First-round draft picks leave the team after failing to make an impact. When a team’s No. 1 draft pick, who was expected to be the future of the team, is out of the lineup, it’s a sign of poor scouting and development. That’s what happened to the SoftBank Hawks, a storied team in the Pacific League that failed to advance to the Japan Series for the third straight year.
SoftBank announced the release of right-handed pitcher Junpei Takahashi (26) and outfielder Naoki Sato (25) on April 22. Both players, who have been informed that they will not be re-signed, were drafted first overall, but failed to develop into mainstays.
In the last decade, four SoftBank No. 1 picks have left the team.
Seven Japan Series titles in 10 years from 2011 to 2020. SoftBank was the dominant team in Nippon Professional Baseball beyond the Pacific League. After a frightening run of dominance, the team has faltered in the last three years. They hovered in second or third place behind the Orix Buffaloes.
This year, they lost the final game of the pennant race and finished third. They were eliminated in the first stage of the Climax Series by the second-place Chiba Lotte Marines. Head coach Hiroshi Fujimoto stepped down and second team coach Hiroki Kokubo, 52, took over.
Takahashi was selected by SoftBank as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 Rookie Draft (Korea) after competition from other clubs. He hasn’t appeared in a first-team game in the last two years. Injuries and poor pitching prevented him from capitalizing on his opportunities.
He appeared in one game in 2017, his second year in the organization. His best performance came in 2019, when he appeared in 45 games as a middle reliever, posting a 3-2 record and a 2.65 ERA. He did not receive a call-up to the first team in 2010 after posting a 1-1 record and two saves in 10 games. He made 23 appearances for the second team last year but did not survive. He left after eight years with SoftBank.
Sato, an outfielder, was a first-round pick in the 2020 draft out of JR West baseball. In 114 games over three years, he batted 1.229 (70-for-9) with two home runs, four doubles, and 20 RBIs. He hasn’t made his presence felt as a No. 1 pick.
Earlier, 2014 No. 1 pick Ren Kajiya (32) and 2018 No. 1 pick Haruto Yoshizumi (23) left the team after being designated for assignment. 짱구카지노 도메인
Right-hander Kajiya was designated for assignment after pitching in a late game in 2020. After five years with SoftBank, he moved to Hanshin to take advantage of the opportunity. He appeared in 51 games this season with 16 holds and a 2.56 ERA.
Yoshizumi ended his career without making a single first-team appearance. After being placed on the disabled list, he switched to the development squad and tried to make a go of it, but was unsuccessful.
According to Japanese media, no SoftBank No. 1 pick in the last decade has won a batting title. The most prominent is right-hander Yuki Matsumoto, 27, who was drafted in 2015. In 53 games this season, he has a 2-2 record with 25 saves and a 2.68 ERA.
The first-round picks are the best players in high school, college, and community baseball. They’ve already proven their potential. It’s a completely different world in the pros, where the competition is fierce.
Senga Kodai, a former SoftBank Ace who joined the New York Mets this season, was not drafted first overall, but rather signed a developmental contract. He’s had a stellar season, going 12-7 with a 2.98 ERA.
While it’s likely that the No. 1 overall pick will be the first to get a chance, it’s all about merit in the pros.