Baseball fans get excited about Japanese imports in hopes they will see the next Ichiro or Hideki Matsui. But for every but for every Hideki Matsui there is a Kaz Matsui and for every Nomo there's an Igawa and an Irabu. No I'm not talking about cars, although I wouldn't mind driving around in a Toyota Nomo.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka is the latest player to cross the ocean and some fantasy owners think they've found their next answer at shortstop, or second, or wherever he ends up. But is it worth taking a chance on this player?
After a career year, Nishioka was posted and the Twins won the rights to sign him. Sign him they did and they now had a middle infielder that would either fill in at second or shortstop. Nishioka led the NPB last year with a .346 AVG, 206 H, 287 TB and 121 R. The 206 hits are all the more impressive when you consider the fact that only 5 players have ever reached the 200 hit mark, one of them being Ichiro.
Nishioka has always shown promise but has dealt with injuries most of his career. The injury concerns and the lower level of competition in Japan make him a risky pick. The Major League season is longer than what Nishioka is used to in Japan and he may not be able to hold up over the longer schedule. I would not be surprised to see his production slow in the second half of his first full big league season.
The quality of competition is also a factor as it's hard to gauge his skills level in relation to major leaguers. He is clearly a skilled player having excelled at a high level of baseball but you have to note that Matt Murton is one of the other 200 hit men. He doesn't offer any power and his speed isn't unreal as most seem to think he's a 25-30 SB guy tops. Add in a .389 BABIP and even the stellar AVG looks suspect.
He should be able to hit .275+ but with 5-8 HR and 20something SB. He isn't going to be much of a run producer. If he hits high in the Twins order he could score a decent amount of runs but if he isn't hitting well he could drop to the bottom of the order and his fantasy stock would plummet.
He looks like a safe bet for so-so production. With a limited ceiling and injury risk I am letting others take a risk with him. If it's late in the draft and you still need a second basemen and it's either Nishioka or Freddy Sanchez then by all means take a shot at Nishioka. There is just too much mystery with him to justify taking him over established guys like Aaron Hill or Ben Zobrist. If he moves across to shortstop his value will rise and he should be considered alongside guys like Asdrubal Cabrera and Yunel Escobar.