Secret Scouting Report Reveals! Key players of the 12 professional baseball teams
Sparks fly between Nippon Ham's BIGBOSS and Softbank's BIGFACE / Hara Giants' long-awaited cannon is ready / Chiba Lotte's Akinori Sasaki is highly praised as Daisuke Matsuzaka and Shohei Otani level / New Chunichi manager Tatsunami's designated players / Hanshin's "hiding newcomers" and more
Last season, both leagues saw dramatic turn of events, with the last-place team from the previous year winning the championship. Now that the Corona disaster is behind us, a number of foreign players will be joining the team from the opening day of the season. The promising new hopefuls have been active since the opening rounds of the season. Let us take a closer look at some of the key players who could play a leading role in the new drama this season.
The batting lineup is solid, centering on the cannonballs of Munetaka Murakami (22) and Tetsuto Yamada (29) of the Samurai Japan team. Yakult’s pitching staff, which had been a problem, improved last season with a 3.48 team batting average, the third best in the league. There seems to be no blind spot in their bid for back-to-back championships, but baseball critic Tetsuya Iida, an alumnus of the team, has a grim look on his face.
The return to a 12-inning extra-inning rule this season will have a big impact,” Iida said. Last season, we had a nine-inning system, so we were able to use Ryuta Konno (26), Noboru Shimizu (25), and McGuff (32) sparingly from the seventh inning. We saw a lot of patterns where the batting lineup scored runs in that time to pick up the win, but the relief pitchers following them fell a little short.”
A potential savior is Naofumi Kizawa (23), the first overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Coach Tomohito Ito (51) praises Kizawa’s “magic pitch,” a shot in the low 150s, and if he can find a spot in the relief lineup, it would be a big deal. It would make the pitcher’s job much easier. Kizawa did not pitch in the first team last season. I am sure he must have felt frustrated. Yakult has not made any significant reinforcements this off-season, so we need Kizawa to come out. I would say that he is a presence that will have a big impact on the standings.
With Kizawa firmly established, the left and right aces, Keiji Takahashi (24) and Yasunobu Okugawa (20), will protect the rotation throughout the year. If they cannot achieve this, Iida says, “They will not win back-to-back championships.
The most promising new talent for the Hanshin, who outscored Yakult in wins but missed out on the championship due to a small number of draws, this season is left-hander Takuma Kirishiki, 22, the third overall pick in the draft.
Takuma Kirishiki, 22, the third overall pick in the draft, is the newest member of the Hanshin team. “The talk was about how the team hid the newcomer from the Central League during the open season by not showing him to the Central League teams and having him play in the second team games. Kirishiki has a form that makes it difficult to see where the ball is coming from. He has the nerve to hit both right-handed and left-handed batters in the inside half of the plate, and his sinker and slider are highly accurate. His thighs are strong and his lower body is stable, so he does not lose control of his pitches.
My initial thought was to pitch one inning as a reliever, but I decided to move him to the starting lineup. He is a man of few words, but when it comes to the topic of F1, which he loves, he becomes talkative. He says his favorite driver is Daniel Ricciardo, and since F1 is usually broadcast late at night on Sundays, he was worried about pitching on Mondays when he was in college, but he laughed and said, ‘Professionals have Mondays off.
The issue for the Hanshin is the hole left by guardian Suarez (31). Keller (28), a new assistant pitcher who boasts a maximum speed of 160 km/h, is the top candidate, but “his quick motion is big and he has a short temper. When he is slowed down by runners, he hurries to throw and loses control of his pitches. In fact, he threw 22 walks in 33 1/3 innings in America last season. On March 12, he took the mound for the first time in a seat batting appearance, and he gave up two walks in eight at-bats. MLB insiders are suspicious. Maybe we can select a “solid lefty” who is not a rookie.
“Oh yeah! Oh-oh!”
Tatsunori Hara, 63, manager of the Giants, is said to have had his eyes watering as he watched Polanco, 30, a new helper, fire off an off-the-field shot while making strange noises.
Polanco, 30, was a major leaguer,” said Tatsunori Hara, 63, manager of the Giants. He’s a very good major leaguer. We haven’t had a home run hitter other than a cannon stolen from another team since Cromartie, but it looks like Polanco is going to put an end to that black history. Hara, who lost the Japan Series to Softbank for the eighth straight time in the Pacific League, wants power most of all. The No. 5 hitter behind Kazuma Okamoto (25) has been a problem, but Polanco is the man for the job.
On the pitching staff, Mr. Hara will probably put a lot of emphasis on Taisei Ota (22), the right-handed pitcher selected in the first round of the draft, who has been hitting 150 km/h in open games. He fits the Young Giants lineup that Coach Masumi Kuwata (53) has been promoting, so it is possible that he will suddenly be named the closer.
Hiroshima, which succeeded last season in selecting rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi (25) as its closer, urgently needs to find a replacement for its main gun, Seiya Suzuki (27), who left for the United States, but there is no clear timetable.
The usual choice would be McBroom (29), but Schulstrom, a scout in the U.S., has been a disappointment for the past few years……. Last year, Cron (29) batted .231 with six hits. The big hole is Shota Suekane (25), the 6th pick in the draft. His dynamic swing and appearance are well known on the team. Although he is a rookie, he already has the air of a veteran, and he is almost always addressed respectfully at first sight (laugh).
(Laughs.) But even though he may look old, he respects his seniors, and he shouts louder than anyone else in the game. Such an attitude seems to have won the heart of manager Shinji Sasaoka (54), who used him as the No. 4 pitcher even though he was booed by everyone around him.
The rebuilding of Chunichi was entrusted to the charisma of “Mr. Dragons” manager Kazuyoshi Tachinami, 52. The new manager is trying to overcome the difficult situation by raising the level of young talent.
One of the designated players is Hiroto Takahashi, 19, a second-year high school graduate. Last year, he had concerns about his shoulder and elbow, and was unable to show the horsepower to hit 150 km/h until the end of the season. His pitching power has increased at a stretch. Yuki Okabayashi, 20, a third-year high school graduate, is also good.
He became a hitter after joining the pro ranks, so his defense and base running are still a little rough, but his hitting sense is highly regarded by Manager Tatsunami. He can handle any type of pitch and has the power to pull an inside pitch to the right side, so it is likely that he will be given the No. 1 spot.
This year’s second overall pick in the draft, Kosuke Ukai (22), is also highly rated because of his ability to fly and the trajectory of his pitches, something Chunichi has never had before.
A reporter in charge of Chunichi continued, “He has the power to fly and the trajectory of his pitches.
Takaya Ishikawa (20) is highly regarded because they are willing to move Shuhei Takahashi (28), the mainstay of the team, from third to second. In contrast, Akira Neo (21), who was moved to the outfield from the position of a shortstop, is expected to have a competitive year. He hit 146 km/h in the bullpen during camp and became the talk of the town, but manager Tatsunami is secretly thinking of making him a pitcher if he can’t even play outfield.
DeNA is highly favored to start the season with a full complement of foreign assistants, but the key man cited by a former senior manager is Shugo Maki, 23, a second-year pro. The first time I saw him, he was a good friend of mine.
He is the first player since Shuichi Murata (41, current coach of the Giants) to hit .320 in his first year. He is the long-awaited Japanese No. 4. He has leadership skills and is a future candidate for executive management. Coach Takuro Ishii, 52, who is a great coach, has returned to the team this season. He seems to have instilled a “running baseball” style in his players, in which they take advantage of opportunities to run for the next base, and I expect further growth in the future.
The Orix, aiming for V2, have a second-year player, Hayate Nakagawa (23), a skilled under-thrower who was nominated for the Samurai Japan team, as well as a player who ORIX alumnus Akifumi Okada said, “I’m going to be a good player for the next 10 years. The youngsters, such as Kotaro Kurebayashi (20), who is a favorite of the team’s shortstop, have shown remarkable growth. The key player, however, is probably ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (23).
Last year, he threw 3,472 pitches, and there were concerns about his fatigue, so he was allowed to make slow adjustments from the spring training camp to the open games. However, Yamamoto was actually training hard under trainer Osamu Yada this off-season. In the mornings, he did body-building exercises such as bridges and inverted stands. In the afternoons, he practiced his own unique exercises such as javelin throws and long throws. Rather than resting his body, he is scaling up,” said a baseball team official.
The transformation may be in anticipation of a move to the U.S., which he has been discussing with a baseball team. The Orix will be strong as long as they have a hard arm that is attracting the attention of the majors.
Sasaki’s fork ball speed is 149 km/h. It’s a little bit out of this world. And his slider has room to improve,” said Takashi Kawamura, an associate professor at Tsukuba University.
The time has come for Roki Sasaki, 20, of the Chiba Lotte team, known as the “Monster of 2025,” to make a full turnaround. Soichi Fujita, an alumnus of the team and a baseball critic, said, “Will he be able to keep his place in the rotation for a full year? That is the only issue.
His form has stabilized and he no longer loses pitches, so I don’t see any technical problems. If I had to say, I would say that he can distribute his pace like Kazumi Saito (44) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (41) of the past, and can raise and lower his gears depending on the batter. There is a possibility that he could be in the class of Yu Darvish (35) or Shohei Ohtani (27), and in a few years he may be even better than that. If he pitches normally, I think he can get a 2 point average and win 15 games.”
The missing piece for Rakuten, which has been eight years away from winning a championship, is a cannon. Yuma Yasuda, 22, who has been touted as the “Godzilla of Tohoku” by the entire baseball team since camp, has been carrying all the expectations of the fans.
He has been a big hit in the open season, but he has been struggling in the spring training games because he lacks certainty. As for his lead, which is important for a catcher, he has a reputation of being ‘just average. Rakuten’s starters, led by Masahiro Tanaka (33), Takayuki Kishi (37), Takahiro Norimoto (31), and Hideaki Wakui (35), are all unique players. If they work together, they will be able to make great progress. First, he needs to hit as hard as Seibu’s Tomoya Mori (26) and get a chance.
Under new manager Hiroshi Fujimoto (58), SoftBank is aiming to regain V. The current concern is “the subdued nature of the manager.
Compared to manager Takeshi Shinjo (50), his lack of name recognition is obvious. The only thing that distinguishes him is his trademark mustache, which he has worn since he was active. So, the baseball team handed out “fake mustache stickers” as a fan service at the camp, and as a campaign just before the opening of the season, the team also offered a “fake mustache sticker” as an incentive to the fans. Not “BIGBOSS A giant objet d’art called “BIGFACE Fujimoto” was created. It was installed in Fukuoka City for a limited period of time. At the unveiling event, the director said to himself, ‘His face is so big!
The one who is going to be the pocketbook of the BIGFACE is ” Masayoshi Tanaka, 27, is widely regarded as having a “BIG heart. According to a sports newspaper reporter covering the Hawks, “The man who was said to have the heart of a flea has gained confidence and is on the verge of joining the rotation.
The trigger was the words of Seiichi Uchikawa (39, now of Yakult), who said to him at his farewell game, “Everyone thinks Tanaka can do it except you, but you are the only one who is shutting down his potential. Then, in January of this year, he had a voluntary training session with ace pitcher Kota Senga (29). He has learned to throw a powerful straight ball from a form that lacks power, and he has also mastered the curveball, which had been a weakness of his.
He also mastered the curveball, which had been a weakness of his. During his days as a flea hearted pitcher, he was able to stab runners in check, something he had turned away from. His goal for this season is to win double digits. I have no professional wins yet, though.”
Against the BIGBOSS, the secret weapon of the BIGBOSS is the 8th ranked (22).
His fastball is 156 km/h, and his curve and fork are sharp enough to get strikeouts. Coach Masaru Takeda (43) called Kitayama a “monster. He didn’t stand out at all during the rookie training camp, so he has certainly turned into a monster.
Toshihiro Sugiura (30), a candidate to hold down the lineup, has been delayed by a separated muscle. Kitayama may well be selected as the closer.
The Seibu have fallen to the bottom of the standings two years after winning back-to-back championships. This season, Seibu is finally going to have a “cutthroat” who has been absent since Shogo Akiyama (33) moved to the major leagues. It is Shohei Suzuki (23), a sixth-year player, who marked a high average in the upper .300 range in the open game.
What awakened Suzuki was an item called a “sequence bat. It is a special bat with two handles, and it has the feature of correcting the habit of kneading the hands by holding the bat with both hands apart and swinging. It became a topic of conversation last season, when the Orix’s Yutaro Sugimoto, who got his big break at the age of 30, used it. Taiga Egoshi, 29, of the Hanshin baseball team, who is one of the most physically gifted players in baseball but whose talent had been dormant, also introduced this bat in the off-season and has opened his eyes to hitting.
If, with a swing of the bat rather than a magic wand, a star is born in Seibu this season, the pennant race in the Pacific League is sure to become even more chaotic.
From the April 1-8, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Jiji Press