Tag Archives: Haruki Nishikawa

Scout Diary: Jan. 31, 2020 – Pacific League’s best outfield tools

The search for the best outfield defensive tools on the planet brings us to Japan’s Pacific League and the top three in the 2019 voting for the three outfield Golden Gloves. I thought it would be easier to select a PL winner than in the CL, but I was wrong.

  • Shogo Akiyama, Lions 秋山 翔吾
  • Takashi Ogino, Marines 荻野 貴司
  • Haruki NIshikawa, Fighters 西川 遥輝

Shogo Akiyama

Collection of Shogo Akiyama catches
Best PL throws from the outfield, starting with Akiyama at 1:07.

By default, Akiyama, whose metrics have been slipping year by year, is the PL winner of the tools challenge. Despite the ubiquity of PL TV, the league’s streaming service, I’m simply unable to find any video collections of Takashi Ogino or Haruki Nishikawa. Those who are interested more on Nishikawa can find my profile of him HERE, since he has expressed an interest in playing in the majors.

If you are interested in the new Cincinnati Reds outfielder, my profile of the former Lions captain is HERE.

Conclusion and admission

My outfield tools surveys of four leagues, the National, American, Central and Pacific, has produced four finalists:

  • Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers
  • Jackie Bradley, Jr, Boston Red Sox
  • Seiya Suzuki, Hiroshima Carp
  • Shogo Akiyama, Seibu Lions

My choice for the best outfield tools in the world goes to Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Boston Red Sox. If I had to pick No. 2 it would be Kevin Kiermaier of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Rationale

I tried to evaluate every outfielder on the following criteria:

  • arm strength
  • accuracy
  • release
  • jumps
  • speed
  • judgment at the wall

I omitted “good hands” from consideration because all the candidates are exceptional at catching the ball. But having said that, Bradley is as good at that as anyone I’ve seen — and I grew up watching Willie Mays. I am hesitant to give out an 80 score, but let’s call it a 75.

Based on the video above, I’ve rated his arm strength is 75, his accuracy a 70. His footwork is as good as Kiermaier’s which is the best I’ve seen. But there’s a cherry on top, the grace and speed at which he transitions from catching to throwing is an 80. Again, he’s not AS good at scaling outfield walls as Lorenzo Cain, but nobody is. Having said that, Bradley is pretty darn close.

The other special thing about him is his jumps. He appears to be in motion before the batter swings. His raw speed gives him incredible range when he is right, and allows him to make up for guessing wrong.

An admission

I have less confidence in my Japanese choices in the outfield than I had in the infield, because while I’ve seen these guys a fair amount, I’ve been a writer, not a scout.

I’m trying to change that, of course, and my podcast colleague John E. Gibson could give a far more educated opinion about tools, because that has always been an after thought. Until now, my thinking has been, ‘Does he make the play or not? How often does he make plays? What are the context of the plays he made or didn’t make? Are they part of the story of this game or the story of that player or of Japanese baseball.

Gibson likes to talk about tools, but for the most part, they pretty much didn’t enter into my calculus. Which is kind of odd in a way, since the greater part of sports writing in Japan is obsessed with technical minutia about tools and skills. I preferred to write about how people grew and learned rather than why they decided to move their hands apart when the gripped the bat.

Anyway, I hope to remedy that indifference to specific skills going forward.

The kotatsu league: Arihara tells Fighters his future is in MLB

Nippon Ham Fighters pitcher Kohei Arihara would like to pitch in the major leagues and hopes to be posted as early as the conclusion of the 2020 season. Arihara was the Pacific League’s rookie of the year in 2015 and led the PL this season in wins.

Another Fighter joins posting que

The Kyodo News story in Japanese is HERE.

“I had that thought in mind when I joined the team (as an amateur) and this year I formally relayed that,” Arihara told a press conference

The 27-year-old is the second front-line Fighters player to tell the team he’d like to be posted this offseason, following center fielder and leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa’s disclosure last month.

Arihara’s profile and my analysis can be found HERE.

Balentien on verge of signing with Hawks

The Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday that veteran slugger Wladimir Balentien was on the verge of signing with the SoftBank Hawks. The 35-year-old Balentien, who set Japan’s single-season home run record with 60 in his 2013 Central League MVP campaign, no longer counts against a team’s limit of four active foreign-registered players.

The Hawks are the only team that has been said to be in the hunt to sign Balentien, who has played all nine of his seasons with the Yakult Swallows, has 288 NPB home runs.

Dragons agree to terms with lefty Gonzalez

The Chunichi Dragons have agreed on a contract with 27-year-old Dominican lefty Luis Gonzalez according to the Chunichi Sports. According to the story, Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda has been in the Dominican Republic, where Gonzalez has been playing winter ball.

Chunichi has lost the services of lefty Joely Rodriguez, who was arguably the Central League’s best middle reliever in 2019. HERE is Rodriguez’s NPB player page.