The Twins recently won the rights to negotiate with Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but is he even relevant to fantasy owners for next season?
What He Did in Japan
Nishioka has placed his entire season for the Chiba Lotte Marines, and had the following stat line:
.346/.423/.482, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 22 SB, 121 runs scored (.389 BABIP)
Nishioka is a switch hitting shortstop in the NPB, but it has already been announced that the Twins would likely have him play 2B for them.
The BABIP last season is pretty concerning, because even if the BABIPs of players in Japan were across the board higher, it still seems like .389 would be too high and due for some regression. But he posted .300 batting averages in 2 previous seasons (2007, 2008), and ended with BABIPs around .330.
After looking through some video of his swing (which you can find here), his statistics in previous seasons, and reading a scouting report from Patrick Newman at Fangraphs, here's what I'm thinking that Nishioka is capable of:
Nishioka seems to me like he would reasonably post a line of .280/.345/.420 with between 5-10 home runs, 15-20 stolen bases, 50 RBI, and 80 runs scored. The last two numbers are based on my assumption that the Twins would most likely use him as a #2 hitter. If he were to drop in the lineup, I think he might see less of both numbers.
So the question is this: Where would he rank if he posted a line similar to that amongst the rest of the 2B?
Clearly, this would still be behind the top tier of 2B (Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, Dan Uggla, Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks), and these numbers would incline me to put him behind the following 2B also: Martin Prado, Ian Kinsler,Dustin Pedroia. But I could see him being in the same general area of the ranks as players like Howie Kendrick and Neil Walker.
The 2B position really doesn't seem that deep, and Nishioka seems like a good play in deeper leagues (12 teams or more). I think he may end up being a player who is better for real life than fantasy, but there appears to be a decent amount of speed there, and that could still provide a lot of value to owners.