Newspapers are reporting that Shuhei Takahashi will make the ichi-gun squad to start the season. If Takahashi does start the season at ichi-gun he would be the team's first high school draft-pick to start his rookie season at ichi-gun since Kazuyoshi Tatsunami did it in 1988.
On that note, lets take a look at the progress of the Dragons' previous No. 1 Picks back to the 2000 draft.
2010 - Yudai Ono - A left-handed pitcher drafted out of Bukkyo University. Ono had a rough 4 innings at ichi-gun last year. He also started 9 games at ni-gun and finished the year there with a 4.84 ERA. He is only 23 years old this year, so he has plenty of time to develop yet.
2009 - Toshiya Okada - Okada has a pretty similar story to Ono, he's a lefty pitcher. He was drafted from Chiben Wakayama High School and is 20 years old. He has pitched two years at ni-gun, but entirely as a reliever. Okada had quite a bit more success in 2011, but is probably a year or two away from being an ichi-gun regular.
2008 - Kei Nomoto - A left-handed hitting outfielder, 27 years old. Nomoto wasn't drafted coming out of college and played for two seasons in the Industrial Leagues for Nippon Express. He made the ichi-gun team in his first spring camp and debuted on Opening Day 2009. He has remained primarily at ichi-gun since and played in as many as 118 games there in 2010. He's had some good moments and key hits, but plenty of missed opportunities as well. So far he just hasn't hit well enough to be a full-time starter at one of the outfield spots, but many of the other Dragons hitters have struggled as well so he is likely to have some more opportunities coming. He's getting close to being too old to be a prospect and may never win a job as an every-day player, but for now he is a useful option off the bench or a platoon lefty, with still the chance that things will "click" for him and will turn into a solid starter.
2007 High School Draft - Kazuyuki Asasaka - Asasaka was drafted as a right-handed pitcher out of Urawa Gakuin H.S. He pitched in ni-gun until 2010 and had a pretty sucessful 2009 season there. But after a tough 2010 he was switched to outfield. He is currently listed as an outfielder on the Dragons' Development Squad Roster. At this point it looks like a long shot that he will be a significant contributor at the ichi-gun level.
2007 College/Independent Draft - Soma Yamauchi - A right-handed pitcher drafted from Meijo University. Yamauchi has 22 career starts at ichi-gun in his career and 17 over the last 2 years. His ERA was 1.73 last year over 62 1/3 innings. He's 26 years old and projected to start the year in the starting rotation. He's shown a lot of promise so far and this may be the year that he can establish himself as one of the main contributors on the team.
2006 High School Draft - Naomichi Donoue - The younger of the Donoue brothers is a 23-year old infielder. He's played quite a bit over the last two years filling in for the Dragons' elderly infielders, mainly Ibata. He played a lot last year as a late inning defensive replacement at third base. He's been a useful backup and can play SS, 2B and 3B. He hasn't put it together yet with the bat, but he is clearly in Chunichi's future plans. My guess is the switch of Ibata back to shortstop and Araki back to 2B means that they are looking for Donoue to take over the shortstop position in the near future.
2006 College/Independent Draft - Daisuke Tanaka - Tanaka is a 27-year old catcher drafted out of Toyo University. He hasn't had much of a chance yet at ichi-gun, and hasn't hit much at either level. I not sure what the future will be for the Dragons at the catcher position. The top two catchers for this year are over 35 and none of the catching prospects have really done much to wrestle any playing time away from either of the older guys.
2005 High School Draft - Ryosuke Hirata - Hirata is a 24-year old outfielder. Last year was his first full year at ichi-gun. He had a nice season, comparatively to the rest of the team, and has cemented himself as the starting right fielder. He can also play some center-field and looks to be one of better younger players on the team. His first career home run in 2008 was a walk-off, and that may have been a sign of things to come as he had multiple walk-off dingers and some very clutch moments last year. The only things I see that could hold him back are his swing is little long and he seems to miss some pitches he should be able to cover. I also saw him in a interview over the offseason and he was looking a little chunky, but he was able to lose most of the weight before coming back to training camp. All in all, he looks like a promising player moving forward.
2005 College/Independent Draft - Kazuki Yoshimi - Yoshimi is a 27-year old righty pitcher and has been an excellent performer over the last four years. With the loss of Chen over the offseason, he is now the clear ace of the pitching staff.
2004 - Tatsumi Higuchi - Higuchi was drafted in his late 20's from the Japan Railways industrial team. He pitched several years at ni-gun before retiring, but never pitched for the ichi-gun squad.
2003 - Hiroki Nakagawa - Nakagawa was a outfielder for the Dragons up until this past offseason. He only had 33 career ichi-gun at-bats in his career. He will be joining the ni-gun coaching staff for 2012.
2002 - Ryosuke Morioka - Morioka is currently a reserve infielder for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. He left the Dragons after the 2008 season. He hit .256 with 0 HR and 0 RBIs over 52 games last season.
2001 - Akihiro Maeda - Maeda is catcher on the Dragons roster. He's 28 years old now and has only 34 plate appearances at the ichi-gun level. He hit well last year at ni-gun last year in 22 games and will likely be on the ichi-gun bench for this season.
2000 - Atsushi Nakazato - Nakazato was a righty relief pitcher for Chunichi until 2009. He didn't pitch much or have a lot of success at the ichi-gun level. In 2010 he went to Yomiuri and pitched a few innings for them. He had a servicable season for Yomiuri's ni-gun team in 2011, but was never brought back to ichi-gun. He was not given a contract for the upcoming season and will join Yomiuri's coaching staff.