Category Archives: Scout Diary

Scout diary: Fujinami back on table

The current pandemic world of abnormal sports events may not be optimal, but for the next few days at least NPB is playing televised preseason games, and that means chances to see lots of players play baseball.

After finishing my scout course, I want to see everybody, and have tried a few different tactics to maximize coverage while also reporting on notable performances for the website. After a stressful trial-and-error period, I’ve settled on watching one game at a time, perhaps choosing based on the players involved but really focusing on everything I can during that game.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page

It’s not helping me rapidly expand my knowledge of players, but it is rapidly expanding the things I know about a few individual players. On Wednesday, while I wanted to see Matt Moore pitch again for the SoftBank Hawks, I watched new Swallows right-hander Gabrial Ynoa pitch against the Hanshin Tigers and their one time teenage phenom Shintaro Fujinami.

Fujinami, a beanpole right-hander was once considered the top pitcher in a draft class that included Shohei Ohtani, but after going 35-21 over his first three seasons, he went 15-19 under his second pro manager. Last year, with his career in tatters, the 25-year-old pitched in one first-team game.

In addition to Fujinami and Ynoa, I was also curious about Orix Buffaloes third-round pick Ryota Muranishi, who may get some opportunities to pitch this year with the big club.

So, here are my snapshot reports of their games.

Shintaro Fujinami

Fujinami struck out five batters, walked one and allowed two hits over four scoreless innings. His command was below average but, the quality of his pitches was excellent.

He often got behind batters but then battled them in the zone, getting good arm action and good movement. That was probably the biggest take away.

He had good depth on a “cutter” that looks more like a slider and would be a plus pitch if he could command it better. His fastball command was mediocre but he was sitting at 93.2 mph with some good life on it. He threw some good splitters.

If he can improve the command at all, he is going to be really effective.

PresentFuture
Fastball6065
Curve
Control4050
Changeup
Slider (called a cutter)5050
Knuckleball
Other – Splitter5555
Poise4050
Baseball Instinct5050
Aggressiveness5050

Gabriel Ynoa

Ynoa is a 26-year-old right-hander who throws high 3/4. He has pitched in 55 major league games, mostly for the Baltimore Orioles. His fastball sat at 148 kph (92 mph). He also threw a slider a change and a few two-seamers. His fastball command was average, his slider a little less so, while he didn’t locate his change that well, although it had good depth.

He looks like he can contribute in the rotation and eat innings. If he is one of those imported pitchers who improve their command a bit in Japan, he could be successful here.

PresentFuture
Fastball5050
Curve
Control5050
Changeup5050
Slider5050
Knuckleball
Other – Splitter
Poise5050
Baseball Instinct5050
Aggressiveness5050

Ryota Muranishi

Muranishi is a right-hander who throws low 3/4. His fastball sat at 90.7, but it was fairly straight, and he didn’t command it real well. The splitter really dives and the cutter has a huge amount of glove-side run.

If he can locate the fastball and get ahead in counts, the split should be deadly. His command is not real good so that’s a maybe, but if it happens, he could be a good middle of the order rotation guy.

PresentFuture
Fastball4045
Curve
Control4050
Changeup
Slider4040
Cutter5055
Other – Splitter6060
Poise5050
Baseball Instinct5050
Aggressiveness5050

Scout diary: Report on Yasutaka Shiomi

Yasutaka Shiomi was taken 4th by the Yakult Swallows in NPB’s 2017 amateur draft. He played for corporate league powerhouse Japan Energy after graduating from Teikyo University. I haven’t had a chance to see him try and beat out an infield single. But he has been a successful minor league base stealer.

I updated this on 3/7/20 after Shiomi made a couple of very accurate throws from center field, raising his arm strength from 40 to 50 (average) and his accuracy from 50 to 60 (above average).

  • Birthday: 6/12/1993
  • H: 1.79 m, W: 76 kg
  • Bats: R, Throws: R
  • Position: OF

Physical description: Physically, he resembles Swallows second baseman Tetsuto Yamada. He has a small leg kick similar to the Carp’s Seiya Suzuki.

PresentFuture
Hitting Ability5560
Power3030
Running Speed7070
Base Running7070
Arm Strength5050
Arm Accuracy6060
Fielding5560
Range6060
Baseball Instinct6060
Aggressiveness6060

Abilities: Knows what he is doing at the plate with very good strike zone discipline. He will chase, but generally makes the pitcher throw strikes. He also appears to be a good base stealer and base runner.

Weaknesses: Ground ball hitter.

Summation: Shiomi will get on base like nobody’s business and will likely take over in center field, where he will continue the team’s recent tradition of center fielders without really good arms.

Scout diary: March 3, 2020 – Swallows’ and Hawks’ wings

Tuesday’s preseason game between the Yakult Swallows and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks gave me a chance to see some players for the first time. So here are my notes on some players of interest. Because the game was at PayPay Dome in Fukuoka, the Hawks’ home broadcast displayed most pitches’ spin rates.

This took me back to talk in my scouting course of average rates for MLB. But before you get into that, have a look at this nifty article about spin efficiency by Trevor Powers. As far as I understand it, fastball movement can be improved, without increasing spin, by throwing the ball so that the spin axis is perpendicular to the direction of the ball.

As I watched the game after reading this — with knowledge of the spin rates different pitchers put on their deliveries — who is more or less efficient. The Fighters and Giants played at night, and I got a good look at Nippon Ham’s top pick Ryusei Kawano.

RHP Yuki Tsumori, Hawks

A 22-year-old right-hander (born 1/21/1998), Tsumori was the Hawks’ third draft pick last autumn out of Tohoku Fukushi University. He throws straight side-arm, with 142 kph velocity on his fastball and a sweeping slider. He threw five pitches and missed most of his spots.

RHP Noboru Shimizu, Swallows

A 23-year-old right-hander (born 10/15/1996), Shimizu was Yakult’s top pick in 2018 and had a rough 1st year, allowing frequent walks and home runs. Because he only threw 26 innings with the big club, he still qualifies as a rookie.

Shimizu throws 3/4. He sat at 147 kph with some hop on the fastball. He threw forkball, that Data Stadium identified as a two-seamer that got him swings and misses, and threw a curve that he didn’t command well, but looks like it could be good in time as he can spin that puppy about the MLB average of 2,500 RPM.

LHP Yuto Furuya, Hawks

Furuya is a 3/4 lefty, who is 21 (born 2/19/1999) who was Softbank’s second pick in 2016. He is described as having a fastball with good movement, but they were fairly straight on Tuesday, and he missed lots of targets.

LHP Hiroki Hasegawa, Swallows

Hasegawa is a 3/4 lefty who is also a SoftBank product, having signed with them out of the 2016 developmental draft. His fastball touched 153 kph with spin rates close to 2,400 RPM. The fastball command was spotty. He also had a forkball that tumbled and missed bats. He’s 21 (born 8/23/1998) and there’s a lot to work with.

LHP Ryusei Kawano, Fighters

The 21-year-old 3/4 lefty (born 5/30/1998) was Nippon Ham’s top draft pick last year. Against Yomiuri on Tuesday, he showed a 147-kph four-seamer that he sometimes had terrific movement on. His command improved as the game went on, and he then showed:

  • Slider, one that sweeps and one that drops
  • curve he can throw at different speeds
  • A splitter (looked like his sweeping slider though)
  • A forkball change that he gets on top of and runs it away from right-handed hitters like a screwball.

His delivery has a funky, start-stop to it. In this game, he kept everything down, but given how well he manipulates the ball, he has a lot of room for growth and adjustment. At first glance, he reminds me of a left-handed Tomoyuki Sugano although the command will have to come. The fastball, change, and curve are all above average with a lot of upside.

Scout diary: Feb. 29, 2020 – Notes from the preseason

Saturday began the second weekend of expanded preseason baseball in Japan, allowing some looks at players who’ve been off the radar so far. Here are some assorted notes:

SoftBank Hawks, OF, Naoki Sato

A 21-year-old corporate league outfielder, Sato was the Hawks’ alternate pick after they failed to land high school pitcher Yoshinobu Ishikawa. In his lone at-bat, he put a good swing on a fat pitch down the middle, drove it to right center and cruised in with a triple. As a right-handed-hitting amateur, I timed Sato going home to first in 3.9 seconds. (80 speed).

Israel Mota, OF, Yomiuri Giants

A 24-year-old right-handed hitter, Mota was handed a standard contract this week — he joined Yomiuri on a developmental deal — and added to the 70-man roster. He’s been swinging hard and chasing a lot in camp.

Mota’s swing is compact and he homered when he made contact with a hanging 3-2 slider on a two-strike swing that allowed him to drive it a bit.

Keiji Takahashi, LHP, Yakult Swallows

I forgot how much fun this guy is to watch. With his herky-jerky left-handed version of Ryan Ogawa’s delivery, I half expect him to contract on the mound and transform into a little car or something like in the movies.

Takahashi throws low 3/4. He has an exaggerated violent right leg kick. He lowers the leg most of the way and holds it as he raises his hands over his head until pausing at the apex, then as he lowers his hands, he raises his right leg to meet them and goes into something like a normal delivery. After the gyrations, the move home is a picture of smooth efficiency, particularly with the fastball. His curveball release point looked different, and he didn’t command the pitch well in this game.

Scout Diary: Feb. 21, 2020 – Fumiya Kurokawa, 2B, Rakuten

I was going to do a rundown on all the top draft picks from NPB’s 2019 autumn draft, but Fumiya Kurokawa grabbed my attention with a story of his alertness on the bases, so here we are.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page

Furukawa was the second pick of the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles out of powerhouse high school Chiben Wakayama. He’s a second baseman, and that usually raises questions among amateurs because if he could field and had an arm, he’d be a shortstop.

  • Birthday: 4/17/2001
  • H: 1.82 m, W: 86 kg
  • Bats: L, Throws: R
  • Position: 2B

Physical description: Looks like a left-handed-hitting Hideto Asamura who has grown into his body more quickly than Asamura did. He has pronounced movement with his front foot, swinging his toe over the plate as he times the pitcher’s delivery.

PresentFuture
Hitting Ability5060
Power5060
Running Speed5555
Base Running7070
Arm Strength4040
Arm Accuracy5050
Fielding5055
Range5055
Baseball Instinct6060
Aggressiveness6060

Abilities: Soft hands, quick flips. Alert, aggressive base runner. Disciplined approach, compact swings, quick hands to the ball, with a slight uppercut.

Weaknesses: Hyper conscious of setting his feet before throwing, often taking an extra step before throwing.

Summation: He could develop real power, and pro coaches are sure to iron out his throwing technique and make him an above-average fielder.

2019 video of Kurokawa as a high school senior

Follow up

The report says nothing about his makeup or his speed to first, so those are things I’d like to fill in as time goes by. He did get to second on balls into the outfield in 8 seconds, but I don’t have enough records to know if that’s really fast or not.

Scout Diary: Feb. 17, 2020 – Chapter 2

I wrapped up my General Manager and Scouting course early Sunday morning and would be remiss if I didn’t shout out to my teachers, Dan Evans and Hank Jones, and my classmates. The instructors encouraged interaction, let us go off-topic and explore. In addition to the content delivered in the twice-weekly chats and the assignments, the dynamic between my classmates made it a Grade A experience.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page

So to Paul Williams (our chat MVP), Jon Carson, Daniel Cho, Alicia Crandell, Edgar Arismendi, Beni Cromwell, Carlos Fernandez, Chris Fessler, Jeff Laue, Santy Prada, Guillermo Quinones, Luis Alejandro, Ben Rockwell, and Andrew Smith, thank you and see you in Dallas in December. I loved reading your work and hearing your questions.

I’ve done the SMWW analysis class and it was a vastly different vibe. I was a “classmate” of new Royals manager Mike Matheny but with one chat a week, and the great guest speakers the teacher, Ari Kaplan, brought in, there was very little live interaction. Some of that was due to SMWW since hanging the platform for live chats to Zoom, and that experience is much improved.

So now that I’ve written a half-dozen scouting reports, analyzed pay hikes for arbitration-eligible players this past winter, did only three informational interviews instead of the six I had hoped to, researched trades and players and wrote an analysis of the SoftBank Hawks for my final paper, what’s next?

Chapter 2

Starting today, I am officially scouting. I will be taking notes as often as possible from the high school spring invitational tournament, the pro preseason, youtube video of players who are newsworthy, and writing reports as often as possible. If any of you have seen these players and want to share your opinions, constructive criticism or even utter disbelief, my e-mail is guidedogjapan@yahoo.com please write and be critical.

Since the day I stopped becoming a rabid fan — I think the vaccination process involved accidentally breaking a plate glass window at my rental in college over the result of a San Francisco Giants loss in the final week of the 1982 regular season — I haven’t been more excited for the season to start. The normal dread that comes with the thought of downloading rosters and player codes needed to build another season of my database has been outweighed by a thirst for more and different knowledge.