Category Archives: Baseball

Scout Diary: Jan. 24, 2020

Friday is homework assignment day, so I’ll finish my look at the best pro infield tools with the top shortstops from Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central League.

Having now having glanced — I don’t want to glorify my youtube binge watching as study — at 12 elite shortstops, I realize I really don’t know what a 70 arm is yet. Have you seen an 80 arm at shortstop? The following video has some that show real carry, as the ball just fails to appreciably drop on its path to the target.

I’ve seen very few throws with that kind of carry in the Japanese videos I’ve been watching, so it’s possible that none of the 12 candidates have 80 arm strength, although Andrelton Simmons might.

The three CL players with the most votes in the Golden Glove voting were:

  • Hayato Sakamoto, Yomiuri Giants
  • Yota Kyoda, Chunichi Dragons
  • Yamato Maeda, DeNA BayStars

Sakamoto is a 31-year-old veteran offensive star whose metrics have in the past been occasionally the best in the league. Kyoda is a 25-year-old who is just establishing himself. Maeda is a 32-year-old longtime utility player, who won a Golden Glove after being converted to playing center fielder, who had phenomenal metrics in 2019.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page´╗┐

All three have soft hands, good fielding action and above-average transfers. My pick for the player with the best tools goes to Kyoda. Not only does he have excellent physical tools, but he appears to play shortstop like a point guard, with an excellent sense of timing and an understanding of where to throw the ball.

Sakamoto is blessed with a plus arm and does everything right. He is not the quickest on the transfer and tries not to backhand balls if he can help it. He uses his size to set and get good velocity on his throws. He does not appear to be as comfortable improvising with throws from all angles.

Kyoda may have the best instincts for getting to ground balls in Japan. With a quick accurate release and 70-75 arm strength. His transfer is above average, but not elite, and he could set his feet more often.

Maeda is above average at everything. The worst grade I would give him is a 60 for throwing accuracy. He is better at backhanding the ball than Sakamoto but not as good as Kyoda.

The best of the best

My tools competition has produced four league champs:

  • Fransico Lindor, Cleveland Indians
  • Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Sosuke Genda, Seiibu Lions
  • Yota Kyoda, Chunichi Dragons

My pick from them is Ahmed. Of the Japanese shortstops I reviewed, Genda, Kyoda and Kenta Imamiya of the SoftBank Hawks could definitely start at shortstop in the majors.

Japan’s shadow ball

Although claims of sexual harassment and abuse of power are becoming more and more frequent in Japanese society and Japanese sports, one has to wonder why Japan’s poor record of gender inequality has not led to more charges of sexual assault and domestic violence in Japan like those that are so often reported — and tidied up — in Major League Baseball.

On Thursday, Hanshin Tigers pitcher Koki Moriya denied allegations of domestic violence, which is the norm in such cases around the world, but that doesn’t make him guilty.

Japan, which the United Nations Development Programme ranked 121st among 188 nations in gender inequality in 2010, is infamous for rape and sexual assaults often being ignored by authorities or going unpunished in the legal system.

The lack of such revelations in Japanese pro baseball is surprising given they are not uncommon in the larger society and or in pro sports overseas. Japan’s game justifiably prides itself on the good manners drilled into most players. When you pass high school players in uniform near their ground, they will — almost without exception — remove their caps and offer a greeting as they go by.

Yet, reports of high school players bullying and assaulting classmates are not unheard of.

The last issue of domestic violence in Japanese baseball caused barely a ripple in the news. At a game they hosted in Omiya in the summer of 2008, executives of the Seibu Lions were beseiged by media about a player who had been accused of two things: stealing money and beating up his girlfriend.

The accusation that the young player had pocketed 30,000 yen (roughly $300) someone left at an ATM was being handled with utmost sincerity by the organization, the club said. As for his beating up his girl friend, who was the one who supposedly blew the whistle on him, the Lions attitude was, “boys will be boys, so what do you expect us to do about it?”

I remember the incident because a female friend of mine worked for the Lions who was absolutely steaming. This extremely professional individual would sometimes have to really vent about the sexism that came with working in a business run for and by men.

As it was, the player in question was sent down to the farm team, suspended for a brief time, and then resumed his career as if nothing had happened.

While it is possible that sexual abuse and domestic violence are less common in NPB, the fact that one almost never hears about it probably has as much to do with a code of silence as with good behavior.