2015 NPB Prospect Rankings, Nos.16-30
This is the 3rd and final piece of my 3-part NPB prospect rankings for the 2015 season. Most of guys in this tier are 6-8 years away from producing at the MLB level, or even some of them will never come over to the States. A post about these players may seem overly obsessive, but as far as there are chances for them to be big league assets, learning about them is never a bad thing. In case you missed, here are rankings 1-5 and 16-30.
16) Yasuhiro Ogawa, SP, Yakult Swallows (Age: 24)
The Japanese media calls the righty “Ryan”, because of his Nolan Ryan-esque leg kick. Though I don’t see not much similarity in his mechanics other than that. Unlike Ryan, Ogawa has shown the ability to locate, posted a 3.69 K/BB (247/67) along with a 3.13 ERA in 293.1 IP in his young career. The con about him is his small frame, which is listed at 5’7″, 176 lbs which may force him to end up in the bullpen at a higher level.
17) Hirokazu Sawamura, SP/RP, Yomiuri Giants (Age: 27)
The former Chuo University star with a low 90s fastball has recently moved to the back-end of the pen, served as Yomiuri’s closer since the start of the season. I think pitching fewer innings can help him throw harder and miss more bats, make him a better future MLB asset.
18) Daichi Osera, SP, Hiroshima Carp (Age: 23)
Once Kenta Maeda takes his talent to the big leagues, Osera is likely to replace him as the Carp’s ace. The Central League’s ROY winner last year throws a fastball that averages 91, mixes a slider, curve, change up, and a cutter with above average command. He doesn’t miss enough bats to be a true ace, as he posted a 6.9 K/9 in 2014. But I think he’ll grow into an MLB 4-5 starter in the future.
19) Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, OF, Yokohama DeNA Baystars (Age: 23)
I’m a sucker for his bat-to-ball skill, as well as plus raw power. The slugger from Yokohama HS (which is also Daisuke Matsuzaka’s alma mater) enjoyed a breakout campaign, in which he hit .300/.373/.529 with 22 long balls in 461 PA. His manager gives him a Hideki Matsui comp, and the two might not be too far apart.
20) Yuji Nishino, RP, Chiba Lotte Marines (Age: 24)
The 24-year old Marlins closer gets a lot of whiffs with his fastball-splitter combination, which I can dig. A conversion from a starter to a closer turned his way last year. He struck out 63 while issuing only 15 free passes, posted a remarkable 1.86 ERA in 58.0 IP and saved 31 games.
21) Yuki Yanagita, OF, Softbank Hawks (Age: 26)
While it’s not Yohio Itoi level, his athleticism should play in the big leagues. Despite never topped even 20 HR a season, he posses standout raw power for a Japanese hitter. Last year, in his first full season, he hit .317/.413/.452, 15 HR, posted a 72/131 BB/K while swiping 33 bases in 39 attempts. As you can see in the video above, some of his bat flips flashes Puigian potential.
22) Ryosuke Kikuchi, 2B, Hiroshima Carp (Age: 25)
His glove, range, and arm would make him a top 5 defensive 2B at this moment. I know comps aren’t good, but I see a little Darwin Barney in Kikuchi. If he replicates last year’s .325/.352/.456 slash line, which was carried by a .330 BABIP in 2015, he could be something more than Barney.
23) Hideaki Wakui, SP Chiba Lotte Marines (Age: 28)
He’s a comeback candidate. Wakui has struggled lately, with both on and (mostly) off-field issues. If he could regain his prime form, he’d be an MLB back-of-the-rotation guy. Additionally, his current contract expires after 2015, and he’s only 2 years away from international free agency.
24) Kazuhisa Makita, SP, Seibu Lions (Age: 30)
The submariner has never punched out many hitters. His career K/9 in 649.1 innings is a mere 5.2. However, there’s a chance he’ll stick as a ROOGY who induces a pile of ground balls. He allowed a .305 batting average to LHB, as opposed to .231 to RHB in 2014. Moreover, he’s a fast worker who could make Mark Buehrle look like Josh Beckett, so he might be a solution to the pace problem.
25) Shota Takeda, SP, Softbank Hawks (Age: 22)
The right hander just turned 22 this past Friday. While his K/BB ratio doesn’t look sexy (166/116 in 203.1 career innings), he does have sexy stuff: a combination of a low-90s fastball and a bat-missing spike curve. He can break out and become one of the best starters in NPB this season.
26) Tomoya Mori, C, Seibu Lions (Age: 19)
Despite the barely an Altuve tall listed height at 5’6″, The Osaka Toin HS product has the tools to be a great offense-oriented catcher in his tanklike body. I believe that he could be a 10-15 HR backstop at the highest level if he sticks at the position.
27) Kodai Senga, RP, Softbank Hawks (Age: 22)
With a low-mid 90s fastball and a splitter that generates tons of whiffs, Senga has the potential to be an elite late inning guy. He’s struck out 114 while walking only 39 in 83.2 innings in his career. Although a series of arm injuries he’s battled with stands on his way.
28) Yuki Matsui, SP/RP, Rakuten Golden Eagles (Age: 19)
Featuring a devastating slider, the southpaw set a single-game strikeout record (22) in Koshien 3 summers ago. Like most other 19-year old pitchers, he struggles with command from time to time. Many people expect him to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but I see him as a future dominant closer.
29) Katsuki Matayoshi, RP, Chunichi Dragons (Age: 24)
More relievers! Matayoshi’s deceptive side hand delivery and fastball-slider combination can miss bats. In his rookie campaign in 2014, Matayoshi recorded a whopping 11.5 K/9 while walking 3.1 per 9.
30) Koji Fukutani, RP, Chunichi Dragons (Age: 24)
And here we are. Fukutani is one of the hardest throwers in NPB, non-Otani division, tops out at 97 miles per hour. He’s an intriguing arm with the stuff to belong in an MLB bullpen in the future.