2011 NPB Draft Preview: Players to Watch

The 2011 NPB Draft will happen tomorrow evening at the Grand Prince Hotel starting from 17:00.

For those of you who are new to the Japanese draft format and are not familiar with how it works, check out the post I wrote last year about the process. I’ll be presenting a few players that may be of interest to Swallows fans and draftniks in general. Like last year, I have not seen any of the players I will be presenting. Instead, I will be summarizing data that is available in the Japanese media and draft sites. This year’s draft doesn’t seem as deep as last years, but there are a couple of big prospects that are on many team’s radar. However, it seems the Swallows have already chosen their man.

Shuhei Takahashi

The Swallows’ front office has confirmed that they will be attempting to select the lefty shortstop from Tokai Kofu High School. Takahashi, with his 71 career homeruns, has been compared to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo of the Yokohama BayStars. Every draft magazine and site I have read raves about Takahashi’s incredible bat speed. Unlike his high school peers, Takahashi has been swinging a wooden bat since his first year. He was part of the Japanese team that played in the IBAF U-18 Asian Championships that were held in Yokohama earlier this year, and was named MVP of the tournament. His ability to hit to all fields and for impressive power, has the Swallows pegging him as the kind of talent that appears only once every 3-4 years. While most other teams will be going for the Big 3 college pitchers coming out in this draft, the Swallows seem to be content with their crop of young pitchers (Yoshinori, Muranaka and Akagawa) and will be going for offensive power in this draft. The Dragons are the only other team that have confirmed their intention to draft Takahashi, thus it looks likely that the Swallows will have a 50% chance of landing their man tomorrow. Although the Swallows think up to 4 teams will name Takahashi with their initial pick. As a plus, it seems that Takahashi is a Swallows fan and has said he would like to play for the Swallows.

The Next Swallow?

Should the Swallows lose out on Takahashi it looks likely that the Swallows will go after a pitcher. Exactly which pitcher(s) the Swallows have an interest in is not very clear. The following names have come up as possible Swallows picks in various draft sources. Unlike last year, I’ll keep the descriptions short, but I’ll compensate by including YouTube clips. These players are in no way the only players the Swallows have shown interest in, and the draft will no doubt feature a number of surprises.

Kazuo Ito

The tall right-handed pitcher from Tokyo International University is seen as a pro ready fastball pitcher. His fastball tops out at 150 km/h, but not much has been written about his other pitches. His strong performance in the University Championships has raised his stock considerably.

Yoshinao Kamata

The right-handed pitcher from Kanazawa High School in Ishikawa is seen as a high upside pitcher with a strong 150+ km/h fastball and a developing breaking ball. Kamata is generally seen as needing a few years of seasoning in ni-gun before being able to contribute to the top team.

Yuhei Nakaushiro

The southpaw from Kinki University throws a 150 km/h fastball from a side arm angle. His ability to throw from different angles from the left side is a valued ability, and is seen as a pro-ready reliever.

Ken Togame

Is considered one of the best Industrial League prospects in this draft. The right-handed pitcher for JR East throws a 149 km/h from a sidearm. The durable pitcher can throw a wide array of breaking balls but none are as impressive as his fastball.

Kosuke Tomita

The right-handed closer for the Shikoku Island League’s Kagawa Olive Guyners throws a 152 km/h fastball and seems to have drawn high interest from Swallows scouts.

Felipe Natel

The 21 year old Brazillian right-hander who currently pitches for Yamaha in the Industrial League hails from the same high school that produced Rafael Fernandes. Natel is a fastball/slider pitcher that may garner some interest from us, as all 3 Brazillian player in NPB are on the Swallows roster. Because Natel has met the NPB’s residency requirements, and thus is draft-eligible, he would not count towards the import limit.


About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.