A native of Tawian, Yoh went to Fukuoka High School and was drafted by the Fighters as a shortstop in the 2005 NPB Draft. He debuted at the Ichi-gun level (NPB big leagues) in 2007 as a 20-year-old, but would spend the next three seasons shuttling back and forth from the minors. It wasn’t until 2011 that he cracked the lineup full time. He has since become a fixture in one of the more prominent lineups in the NPB, but I would argue that he has yet to fulfill the promise he showed as a young player. Seeing him for the first time in 2008, he showed bat speed that really set him apart. He was a high-energy player that got carry to the middle of the field and was an above-average runner. Like many young players he lacked plate discipline, but the ingredients were there.
In 2009 as a 22-year-old, he moved to the outfield full time and showed plus range into the gaps with above average-arm strength. Over the next several years, however, his progress seemed to plateau, and while he still has been an above-average player across the board in the NPB, has never really realized the potential his tools and plus athleticism promised as a younger player. He has had less than 100 Ks only once since becoming a full-time player (93 in 2015), but is back on pace to break 100 Ks this year. He knows the zone and has been better about expanding it in my looks so far this year, however there is some swing and miss in the zone and seems to struggle particularly with changeups and splitters. He does a good job recognizing spin and has some ability to keep his hands back when fooled, but gets easy to pitch to as he is often overmatched by above-average velo up in the zone.
The big leg kick creates a lot of movement in the box and results in more hip travel than you would like to see. He likes the ball out over the plate and looks to drive the right-center field gap, but he opens his front side early and has the bat drag a bit, making the ball out away from him the only location he can really get extended on. As a young player, he had more of an MLB approach at the plate and looked to turn on velocity inside, however he has spent his entire career in a breaking-ball heavy league and has adjusted away from some of his aggressiveness vs the fastball.
He is now 29 years old and rumor has it that he will be posted this coming offseason. While I don’t have him as an everyday guy, I do think his athleticism in the outfield and his gap power will be enticing enough for a team to take a chance on him. He is not going to be a HR guy (his best season saw him hit 25 in 2014 in very small NPB ballparks) but his gap power to right-center may play well. Right now I have him as an average defender in the outfield, but have had him better in the past and would not be surprised to see him show up with above-average defense in his first season in the big leagues. He is a guy that enjoys the spotlight and would have two countries rooting for him should he end up making the jump. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pull in a $2.5 million posting fee, ala Nori Aoki (OF, Brewers), but anyone expecting Aoki-like production at the plate may end up being disappointed.