Hi everyone. I AM planning to liveblog the draft this year, just as I have every year since 2006 or so. Yeah, I'm back in the US, but I'm planning to be up until at least 3am my time, which means I can catch the 5pm start of the draft in Japan which is 1am here, and hopefully most of it will be done by the time I crash.
I don't think I'm going to get out a pre-draft photo post this time around, since I've been completely swamped at work since coming back here.
Here are the lists of HS and College boys who are entering the draft:
High School Candidates
There are also several industrial league guys who are expected to go fairly high, like pitchers Motoshi Ohshiro from JX-ENEOS (I don't get this one as he's a little lefty, but at Kamagaya the rumors were high), Tatsushi Masuda from NTT Nishinihon, Takahiro Matsunaga from Osaka Gas, catcher Shinya Azuhata from Seino (which is totally fine with me as he'll open playing time for my Shuhei Ikenaga, heh heh).
I don't have a ton of insight into a lot of the high school players beyond things other sites have already said. The giant 197-cm Shintaro Fujinami from Osaka Toin will certainly be a contested commodity, and it's unclear whether Shohei Ohtani from Hanamaki Higashi will really go to the MLB or not. LHP Tatsuro Hamada from Aikodai Meiden seems to be high on several lists, infielder Fumiya Hojo from Kosei has been a big deal these last two years.
The college list is, of course, hard for me to be completely unbiased when talking about. I could write an entire post about how Kazuki Mishima has grown over these last 4 years at Hosei and how he is the undisputed MVP for them winning the Big 6 championship this semester, but since he's also been my "birthday buddy" these last few years and we always chat and joke together outside Jingu after games, I really, really, really want him to get drafted and have a great and successful career. I could also talk about how Hiroshi Taki decided NOT to enter the draft this year and go to Toyota instead, and how he managed to finish college with 106 career hits, but... yeah.
And of course I'm also biased when talking about the Keio boys; I knew Koji Fukutani was something special when I first saw him in the rookie tournament his freshman year, and I was lucky enough to talk to him several times during the run where Keio was just crushing everyone. He's tall, built well, throws fast, throws hard, strikes out a ton of guys, and even better, he got into Keio on the actual entrance exam and THEN excelled in sports (AND is an engineering major, the only active baseball club member to do so). I doubt Daisuke or Agata will get drafted, but they have still had respectable careers as well.
I doubt any of the Rikkio boys will get drafted. Shota Sugiyama from Waseda will probly get taken but I see his upside as Shinichi Takeuchi and his downside as out of baseball in 3-4 years. I guess we'll see. And Meiji's Takashi Uemoto better get drafted, I'm not sure he'll graduate :) He's a really fun guy and his brother plays for Hanshin, but he's never really had a spectacular season at bat during college so it's a little bit worrisome.
In the Tohto league I've become a Chuo fan over the last year or two, and I've grown increasingly fond of Yohei Kagiya. He may not blow anyone away with his height or power, since he is neither tall nor overpowering, but he throws strikes consistently enough and attacks batters in the zone, which is more than I can say for a lot of other pitchers; I charted him a few times over the last year and he throws a lot more first-pitch strikes than many other college pitchers in Japan. Nao Higashihama from Asia-dai has been a #1 draft pick since he entered college, pretty much, so it won't be too surprising to see him go somewhere fast. Hiroyuki Shirasaki from Komazawa, I was surprised to see him on so many lists but watching him in Japan this year, he's a tall boy and he really has filled out a lot as a cleanup batter. Tomoki Takata from Asia-dai is also a solid shortstop (and he threw me a ball at the US-Japan games, so he gets my vote).
Players in other leagues that I have some interest in include Torai Fushimi, the adorable catcher from Tokai University, who is also pretty solid and was chosen to Japan's national team as a sophomore (though he ducked out on going to North Carolina last summer because he had a bad spring semester). And Ritsumeikan's switch-hitting shortstop Yuji Kaneko should hopefully get drafted as well, I was pretty impressed with him last summer as well.
Anyway, I'll see you all back here in about 24 hours! Exciting! God help me if any of the boys I've fallen for these last 4 years end up with teams I hate, by which I mostly mean Yomiuri...