Part 3 of a survey of the world’s best outfield defensive tools takes us to Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central League. Unlike Major League Baseball’s Gold Gloves, Japan’s fielding awards, the Golden Glove does not discriminate among positions, meaning virtually all the winners are center fielders.
Japan’s awards where the winners actually receive a golden glove, were previously known as the Diamond Glove, a name that might have been changed the first time someone tried to make a glove out of diamonds.
The Central League’s best
- Yoshihiro Maru, Giants 丸 佳浩
- Seiya Suzuki, Carp 鈴木 誠也
- Yohei Oshima, Dragons 大島 洋平
Maru and Oshima are both center fielders, while Suzuki plays in right.
Maru has won seven straight Golden Gloves but despite that nobody to my knowledge has put together a highlight video of his fielding exploits. Having said that, his 2019 season
Suzuki was a high school pitcher who feels he could have succeeded as a pitcher as well. Until 2019 when Maru moved to the Yomiuri Giants as a free agent, Suzuki in right was paired with Maru in center. Suzuki has a gun, solid throwing mechanics, and is fairly good at going and getting the ball.
His foot speed is not what it was four years ago, and though he was tested as a center fielder for the national team, nobody wants to take that cannon out of right field. His metrics are not quite the best among right fielders though, as one would also have to consider Chunichi’s Ryosuke Hirata.
Again, the quality of the highlights are fairly poor. It shows Oshima tracking the ball and catching it with the throws unable to make the highlight reel. According to Delta Graphs, he had an arm when he was a pup, but he’s now 34.
My choice, for lack of contrary evidence, is Suzuki. He has fairly soft hands with 60 speed and a 70 arm. Video of CL players is haphazard because NPB has no media arm — each team is responsible for televising its own home games — and only the Pacific League has a marketing arm that produces video.