Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shuhei Takahashi

Birthday: January 18, 1994 (Age: 18)
Height: 180cm
Weight: 85kg
Hometown: Kanagawa
Blood Type: O
Hobby: Shopping
High School: Tokai University Kofu H.S.
Uniform #: 31
Throws: Right
Bats: Left
Position: Infield

Baseball Highlights: 2012 NPB First Round Selection, Most Valuable Player of the 2011 Asian 18U Baseball Championship, hit 71 home runs during his high school career

Easily the most exciting addition so far to the 2012 Dragons is first-round pick Shuhei Takahashi.  He appears to be the most coveted position player in this past years draft.  He was selected on draft day by Orix and Yakult as well as the Dragons.  Chunichi just happened to win the rights to Takahashi via a lottery between those three teams.  The only other position player taken in the first round was college outfielder Hayata Ito by Hanshin and the Tigers were the only team to select Ito.

Takahashi signed with the team in November, which isn't always a sure thing in the NPB.  Nippon Ham was unable to sign their first-round pick this year and there is a long history of picks refusing to sign because they would prefer to play for a different team than the one they were drafted by.  Takahashi's contract for the upcoming season is worth 12M yen with a 100M yen bonus.

Chunichi's new manager, Morimichi Takagi, announced Takahashi would be attending Ichi-gun spring camp prior to the season. Takahashi has since reported to rookie training camp which began last week and will move on to Ichi-gun camp once that begins.

I haven't seen anything resembling a scouting report on Takahashi in English, but here are some details translated mainly from Japan high school baseball writer Soichi Kawashima and some comments from NPB team scouts:
  • Takahashi has extremely good bat speed and can cover both the inside and outside of the plate
  • He is seen as having more of a line drive producing swing at this point, but has been able to hit for power using it, including some tape-measure shots and opposite field home runs
  • Needs to improve pitch recognition and thinking ahead while batting, is mostly an instinctual hitter at this point
  • Played shortstop in high school, but scouts project him as third baseman professionally
  • Has a strong throwing arm, but needs to improve his routes to groundballs (charge them more) to have a chance to play shortstop at higher levels
  • Below-average footspeed, needs to improve awareness during baserunning
  • Has shown team leadership skills in high school, as well as unselfishness in interacting with teammates
  • Has a strong will and work ethic, works hard at following coachs' directions, but isn't the most intuitive at understanding his own faults as a player
  • Had some trouble adjusting to using a wood bat during U18 Asian Tournament, though still won the Most Valuable Player
Clearly he has shown a lot of power in high school and international competition.  He has also shown some good contact skills beyond that, all of which Chunichi desperately needs right now.  It sounds like the team is looking at him as their future third baseman.  That position is currently held by Masahiko Morino, he is coming off of a sub-par season, but is still one of Chunichi's best hitters.  Morino has also spent time recently at first base and used to be able to play the corner outfield positions.  Not sure if he is still a viable option in the outfield, but I think there is a good chance he will be the team's full-time first baseman by the time Takahashi is ready.  The scouts' opinions are somewhat mixed on when they expect Takahashi to be ready to be a Ichi-gun regular.  All of the ones we saw expect him to be a starting everyday player within five years, some said if he works hard it will be closer to a couple years, and a couple said his swing his is ready for the middle of an NPB batting order right now.  Still I wouldn't expect Takahashi to play much this season with the Ichi-gun club.  I'm sure that will depend on how he performs in the pre-season and in Ni-gun to start the year.  Even as bad as Chunichi was last year offensively, it is hard to believe that an 18-year old would be able to step in and improve the team right away. 

Even if he doesn't spend much time at Ichi-gun this year it is nice to know they have one of the top prospects around, because the average age of Chunichi's starting position players is near 33.  The current players will need to pass on the torch to younger players sooner rather than later and at the moment I'm seeing a lot more potential holes than I'm seeing capable young players to fill them.  Hopefully Takahashi can get things moving in the right direction for the young players and the Dragons have in him a future team leader, it is certainly too early to tell, but it will be fun to see what he can do.

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