Looking to the Future

For all its lack of marquee names and well-known story lines, Nippon Professional Baseball’s 2021 developmental draft tells us a little bit about the 12 teams are acting now to map out their future.

In March 2020, I went into a deep dive about the value teams from both leagues have derived from their drafts in a post titled “Growing your own,” which breaks down value produced in different eras, and concludes that a huge reason for the Pacific League’s superiority over the past 10 years has been its scouting and development.

While thinking about the Chunichi Dragons’ difficulties under their four managers since they fired Hiromitsu Ochiai in the winter of 2011-2012, it occurred to me that the Dragons were the only team Monday to not take a single player in the developmental draft.

The developmental draft, essentially guys who will sign cut-rate non-roster contracts that can be reserved for a maximum of three years, means different things to different teams.

Teams that pick one guy do so because they had spoken with the player in question and knew he would accept being drafted on that basis, and that it doesn’t really indicate an effort to expand talent development. This happened twice on Monday, with the Yakult Swallows and Hanshin Tigers each selecting one developmental player.

Then there are teams dipping their toes in the longshot development pool, who select three or four guys. Those are the DeNA BayStars, the Hiroshima Carp and the five PL teams not called Hawks. It looks like intent but not total commitment and a willingness to spend on development.

But when teams go whole hog, like the Yomiuri Giants, who took 10 players in Monday’s D draft, and the SoftBank Hawks, who selected a record 14, you know those guys are serious.

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