|How often will Mori play as a catcher?|
Ginjiro Sumitani: The starting catcher has been a hole offensively, but is one of the best defensive catchers in NPB. Tanabe isn't scared to pinch hit for him in crunch time.
Masatoshi Okada: Okada got an extended look in August when Sumitani wasn't hitting and it worked well for his bat. He has above average defense, but nowhere near the level of what Sumitani brings. An injury after sliding into a base sidelined him for a month, but he could have been the starter for more games had he been healthy.
Tomoya Mori: This is where it gets interesting. Mori's natural position is being a catcher, but the Lions haven't played him there since 2014, his rookie season. He was originally the battery mate of Shintaro Fujinami, the Hanshin Tigers starting pitcher at Osaka Toin High School. If the Lions want to play Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura at the Designated Hitter position, Mori would have to go in the field if they want his bat.
The Lions have had Mori play catcher for a handful of games at the ni-gun level last year and he is listed with the other catchers on the depth chart. With him practicing as a catcher, we can presume they will start him there from now on. In Miyazaki's spring training camp, he is working with the other catchers. They can still insert him in right field if necessary.
These players listed are essentially roster filler to stay in ni-gun. Only injuries will have them come up to the ichi-gun.
Takanori Hoshi: Hoshi is a veteran who was previously at the back of the depth chart of the Yomiuri Giants. Unfortunately, it looks like he will remain in ni-gun as the older catcher. He got some work in Australia with the Melbourne Aces being productive, but it won't be enough.
Tatsuyuki Uemoto: Uemoto has been a backup for most of his career, but saw significant playing time mostly in 2010. He only comes up most likely if there's an injury, like we saw with Okada last season.
Shota Nakata: Nakata has been with the team since 2008, but has only seen limited time in 2012 and 2015. He has 10 career games at the ichi-gun level, including eight appearances last season.
Komei Fujisawa: Fujisawa was a former ikusei draft pick promoted to the 70-man roster.
The Lions' catcher situation shouldn't be a problem for 2016. The only issue and controversy is if Sumitani's hitting is so poor, that it draws a reaction from management to play someone else. It's still possible that the team is grooming Mori for the long term, as he is only 20 years old.
Defense shouldn't be an issue and we would expect Mori to be fine if they ever put him behind the plate this year. While we haven't seen him catch much, the Lions will want to play him for his dangerous bat as a weapon.
Manager Norio Tanabe
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