Representatives of the twelve NPB teams got together on October 23rd to draft the next generation of pro baseball players. The Swallows came into the night with their name being mentioned in conjunction with RHP Tomohiro Anraku of Saibi High School in Ehime, and RHP Kohei Arihara of Waseda University. Anraku was the star of the 2013 Spring Koshien and got some English press for the sheer number of pitches he threw. Despite have electric stuff at such a young age, the sheer number of pitches he threw in high school had many worried. Arihara was seen as the safer choice coming out of university with more polish albeit with a lower ceiling. As draft day approached, more teams publicly announced their intention to pick Arihara, while the Swallows stuck to their line that they’d pick between Anraku and Arihara. Some began to speculate that the Swallows might manage to pick Anraku uncontested. After the twelve teams named their first picks the Swallows found themselves in a draw against Rakuten for Anraku’s negotiation rights. (Four teams put in for Arihara.) Newly appointed manager Mitsuru Manaka represented the Swallows at the draw, and like his predecessor, came away with the losing envelope. The loss meant the Swallows lost out on their top pick for the fifth draft in a row. Although it should be noted the Swallows’ loss in the Yuki Saito sweepstakes eventually lead to the drafting of Tetsuto Yamada. After losing out on the the big potential pick in Anraku the Swallows settled on a strategy of drafting players that could contribute immediately. The following players were picked by the Swallows in the 2014 draft.
2014 Swallows' Draftees
|Rd||Name||Pos.||Last Team||T/B||Date of Birth (Age)|
|1||Shingo Takeshita||P||Yamaha||L/L||October 20, 1990 (24)|
|2||Ren Kazahari||P||Tokyo University of Agriculture (Okhotsk)||R/R||February 26, 1993 (21)|
|3||Koji Yamakawa||C||Fukuoka Jyoto High School||R/R||November 15, 1996 (17)|
|4||Tetsuya Terada||P||Kagawa Olive Guyners||R/R||April 2, 1987 (27)|
|5||Yusaku Nakamoto||P||Hakuwa Victorys||L/L||December 12, 1988 (25)|
|6||Hiroaki Dohi||P||Honda Suzuka||R/S||November 16, 1990 (23)|
|7||Izuki Hara||OF||Daiichi Institute of Technology||R/R||July 26, 1992 (22)|
|I-1||Shogo Nakashima||P||Fukuoka University||R/R||June 15, 1992 (22)|
After losing out on Anraku the Swallows took lefty pitcher Shingo Takeshita from Yamaha. Takeshita is noted for having a good fastball. Every source I have read on Takeshita notes his fastball but notes his lack of strong complementary breaking ball(s). His past attempts to develop a strong breaking ball have apparently ended in failure and he has decided to focus on becoming a strong fastball pitcher. It remains to be seen whether his fastball will be able stand up to the skill and scrutiny of pro ball. Takeshita is capable of starting and relieving and the Swallows have not yet commented on how they intend to use him.
Ren Kazahari hails from a town of 6500 in Iwate and moved to the harsh climates of the Okhotsk campus of the Tokyo University of Agriculture for school. Kazahari has a fastball that can reach 151 km/h and can get strikeouts with it when combined with his curveball. Kazahari’s scouting report reads somewhat like a right-handed version of Takeshita. While he was a starter in university, the Swallows may decide to use him out of the bullpen.
Koji Yamakawa is the lone high schooler drafted the by the Swallows. Yamakawa is a catcher drafted for his defensive abilities. As an offensive prospect there were other high school catchers that were rated more highly, but Yamakawa’s defensive abilities are considered top notch. The video below shows Yamakawa throwing to second in non-game situations, not bad, but not super-impressive either. Even with the potential departure of Aikawa, It’s unlikely that Yamakawa will see any first team time next season.
While Tetsuya Terada played with the independent Kagawa Olive Guyners last season, he previously spent a few years with the independent Niigata Albirex while Shingo Takatsu played and managed them. Terada was the ace for both the Albirex and the Olive Guyners and has been named as one of the top right handers in Japanese independent ball. Despite his considerable independent league pedigree as a starter, including throwing a no hitter in 2013, Terada has gone undrafted in previous years. Terada apparently talked with his Takatsu, whom he considers a mentor, earlier this year asking whether he should throw out of the bullpen to appeal to NPB teams, but Takatsu encouraged him to keep starting. Terada has been used as a reliever but is primarily seen as a starter with an 140 km/h fastball with a good slider and changeup. It’ll be interesting to see if the reunion with Takatsu bears any fruit for the Swallows. Expect to see Terada throw for the Swallows next season. Terada is 27 which is pretty old for a draftee, so he’s only going to get one or two chances to show his stuff.
The Swallows do like lefties that throw from non-standard angles. Yusaku Nakamoto is a three-quarter release pitcher who will no doubt compete with the likes of Akiyoshi and Kyuko for a spot in the Swallows’ bullpen. Nakamoto throws a biting fastball, changeup, and slider. That form is no doubt hard to read for hitters, so expect him to have the advantage the first time around.
Hiroaki Dohi is your typical industrial league pitcher with a average fastball and an array of breaking pitches including a slider, curve, shuuto, cutter, and a forkball. Dohi is a relative to former Lions pitcher Yoshihiro Doi (same characters different readings on the last name). The Swallows expect him to compete for a spot in the rotation or bullpen right away.
Izumi Hara is a big player, measuring 190 cm and weighing in at 95 kg (Hatake’s listed weight BTW). Hara is seen as a potential home run hitter in the mold of Takeya Nakamura (albeit 15 cm taller). He is also said to have a cannon for an arm, but I haven’t been able to find any game video to confirm any of the hype. Instead of game film, you can see video from his draft press conference so you can see his size. Don’t expect Hara to play with the top team next season, but he’ll definitely attract attention at Toda.
Shogo Nakashima was chosen as a developmental player on the strength of his fastball. The Fukuoka University grad throws in the mid-to-high 140’s and has a slider, although he has issues with control. It remains to be seen if the Swallows can polish up the righty into an effective pro pitcher. The Swallows don’t have a great track record when it comes to developing ikusei players.
None of these picks are final until they put their seal on a pro contract. That is likely just a formality, but it’s worth noting. After losing out on Anraku the Swallows went into “who can contribute in 2015?” mode. I expect all the pitchers except for Nakashima will be considered for top team duty next season. Of all the players drafted, it seems like Hara has the highest ceiling and the rest are probably expected to be solid role players. In last year’s draft recap I noted that the Swallows might be done picking players born in the 1980’s, but the children of the 80’s got two representatives in the Swallows draft class of 2014. Now that the draft is done it’s time to see if the free agent rumors that have been tagged to the Swallows will come true.