Kazuo Matsui and Tsuyoshi Nishioka
This caught my eye: Kazuo Matsui offered up some advice for Tsuyoshi Nishioka publicly in Sanspo. I’ve translated it here:
(1) The effect natural grass has on defense at second base is small. Don’t have negative preconceptions. (2) Be careful about getting spiked during double plays (3) Gather data on batters with speed.
（１）二塁守備に天然芝の影響は少ない。悪い先入観を持つな （２）併殺時の足下を狙うスライディングに要注意 （３）俊足打者のデータ収集
Interesting. Especially that first point. Kazuo is generally thought to have made a poor transition to grass infields, but according FanGraphs he hovered around league average after he got out of New York. Then again, he did specifically mention second, so maybe he’s implying the effect is bigger at shortstop. Or maybe I’m over-thinking it.
I’ve been asked several times this offseason if Nishioka is the next Kazuo Matsui. In each instance, my answer has been the same: Nishioka is not another Kazuo; Kazuo had a significantly better record of success than Nishioka has had. If I had been asked in 2002, I would have said that of the two Matsuis, “Little” had the edge on Godzilla as the better MLB prospect. Both Matsuis really were phenomenal in 2002: Kazuo hit .332/.389/.617 with 88 extra base hits, and Hideki nearly won the Triple Crown with 50 HR, 107 RBI and a .334 BA (Kosuke Fukudome overtook him in September and finished at .343). Personally I thought Kazuo’s athleticism and all-around game would translate better than Hideki’s Yomiuri slugging. MLB expectations were justifiably high for both players, which is why Kazuo’s lack of success Stateside was such a disappointment.
So what does that mean for Nishioka? For me, it doesn’t mean anything. Nishioka is joining a good team, in a less demanding home market, and won’t have a top prospect pushing him like Kazuo did with Jose Reyes. So he’ll be in a position to focus on his main competencies of playing good defense and getting on base. If he can stay healthy and do those two things, he won’t be a disappointment.