A year ago, Tigers batting coach Tom O’Malley was touting rookie Taiga Ogoshi’s potential as a hitter. Although Hanshin’s third-round pick in the 2014 draft struggled at the top level last season, he had at the age of 22, one of Japan’s three best minor league efforts by a young player in the minors in 2015.
Egoshi posted an .809 offensive winning percentage in 209 plate appearances –- an unfortunately small sample size, but the two players who have had that amount of success in a similar number of plate appearances at the same age are now a pair of Hawks regulars: Yuki Yanagita and Akira Nakamura. Obviously, Egoshi will need to take several steps forward, but he is in good company. A fourth player with similar numbers at the same age is Seibu Lions prospect Hotaka Yamakawa.
Also among the better young hitters in the minors last season was Hawks outfielder Seiji Uebayashi, who at the age of 19 posted a .799 offensive winning percentage in 332 Western League plate appearances – for a more impressive season than Egoshi’s. He could be someone to watch. The only current player who had a similarly valuable minor league year at his age was Toshiaki Imae in 2004, who was as good but in 130 fewer plate appearances.
Here is Uebayashi’s first career homer against the Lotte Marines’ Rhee Dae Eun
Chunichi Dragons third baseman Shuhei Takahashi, a career .237 hitter in the Central League, is 22 now and has been steadily showing on the farm that he can HIT, posting a .602 offensive winning percentage as a 20-year-old and improving on that with a .781 season in 2015. The players who had similar minor league seasons at the age of 20 are a mixed bag – after all, it was a good season but not a great one:
- Ryosuke Morioka (Dragons castoff)
- Takehiro Donoue (another Dragons castoff)
- Teppei Tsuchiya (Yet another Dragons castoff)
- Katsuya Kakunaka
- Akira Nakamura
- Kodai Sakurai
- Daijiro Tanaka (Giants)
- Tomoaki Egawa (Hawks)
- Yuki Tatsumi (Buffaloes)
- Tetsuro Nishida (Eagles)
- Aoi Enomoto (Eagles)
At the age of 21, Takahashi’s value comps were:
- Munenori Kawasaki (He speaks English)
- Taisei Makihara (Hawks)
The interesting comp there is Morioka (now with the Yakult Swallows), who is quick but not a base stealer, but a good on-base percentage guy. Another player of that ilk is Shunichi Nemoto of the Marines.
And since we’re on the topic of grand slams, here’s a come-from-behind blast by Takahashi from March.