Monday, January 16, 2017

The start of January Tango: 2017 roster finalised, Spring camp thinking, and whatever else

Hello Sports Fans,

We're back for another exciting edition of whatever on earth I call this series of updates and posts.
I am currently back in Australia but still have my finger firmly on the Chunichi pulse looking for new news and views to give you all. Due to having a bit more time these days I've been able to listen to more Dragons related media on YouTube so I'm possibly more up to date than I have been in a while.

Well, it truly is off season. There's not a whole lot that has gone on as we're not playing games and there's very little training going on, but I'll fill you in on the big one.

First of all, the Dragons have signed up two Venezuelan pitchers to add depth to our options. Former Philly, Elvis Araujo, a 201cm LHP with a 4.23 ERA in the majors has been brought in following his release from the Miami Marlins organisation. He throws a four seamer in the high 140s (94mph) with a slider and a changeup. Apparently also has a sinker. Sound like he does get a fair percentage of flyballs, but hopefully the pitcher paradise that is the Nagoya dome will negate that somewhat. He pitcher 20 innings for the Phillies last year with a 5.60 ERA with 29 strikeouts. I think the Dragons will use Araujo mostly as reliever and possibly a set-up man. Mori has made mention, or maybe it was Tomori, either or, that they would like pitchers that can relieve and start, so we might see Araujo starting games at some point too if all goes well for him and all goes poorly for the rest of the pitching staff.

Here he is taking down Bryce Harper last year.

The other Venezuelan arm we've added is RHP handyman, Jorge Rondon. The journeyman has been He's played at MLB level with the Cardinals, Rockies, Orioles and  the Pirates. Rondon only pitched 3.2 innings in 2 games in the Majors last year giving up 7 earned runs, but he looks to have good stuff with a 98 mph four seam, 89 mph slider and a 96mph sinker. The more interesting part however that I think the Dragons will be interested in is that he finished off 31 games in AAA last season, notching up 11 saves in the process. While I've heard every which rumour as to how he'll be used, including putting him in as a starter, I think we've found the solution to our closer problem. His ERA was an impressive 2.67 with a so-so WHIP of 1.203 with a slightly worrying FIP of 3.69 in AAA, but hey, Eddie Gaillard looked pretty ordinary in that regard too (I know that's a good 17 years ago though...). Marcos Mateo is about the only pitcher that comes to mind when it comes to current foreign closers outside of Sarfate at the Hawks, and Mateo put up some good numbers in AAA with the Padres before getting on the first team roster and then moving to Hanshin. We'll see how we go but I think he's going to be the best option we'll have to close games. Tajima is our best set-up guy, and Fukutani can't cut it mentally unfortunately.

Here's Rondon's first punchout with the Orioles in 2015.

Finally, as I have also pointed out previously, Jordan Norberto has been re-signed to have another go around in 2017 with the Dragons. As it stands the new foreign legion is Alex Guerrero, Dayan Viciedo, Raul Valdes (Cuba), Jorge Rondon, Elvis Araujo (Venezuela) and Jordan Norberto (Dominican Republic). 6 foreign players seems a bit like overkill to me given we can only ever put 4 on the first team roster at a time, but it might be just a matter of hedging bets. 

In other news, the new draftees are now bunked up in the team dormitories and have started individual training (under the watchful eye of the coaching staff). Kento Fujishima has been given a lot of time in the media due to his likable personality and the fact he's been a Chunichi fan since he was a kid (still is a kid mind you). He brought with him the most of any of the new inductees to help furnish his new room. 

In the meantime, Mori and his coaching team are working out the spring training rosters to be held in Kitatani in Okinawa this March. So far he has mentioned that all the university grads from the 2016 draft class (Yanagi, Kyoda, Kasahara and Maruyama) would be joining the first team along with Hitoki Iwase, Kazuki Yoshimi and Masahiko Morino while experienced campaigners Masahiro Araki  and 2011 MVP, Takuya Asao would be starting with the second team. This usually has little bearing on what the opening day roster looks like, at least at first. Last year Shota Sugiyama started with the second team and ended up on the first day roster and was one of our best performers in 2016. Hard to gauge these things and I think there are a few different reasons for mixing up the teams to start with.

In relation to Yanagi, his big ol' Meiji Uni and Dragons sempai, Senichi Hoshino has told him to get out there and claim the number 20 jersey currently held by Ryosuke Nomura. The coveted number has largely been dealt to staff aces in the Chunichi past with hall of famers Shigeru Sugishita and Hiroshi Gondo wearing the jersey while Hoshino himself bore the pressure the number held for a number of years along with pitching legend Tatsuo Komatsu. With the Dragons #20 there are 6 Sawamura Awards attached to it and it is certainly a highly coveted number that any future would be aces should be aiming for. 

Speaking of the legendary Hoshino, the big man was inducted to the Japanese baseball hall of fame today for his mostly managerial exploits. Hoshino won two Central League titles with the Dragons, one with the Tigers in 2003 and of course led the Rakuten Eagles to their first Pacific League pennant and Japan Series win. 

Meanwhile in Taiwan, Kazuki Yoshimi is training with Marlins hurler and former Chunichi star Wei-Yin Chen. The two guys are absolute bros and I've just felt all warm inside watching them train through news programs. The banter is there and they seem to really just like hanging out together. Yoshimi is finding the MLB level training very taxing with Chen lifting 320kg on a leg press while Yoshimi struggled with 250kg. Certainly a difference between the two but an interesting way to compare workloads and core strengths. Here's a segment I found:

And again with pitchers, Junki Ito has been told by Mori to either make this year his year or face being traded or cut from the team. Ouch. I have a feeling he'll have a decent go this year. We'll just have to wait and see.

More pitching news, but Yudai Ono appears to be the most likely to be the opening day starter making it his second year in a row and the nominated "ace" of the staff. Well, usually in Japanese ball the ace pitcher starts on opening day and I do think Ono is the most effective pitcher we have at the moment and throws the most fire. I am more of a Yoshimi fan myself, but the fact we have both of them means we've got the makings of a good starting rotation.

Lastly, some news no one really cared about; Shuhei Takahashi announced his marriage to an Aichi woman a few years his senior. They have been dating apparently since Shuhei's first or second year in Nagoya, and plan to have their wedding ceremony and reception at the end of the year.

Well, that's about all from me for today. I'll try and keep you in the know the more knowledge I get to hand. Peace.

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