The biggest annual sports event in Japan, the Summer Koshien, has kicked off on Monday morning local time. It’s the ultimate goal for every teenage ball player. Kids practice from the dawn to the sunset everyday to get there. It also is a huge deal for regular people. Even ones who don’t usually watch baseball follow every single pitch during work.
Every year, the tournament features some of the best high school prospects. Yokohama High School went on to the top in 1998 behind Daisuke Matsuzaka’s heroic performance, including a 17-inning complete game. People remember the 2006 tournament as the summer of Masahiro Tanaka and Yuki Saito.
This year, neither of last year’s sensations Tomohiro Anraku nor Kona Takahashi made it, but there still are plenty of top high school players waiting to show their tools on the national TV. In this post, I’ll focus on some of the best arms in the tournament. You’ll probably hear their names at the big league stadiums someday.
The University of Morioka Affiliated HS
Bats: Left/Throws: Right, 6’0/176 lbs
Matsumoto is arguably the best pitcher in the tournament. He throws a fastball that touches 93 MPH from effortless, three -quarter delivery, mixes a mid-70s slider and a low-60s curve ball, as well as a change up and a fork, and is capable to consistently attack the zone with all of his offerings. Some scouts even compare him to Yu Darvish. He also bats the cleanup spot for his team, having 54 long balls in his high school career entering Summer Koshien.
Bats: Right/Throws: Right 5’9/154
His small frame doesn’t standout, but the kid throws hard. The fastball can touch 94, though it clocked only upper 80s this past summer. His other offerings are a slider, curve, and a forkball (splitter).
Tokai University Sagami HS
Bats: Right/Throws: Right 5’9/159 lbs
The right-hander made a sensation in the Kanagawa regional, striking out 39 batters in 17.1 innings, including 20 in 8.2 IP in the final. His fastball sits in the upper-80s, touches 92. The mid-70s vertical slider is the bat-misser. Although he struggles in the above video, the potential is unlimited. He could enter the 2015 draft as one of the best pitchers in the class.
Oh, his opponent in the first round? The University of Morioka Affiliated HS which features Yuki Matsumoto. This has to be Japanese high school pitching porn.
Tokai University Sagami HS
Bats: Right/Throws: Right 6’2/198 lb
Fastball sits in the upper-80s to low 90s, can touch 92 MPH; mixes a mid-70s slider, and a forkball sits around 80 MPH. Some teams see him as a first round pick in this fall’s NPB draft, in fact, a major league team has sent an evaluator to his game. Tokai University Sagami HS, featuring Yoshida, Sato, and 2 other top arms, is seen as the favorite in the tournament.
Kazuto Yamazaki is a Sports Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @kazuto_yamazaki.