Kenta Hagiwara: The man who helped build SoftBank’s dynasty with plenty of Cuban talent.

We are going to take a trip back into the latest dynasty of the SoftBank Hawks and a key scout who helped build this dominant franchise in the 2010’s. The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have won plenty of during that decade Nippon League titles and Kenta Hagiwara is a big part of the reason why.

Hagiwara is the team’s main scout in Latin America and has used an array of Cuban talent to aid the Hawks to a three peat (2017-2019) in the land of the rising sun during that decade. In total the team won a total of six championships over that span with plenty of Latino talent.

Alfredo Despaigne, Livan Moinelo, Yurisbel Gracial and Ariel Miranda all who were found by Hagiwara in one way or another have all played a big part in the success of the team over various seasons. Oscar Luis Colás who was another a gem found by the scout was the prized prospect of the organization before he decided to bolt from Cuba and later signed with the Chicago White Sox’s, eventually debuting in the big leagues this year.

Some people are saying that baseball is dying in Japan, what’s your take on that?

I don’t believe that to be true that stadiums in Japan seem full to me and the fans seem to be supporting a large contingent of talented players in the NPB.

MLB signs players at 16, why doesn’t the NPB do the same?

Sixteen is too young to sign someone by the league rules, plus we like players to mature as adults before we sign them.

Since you started to scout Cuba, who are the five most talented players you observed ?

I started scouting Cuba in 2015. Of all the players I have scouted I would have to say Yuli Gurriel, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Luis Robert, Cionel Perez and Livan Moinelo would be my top five.

You said in the past you were impressed by Guillermo Avilés and by Yariel Rodríguez who signed with Chunichi.Where there any prospects on the island that interested you at that time?

At the time of the statement I had a keen in interest in (Yoelkis) Céspedes , (Javier) Mirabal and (Yosver) Zulueta amongst others.

Approximately how many Serie Nacional games do you attend yearly to scout players?

I attended about 40 games yearly and scout players in different provinces on the island. It’s hard to focus on any specific area of the country because the talent in Cuba is so abundant.

Name a Cuban prospect that made the biggest impression you ?

It was unequivocally Yariel Rodríguez and his 95 mph fastball.

In your opinion will SoftBank and the Cuban Baseball Federation have a long lasting relationship?

Most definitely, relations between SoftBank and FCB are at an all-time high. In fact I’ve been visiting Cuba more frequently every year.

SoftBank Championships

Pacific League pennants:

19 (1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1973, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2020)

Japan Series championships:

11 (1959, 1964, 1999, 2003, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)

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