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.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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