. Sounds like Fujii will get a chance to ride the bench as third/emergency catcher, as his apparent versatility will give the Swallows roster versatility that would otherwise be lost carrying a third catcher.
As usual, none of these picks are final until they sign a pro contract. That is likely just a formality, but it’s worth noting. Despite losing out on Osera, it looks like the Swallows got the players they wanted. We’ll see how all of these picks fit into the Swallows’ plans once spring camp begins. On a completely random note, this might be the last year the Swallows draft anyone born in the 1980’s. As with last year’s draft, I expect to see many of these players to see some time with the top team right away.