Katsuya Kakunaka

Date: 06/01/16
Position: LF
Age: 29
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 176
B/T: L/R
Acquisition Period: 7th Rd., 2006 NPB draft (Chiba Lotte Marines)
School: N/A

NPB Prospect Profile

After graduating from high school in Ishikawa Prefecture, Kakunaka played a year of independent league baseball before being selected by Chiba Lotte in the final round (7th) of the 2006 draft for college and “adult” players (prior to 2008, NPB held one draft for high school players and another for players with experience beyond high school). He would spend his first 4 years as a pro primarily in the minor leagues. Kakunaka eventually got into 51 games for the Marines in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2012 that became a regular starter for the team.
From 2012 to 2015, Kakunaka posted averages of .312, .288, .277, and .293, he never struck out more than 68 times in a season, and he consistently had an OBP above .360. He doesn’t excel in terms of power or speed – his career highs in home runs and steals are 8 and 10, respectively – but his short, quick swing and ability to make consistent contact have made him a very tough out in the Marines’ lineup. Almost halfway through the 2016 season, Kakunaka is arguably putting together the best season of his career. His .354 average through 57 games (the NPB regular season is only 144 games) leads the Pacific League and his .946 OPS is well above his previous career high of .787 set in 2014. He has only 2 home runs on the season, but his .505 slugging percentage is supported by 17 doubles and 4 triples in 206 ABs, numbers that already almost match the 20 and 5 he put up in 427 ABs in 2015.

Kakunaka is in his 10th year of pro baseball, but his accumulated service time in NPB in closer to 5.5 years. With free agency still at least a couple of years away, it would be up to Kakunaka to express a strong interest in playing for an MLB team and Chiba Lotte to subsequently make him available via posting. Kakunaku has already gained some international exposure as a member of Japan’s 2013 World Baseball Classic team, and although he is not currently on the roster for the Japan National Baseball team, if he continues to put up league-leading numbers, it will be hard for Japan to leave him off the roster for their 2017 WBC team. The high contact rates combined with his opposite field approach tells me that his NPB success may translate and give him So Taguchi type value to an NL club.