Friday, October 21, 2016

2016 NPB Draft: A summary of each Lions pick

The Saitama Seibu Lions ended up taking six players from the 2016 NPB Draft. This will be the main summary of each draft pick for the year. Wes is expected to put a more in-depth film study for two of the team's draft picks.


P Tatsuya Imai (今井 達也)

High school: Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi Prefecture)

Date of Birth: May 9, 1998

Height: 180 cm (5' 11")

Weight: 70 kg (154.3 lbs)

Throws/bats: Right/Right

Imai was the 2016 Summer Koshien champion as he carried his high school pitching every single inning during the tournament. He upped his stock where several teams were considering him, but it was only the Lions who nominated him with their initial first round pick and went unopposed. Lions senior director and former manager Hisanobu Watanabe said it was a "unanimous" decision to take Imai with no hesitation.

The Lions front office sees Imai as a future ace within three to five years. On our draft board, we rated him as the highest high school pitcher in terms of upside. A more indepth summary of his arsenal and abilities will be seen later. Imai joins Kona Takahashi as the second Koshien ace to win the tournament on the Lions roster as the latter did this in 2013 as a second year student.

Imai is a very intriguing option for the long term, as he can hit 152 KPH (94 mph) on the gun already. He will have to work on his control as with every young pitcher, but with some years of training with a professional regimen, Imai has a chance to be the team's ace going forward. Personally, I'd like him to get his baptism by fire with the ichi-gun in June after interleague play for 2017. It will take time, but the upside is there by having two plus pitches and not being dependent on the fastball at a young age.


P Shunta Nakatsuka (中塚 駿太)

College: Hakuoh University (Tochigi Prefecture)

High School: Tsukuba Shuei (Ibaraki Prefecture)

Date of Birth: December 26, 1994

Height: 191 cm (6' 3")

Weight: 105 kg (235 lbs)

Throws/bats: Right/Right

At 6-5, 235 pounds, Shunta Nakatsuka is one of the largest players in the entire draft class. He's already the second tallest player on the Lions only behind Ernesto Mejia. With his body and size, Nakatsuka can already hit 157 kph (97mph) on the gun and has a tremendous fastball. His slider and fork ball will be a work in progress, but with his velocity, there is quite some upside and the front office of the Lions agreed in a statement.

If his control is decent, I would like Nakatsuka to play in the bullpen for 2017 to get the most out of him. It won't hurt to have a guy blow away opposing batters with a strong fast ball late in the game. Here is a video of Nakatsuka from a TV show. He won't be an Okawari anytime soon, but he can definitely eat and mostly says the word a lot.


IF Sosuke Genda (源田 壮亮)

Industrial League Team: Toyota Motors (Aichi Prefecture)

College: Aichi Gakuin University (Aichi Prefecture)

High School: Oita Shogyo (Oita Prefecture)

Date of Birth: February 16, 1993

Height: 179 cm (5' 10")

Weight: 73 kg (161 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Left

Genda can play shortstop and with his experience, it's possible he can be an immediate contributor for the Lions. His scouting report shows that he was a gold glove winner multiple times in his career and has also won the stolen base title in the past. The Lions liked his leadership as well and by working with manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji, his defense could be even better.

For 2017, he should compete for the starting shortstop position with Shuta Tonosaki and Nien Ting Wu. With his speed already being strong, they can make him a pinch runner or defensive replacement at minimum.

On a fun trivial note, his nickname is "Ponyo" from his teammates at Toyota Motors due to his first name "Sosuke" being the main character from the Studio Ghibli film known as Ponyo.


OF Shohei Suzuki (鈴木 将平)

High school: Shizuoka (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Date of Birth: May 20, 1998

Height: 175 cm (5' 9")

Weight: 75 kg (165 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Left/Left

Most scouting websites like his upside, seeing him hit for average with decent range and speed for his age. He was the No. 3 hitter for the U18 Samurai Japan. The Lions like him as a triple threat with hitting, speed and defense, which is will be a work in progress for the long term.

Most likely, we won't see him in 2017 like Aito Otaki from last year. This could be the heir to Takumi Kuriyama in the future in terms of being an outfielder, but it will take time.

Suzuki also has a fallback option to be a pitcher, where he was capable of playing both positions in high school.


P Katsunori Hirai (平井 克典)

Industrial League team: Honda Suzuka (Mie Prefecture)

College: Aichi Sangyo University (Aichi Prefecture)

High School: Hiryu High School (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Date of Birth: December 20, 1991

Height: 180 cm (5' 11")

Weight: 83 kg (183 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

Hirai is a three-quarter arm slot pitcher and the oldest player in the Lions class. However, he wasn't the oldest player taken in the entire 2016 NPB Draft. He tops out at 146 kph (91 mph) and was a starter in both college and with Honda Suzuka.

The Lions think his fastball and slider could be good for the bullpen. He should compete for a reliever role with the Lions. This is the second straight year the Lions take a player who will be 25 on Opening Day. Last year, they took Naoaki Matsumoto out of the Shikoku Island League thinking he can help the bullpen.


P Ichiro Tamura (田村 伊知郎)

College: Rikkyo University (Tokyo)

High School: Hotoku Gakuin (Hyogo Prefecture)

Date of Birth: September 19, 1994

Height: 173 cm (5' 8")

Weight: 80 kg (176 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Left

The Lions have an Ichiro we can root for! Tamura is a potential sleeper who can top 150 kph (93 mph) on the gun. He was a starter at Rikkyo University but also saw time out of the bullpen for some games. His senior year saw a rise in his stock where he was an important pitcher for them.

The Lions liked his fastball and think he has some upside with his fork ball and splitter. He will go through control issues most likely, but he has already drawn comparisons to Yokohama DeNA Baystars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki. While we don't expect him to be a closer, he has a chance to earn a job in the bullpen for the ichi-gun in 2017.



Unlike last year's 10 man class, the Lions took several players who can help for the present, but also found value in the upside to taking Imai in the first round. The 2015 class should be better with another year under their belt even though they were all projects.

It's possible that Tamura, Genda, Nakatsuka and Hirai can all see ichi-gun playing time in 2017 while Imai is expected to go through short term growing pains. I personally wanted seven players, but with four guys who can contribute immediately, it's good that the Lions made an effort for any concerns.

Some will argue the Lions were a shortstop away from competing last year with the errors and hitting issues at the position. Genda should bring a fresh face and if he won the starting role with great defense and adequate hitting, we would take that right away.

The Lions also needed rotation and/or bullpen help and it appears Tamura, Hirai and Nakatsuka can come in if they earn the roles. Depth is always key and it doesn't hurt to replenish some pitchers in what was a thin unit by the middle of last year.

There should be a few foreign pitcher signings to go along with this class, but it's very clear that the Lions see Shinsaburo Tawata, Kona Takahashi and Tatsuya Imai as the potential "big 3" of the future with Yusei Kikuchi leading the way. We hope they can bring back Takayuki Kishi as he enters free agency soon.


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