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SoftBank 2011 Preview: Lineup

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SoftBank 2011 Preview: Lineup

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This is part 3 of a four-part preview of the SoftBank Hawks 2011 season. Read on for more!

Wow. This squad could be one of the most potent offenses in the league along with Hanshin. There is good hitting talent galore top to bottom (well, with the exception of Hosokawa). Here's the projected starting lineup:

SS Munenori Kawasaki
2B Yuichi Honda
RF Hitoshi Tamura
DH Alex Cabrera
1B Hiroki Kokubo
LF Seiichi Uchikawa
CF Yuya Hasegawa
3B Nobuhiro Matsuda
C Toru Hosokawa

This lineup has only one hole, and it's Hosokawa. Aside from that, the team looks like it could contend with the 2003 team in terms of offensive output. The team also has two experienced catchers in reserve in Hidenori Tanoue and Katsuki Yamazaki, but neither are a reliable option offensively. Once again, this team will likely be carried by its speed. Kawasaki and Honda combined for 89 steals last season, and Matsuda and Hasegawa added 31 more between them. Those steals could potentially set up lots of opportunities to score runs, and with strong hitters throughout much of the Hawks lineup, look for this team to score in bunches.

X-Factors
Offense is one of those tricky things that goes along with baseball: it has the potential to leave you for an entire season. That should not happen with the Hawks this season. The bigger question is who will be there on the bench for the Hawks? Nobuhiko Matsunaka and his perpetually balky knees are always a concern, and with Uchikawa going to the outfield and Cabrera at DH, I highly doubt Matsunaka will see much playing time at all except as a pinch hitter.

Speaking of power, lost in the shuffle has been Jose Ortiz, the team's primary source of power the last couple years. He has been excellent in the first half of the season, but each of the last two seasons he has gotten hurt and not been the same since. Also, let's not forget how he disappeared in September last year (no home runs). He is also fairly versatile, but will not displace any players at positions he's played at before (2nd base, 3rd base) unless there's a day off needed.

Another X-Factor will be what happens with Uchikawa's mindset considering he could he shuffled around to all sorts of positions in the infield and outfield. A lot can be said for Uchikawa's versatility, but baseball players are creatures of habit. Having manned left field for Yokohama the last few years, that should be the best place to keep him.

Waiting in the Wings
The Hawks haven't seen much in the way of position players developing, and they haven't had to worry about it too much. The team has had a solid core for years, with a bunch of emerging youngsters on the bench. Tomoaki Egawa showed what he could do late in the season, as he was an extra-base hit machine. Yusuke Kosai also has shown that he has a good power bat and is versatile in the field. Some guys to look out for that may see some time off the bench are Shuhei Fukuda, Yusuke Kosai and Lee Tu-hsuan.

This year's draft class also looks promising, as Ayatsugu Yamashita and Yuki Yanagida seem to be impressing early on in spring camp. I expect better development from Kenta Imamiya this season, and continued development of Hayato Dohue.

The epic conclusion to this four-part season preview comes tomorrow as we go over team defense, managing, and the season prediction! たのしみに!
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