Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Fighters, Eagles grab coveted pitchers in NPB draft

Kyodo

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters grabbed the negotiating rights to Waseda University ace Kohei Arihara, the most sought-after player in Nippon Professional Baseball’s amateur draft on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles walked off with the nation’s most coveted high school pitcher, Tomohiro Anraku. This comes a year after the team won the rights to marquee high school lefty Yuki Matsui.

Four clubs wanted Arihara in the first round, in which the rights to a player selected by multiple teams are assigned by lot. Anraku was selected by two clubs.

“Four teams picked me, and I’m happy about that,” Arihara told a press conference. “The Fighters have won championships and are a strong team, but I still have league games to pitch with Waseda and I want to focus on those first.”

Although the Fighters came up short in the Pacific League Climax Series, they used a trio of young starting pitchers in the playoffs, including 20-year-olds Naoyuki Uwasawa and Shohei Otani and 25-year-old rookie Hiroshi Urano.

“Our team has so many young players, I think he’ll fit right in,” Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama said. “I can never forget watching him pitch from behind the net at Koshien Stadium. I’ve wanted to compete with him, so I think there is fate involved in this. I think he could step into our rotation right now.”

Last year, Anraku’s fastball hit 157 kph at Koshien’s spring invitational high school tourney, where the right-hander was competing for Ehime Prefecture’s Saibi High School.

“It was my dream to go in the first round, but I have other goals and I’m going to work hard to achieve them,” Anraku said after learning Rakuten had won his rights.

“It’s a team that won a championship with Masahiro Tanaka a year ago, so they are a strong team.

“Pretty much whatever team I went to was OK, but this is the club where Tanaka started and now Matsui is there, so I think they are good at developing young pitchers.”

The Central League champion Yomiuri Giants selected high school infielder Kazuma Okamoto, who hit 73 home runs in his career with Nara Prefecture’s Chiben Gakuen High School.

The Seibu Lions picked pitcher Kona Takahashi, who won last year’s summer national high school championship with Gunma Prefecture’s Maebashi Ikue High School.

The PL champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks took high school pitcher Yuki Matsumoto, while the Chiba Lotte Marines nabbed Arihara’s Waseda teammate, infielder Shogo Nakamura and the Orix Buffaloes can now begin talks with southpaw Sachiya Yamasaki, who has 20 wins in his career for Meiji University.

The Yokohama Bay Stars, who lost out on the draw for Arihara, claimed the rights to hard-throwing Asia University pitcher Yasuaki Yamasaki, while the Chunichi Dragons grabbed corporate league pitcher Ryosuke Nomura. The Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Hanshin Tigers also wound up with corporate league pitchers in the first round.

Yamaha’s Shingo Takeshita went to Yakult, while the Tigers will now begin talks with Yuya Yokoyama, who plays for Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metals in Kagoshima.

The Hiroshima Carp took the first-round’s only outfielder, Takayoshi Noma out of Chubu Gakuin University.

In the second round, the Marines used their pick to take pitcher Eisuke Tanaka. Should he sign, Tanaka will become the first pro ballplayer from academic powerhouse Kyoto University.