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2014 NPB Draft Review

On Thursday October 23rd, the annual NPB first draft took place. It’s been 2 months since the event, but not much of information in the language you can understand is available, I take a look at it here at TDG.

Among many things about the NPB draft that would look strange to our eyes, one of them is the fact that they do it right in the middle of the postseason. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker addressed more details back in 2009.

This year, 104 players got their names called. You can see the entire coverage on the Pacific League guys and the Central League guys, courtesy of the great Yakyubaka.com. Some of them have upsides to be big leaguers in the future. If you’re in a deep-deep dynasty league, they’re probably worth keeping your eye on.

Tomohiro Anraku, RHP

Rakuten Eagles, 1st round

L/R, 6’2″, 187 lbs, DOB: 11/4/1996

The Stuff: low-mid 90s FB, mid 70s SL, upper 60 CV

You may have heard of the Rakuten Golden Eagles’ 1st roudner. Yes, the guy who threw a grand total of 772 pitches in 9 days, including a 232-pitch start, in the 2013 Spring Koshien. At that time, it seemed like his ceiling was stratospheric, up to 96 at the age of 16. But the wings have fallen since then. After topping out at 97 in the following summer’s tournament, his arm exploded. He had soreness in his throwing elbow and was forced to be sidelined for several months, though it had nothing to do with his UCL. That’s what happens when you let a 16-year old throw an astronomical number of pitches in just over a week.

He returned to the mound this past summer, but he looked like the shell of his former self. Losing 5 ticks of his fastball,  he was throwing a bunch of breaking balls, including a brand new splitter and had turned into a pichability guy. While 92 MPH is still an eye-popping mark for a Japanese high school arm, he’s not the monster he once was.

It depends on how he could bring back his blazing heater. If he can regain the velocity, he could dominate the NPB and we’ll eventually see him on the stateside. But it’s highly doubtful to me. His arm is a time bomb that could explode again at any moment. At this point, he could still be a front line starter in NPB, but not a future MLB TORP. All we can do is to hope the Eagles, Masahiro Tanaka’s former employer, develop Anraku into the second coming of the Yankee ace.

Kohei Arihara, RHP

Nippon Ham Fighters, 1st round

R/R, 6’2″, 198 lbs, DOB: 8/11/1992

The stuff: low-mid 90s FB, SL, CH, CV, CT

Entering the draft, the right hander was regarded as the best college arm in the class. He features a fastball up to 97, mixes various breaking balls with above average command, as his career 201/66 K/BB ratio in 270 IP at Wasada University suggests. If you look at his last 3 seasons, he posted an even better 105/20 K/BB in 118.1 IP. The con of him is an elbow injury kept him sidelined for most of his final college season.  While Arihara’s certainly far away from contributing at the MLB level, he could be a middle-of-the-rotation guy with a solid K/BB ratio if he does get there.

Kona Takahashi, RHP

Seibu Lions, 1st round

R/R, 6’2″, 181 lbs, DOB: 2/3/1997

The stuff: upper 80s FB, SL, CV, splitter

Takahashi  led his team all the way to the top in the Summer Koshien as a high school junior – the same feat as some hurler named Masahiro Tanaka did. He throws a fastball that can top out at 92 MPH and multiple potential plus breaking pitches and has the ability to throw them in the zone.

Fumiya Ono, RHP

Rakuten Golden Eagles, 2nd round

R/R, 5’9″, 156 lbs, DOB: 10/23/1996

The stuff: upper 80s-low 90s FB, SL, CH, CT

Despite his small frame, Ono throws hard, up to 95 MPH. He can pile up strikeouts, though he needs to work on command and pitch more efficiently. With his high ceiling, he could be a dominant closer even if he failed as a starter.

Kazuma Okamoto, 1B/3B

Yomiuri Giants, 1st round

R/R, 6’0″, 209 lbs, DOB: 6/30/1996

The right handed slugger possesses the best raw power in the class by a wide margin with 73 long balls under his belt in his high school career. Also can hit for average, uses the whole field. In contrast, he struggles with the glove as many scouts see his future home at 1B.  If he lives up to his upside, he’d be the best power bat in NPB.

Shota Tatsuta, RHP 

Nippon Ham Fighters, 6th round

R/R, 5’11”, 181 lbs, DOB: 6/30/1996

This past summer, The Wall Street Journal dug deep on the Kinki area high school righty. Unlike his many other peers, he refused over workload that typical Japanese high school arms usually get. He has intriguing stuff for a 6th rounder, with advanced pitchability.

Yuki Matsumoto, RHP

Softbank Hawks, 1st round

L/R, 6’0″, 176 lbs, DOB: 4/14/1996

The stuff: FB (T 93), SL, CV, CH

With the standing out fastball velocity (among Japanese high schoolers) and the ability to hit for power from the left side, Matsumoto easily draws an Shohei Otani comp. Though unlike Otani, he’s likely to stick to pitching at the professional level. He, too, suffered a sore elbow this past summer, but once he’s back to being healthy, he has a potential to be a TORP at the NPB level.

Yasuaki Yamasaki, RHP

Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars, 1st round

L/R, 5’9, 163 lbs, DOB: 10/2/1992

The Asia University product has  enough arsenal to start , but he fits better at the back end of bullpen.

Sachiya Yamazaki, LHP

Orix Buffaloes, 1st round

L/L, 6’1″, 190 lbs, DOB: 9/9/1992

At the age of 22, the southpaw is a survivor of brain tumor. He’s a high floor guy with good odds to stick as a starter for long.

The Author

Kazuto Yamazaki

Kazuto Yamazaki

10 Comments

  1. December 23, 2014 at 11:12 am — Reply

    Can we have maybe comparable Major League impact for some of these guys? That’ll be sweet.

    • December 30, 2014 at 7:39 am — Reply

      As I noted in the article, Arihara could be a solid MORP. Other guys are either too far away or have limited impact.

  2. W
    December 23, 2014 at 9:18 pm — Reply

    Thanks for this great info. What’s your guess on when Shohei Otani gets posted?

    • December 24, 2014 at 8:20 am — Reply

      My guess is he gets posted after 2017 or ’18.

  3. jon
    December 24, 2014 at 5:21 pm — Reply

    How long would it take a guy like anraku to make it stateside assuming all goes well?

    • December 24, 2014 at 8:30 pm — Reply

      Anraku’s at least 9 years away from international free agency. Assuming he’ll need some time to regain his health, it’d take 2 or so more years in addition to that. We can hope Rakuten lets him go early via the posting system.

      • December 29, 2014 at 8:57 pm — Reply

        That is fantastic how you can access the NPB so easily, great article

  4. January 2, 2015 at 2:03 am — Reply

    Is there any blowback for Anraku’s HS coach? How does any coach exploit a child to that degree? I understand there is a different philosophy, but his IP total at that age is egregious and may have cost the kid his lively hood.
    Are there any parent testimonials? In the Us, parents are very involved as a talent like Anraku arises.
    Is there any hope for these kids over there to get some relief?

    • January 12, 2015 at 8:26 am — Reply

      Anraku’s coach said that mental could overcome physical workload, which is utterly stupid. He passed away from cancer in last September.

      Some coaches and likes are trying to limit the kids’ workload, but it’ll take a long time.

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