Tag Archive > Hiroyuki Nakajima

More Evidence That Nakajima Will Fit In With The A’s

» 07 February 2013 » In nichibei » Comments Off

The relevant part starts at about 30 seconds in:

No, that’s not Hiroyuki Nakajima in the Spiderman mask, it’s his Seibu Lions (ex-)teammate Yasuyuki Kataoka.

A’s fans, does this remind you of anything?

reddickspidermanpie081712

(image stolen from Big League Stew, credited to AP Getty Images)

Continue reading...

Tags: ,

Spring Training Story Lines

» 03 February 2013 » In npb » 2 Comments

Spring has arrived in Okinawa, and NPB camps are underway. As with every new season, there are a number of stories developing. Here are a few to look out for:

  • How long before Nippon Ham settles on a position for Shohei Ohtani?

Part of Nippon Ham’s pitch to Ohtani was letting him pitch and hit. Ohtani has the physique and high school track record to make this a very interesting idea, but I suspect that reality will eventually settle in and he’ll wind up sticking to his best role. That said, here’s hoping he pulls it off. I’d love to see him come in from right field to close a game.

  • How will top draftee Shintaro Fujinami adapt to life as a pro?

There is no such positional debate about the other high school prize of last year’s draft, Hanshin pitcher Fujinami. The sentiment echoed throughout the Japanese media following the draft was the question of whether Hanshin has the ability to develop a pitcher with the potential of “Mount Fuji”; now we begin to find out.

  • How will Yomiuri draftee Tomoyuki Sugano perform after a year away from competition?

Sugano took a year off in 2012, after his rights were won by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the 2011 draft. Undeterred, the Giants grabbed him uncontested in the first round of the 2012 draft, and he immediately signed. If he’s some approximation of this, the Giants will be quite happy he was insistent on playing for them.

  • Which of the bari bari Major Leaguers will sink and which will swim?

Andruw Jones, Bryan LaHair, Casey McGehee, Jose Lopez, Vincente Padilla and Nyjer Morgan are among this year’s NPB imports. It’s always hard to predict who will do well in Japan, but I’m particularly pessimistic about Padilla and Morgan.

  • Who will step in to Hiroyuki Nakajima’s shoes for Seibu?

History repeats itself. 10 years ago, Nakajima stepped forward as the replacement for star shortstop Kazuo Matsui, who had departed for the Majors. Now Seibu finds itself needing a replacement for Nakajima. It looked like Hideto Asamura could emerge as a successor, but he failed to impress last season. A return to form from speedster Yasuyuki Kataoka would be welcome, and perhaps Esteban German could see time at shortstop.

  • Who is Eddy Rivera?

Billed a “mystery” player, Rivera is in camp with the Chunichi Dragons on a trial basis (“testo sei“). Rivera has Dominican Summer League experience with academy affiliates of the Cardinals and Padres, but hasn’t appeared in a game since 2010.

Rivera stepped off his flight from the Dominican and immediately impressed with his velocity. Chunichi has found Latin American bargains such as Tony Blanco and Enyelbert Soto in recent years, we’ll see if lightning strikes again.

  • Has Orix improved?

Orix recently grabbed headlines for acquiring star outfielder Yoshio Itoi in a trade with Nippon Ham, but has made a couple other interesting moves this offseason. The Buffaloes signed 2B Keiichi Hirano, picked up starter Shun Tono in a trade with Yomiuri, and snagged closer Takahiro Mahara as compensation for losing free agent starter Hayato Terahara. On the negative side of the ledger, the B’s parted ways with talented, but health-challenged starters Terahara Hiroshi Kisanuki, as well as Alfredo Figaro. Orix is still on the outside looking in at a top-3 finish, but if everything goes absolutely right for them, they could make things interesting.

  • Has Yokohama DeNA improved?

DeNA’s offseason largely consisted of poaching Tony Blanco, Jorge Sosa and Enyelbert Soto from Chunichi, getting OF Hitoshi Tamura back from Softbank, and signing Nyjer Morgan. All of these moves, with the probable exception of Morgan, improve the Baystars, but none really addresses the team’s main weaknesses of the starting rotation and middle infield. The real step forward will have to be lead by the ‘Stars young players: 3B Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, C Shuto Takajo, pitchers Yuki Kuniyoshi and Kisho Kagami, and 2012 draftees IF Hiroyuki Shirasaki and pitcher Kazuki Mishima.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Nakajima Learned to be Cool

» 19 December 2012 » In nichibei » 5 Comments

A couple of years before Hiroyuki Nakajima became a Twitter sensation for calling Billy Beane “sexy and cool” (which is a bit of a liberal translation, but that’s a different story), Nakaji expressed his fun-loving side with a celebratory high-five routine with Seibu teammate Dee Brown.

Here we see Brown teaching his pupil:

And here Nakaji uses it in a game situation (skip to about 0:50):

I suspect he’ll get along quite well with the other A’s.

Continue reading...

Tags: ,

2013 Free Agents

» 29 October 2012 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » Comments Off

All right, here we go. 2013 free agents.

This year, 85 players (18 domestic, 67 international) qualify for free agency. In practice, only a small minority will file and change teams. I will highlight the interesting ones; here’s the full list in Japanese (Google Translate may work all right for that).

International Free Agents

Players who have accumulated nine years of service time are eligible to move overseas.

  • Kyuji Fujikawa, relief pitcher, Hanshin Tigers

This year’s FA class is undoubtedly headed by Hanshin closer Fujikawa, NPB’s most dominant reliever over the last several years. Kyuji has been on the nichibei scene for years; he was actually the first player I profiled way back in 2008 and has since made a perennial habit of asking Hanshin to post him and being turned down. Now as a free agent he’ll finally get his shot. Kyuji isn’t the same guy as he was in 2006, but he still get’s plenty of swinging strikes with the usual vertical movement on his fastball and splitters in the dirt (more data here). His K rate in 2012 was 10.95 per 9, which is great but actually down a bit from his usual 12-14 range. He’ll certainly command an MLB contract, but it seems likely that he’ll begin his MLB career in a middle relief role.

  • Hiroyuki Nakajima, shortstop/infield, Saitama Seibu Lions

If Nakajima’s name sounds familiar, that’s probably because he was posted last offseason, and his negotiating rights were won by the Yankees. Nakaji and the Bombers failed to agree to a contract, so he hopped in his Ferrari and headed back to the Lions for another year, putting up a healthy .311/.382/.451 slash line. His batting average might have led the Pacific League had Lotte not gutlessly pitched around him on the last day of the season, but instead ended up a single point behind Katsuya Kakunaka. His OBP ranked second in the Pacific League, and his slugging pct was fourth, and well ahead of the next middle infielder. In the field he seems to make the play he gets to, but has lost some range, and the consensus is that he’s probably not a full-time MLB shortstop.

Anyway, now Nakajima is back on the market as a free agent. I was a big fan of the idea of Nakaji in New York, acclimatizing himself to MLB while getting 300 or so at-bats spelling Derek Jeter at SS and Alex Rodriguez at 3B, but obviously that didn’t come to fruition. There were other MLB teams interested in Nakajima last time around, so I think there is little doubt he’ll find an MLB deal this year, but it will remain to be seen what kind of role he winds up in.

  • Takashi Toritani, shortstop/infield, Hanshin Tigers

There are a number of things to like about Toritani: he’s played every game since 2005, he led NPB in walks by a wide margin in 2012, defensively he inspires a bit more confidence at shortstop than Nakajima. On the flip side, his power evaporated with the introduction of the new ball in 2011, we have yet to see an NPB shortstop move to MLB and stick, and the most observers seem to agree that he’d be better off remaining in Japan. If his defense and plate discipline hold up, his skill set sounds Oakland A’s-ish, but that’s hardly a given and Hanshin will make a big play to keep him. His best financial offer will certainly come from Japan and I think he’ll probably stay put.

  • Kensuke Tanaka, 2b/infield, Nippon Ham Fighters

Tanaka has been on the free agency market before, but he signed a multi-year contract with Nippon Ham that included an opt-out that allows him to pursue an MLB deal. He is expected to exercise that right. The book on Tanaka is that of a small-ball player: he’s a rangy second baseman who hits for average and draws walks, gets bunts down and steals bases, but offers minimal power. As such, of the infielders listed here he most obviously profiles as a utility guy, though his glove is probably the best of the three. Reporting out of Japan indicates that he seems willing to take a minor league contract, and if that’s the case someone will give him a chance to win a job. Incidentally, he may have kind of a roundabout advantage in that having been a teammate of Yu Darvish for several years, MLB scouts should already be pretty familiar with him.

  • Hideki Okajima, relief pitcher, Softbank Hawks

You guys remember Okajima. After the Yankees terminated his contract last year (that’s two nearly-Yankees Jima’s this list), Okie signed with Softbank and had a strong year, not allowing an earned run until August. He’s angling for an MLB return this offseason.

Posting Candiates

There are no significant posting candidates this offseason.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , ,

A Brief Commercial Break

» 09 March 2012 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

For the third consecutive year, my friends at Rotowire invited me to contribute to their annual Fantasy Baseball Guide. Given my schedule constraints over the offseason, my Rotowire article wound up being the most complete analysis of all the Japanese MLB newcomers for this season.

Of the three articles I’ve contributed to Rotowire, I think this one is the best, so I hope you’ll check it out. Rotowire’s 2012 Fantasy Baseball guide is on newsstands across the US now, or can be purchased online.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , ,

Nakaji Re-signs With Seibu

» 09 January 2012 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

Hiroyuki Nakajima has re-signed with the Saitama Seibu Lions, closing out his latest chapter in his posting saga. Nakaji failed to reach terms with the Yankees after they won his rights, and the Lions denied his repeated requests to be posted following the 2010 season.

Nakaji’s contract is for one-year and JPY 280 ($3.64m at the current exchange rate) plus incentives. He doesn’t look unhappy to be returning to the Lions, and is expected to pursue an MLB deal as a free agent following the 2012 season.

Continue reading...

Tags:

Nakaji Comments

» 06 January 2012 » In npb » 3 Comments

The Seibu Lions have released statements from Hiroyuki Nakajima and team president Hajime Igo (thanks yakubaka.com — couldn’t read that one).

Nakajima:

“Although it’s very regrettable that we failed to agree on a contract, I appreciate the Saitama Seibu Lions for allowing me to be posted, and the New York Yankees for bidding on me.”

Igo:

“Nakajima pursued his Major League dream, but unfortunately he couldn’t realize it at the point. With a feeling of renewal, in the 2012 season we’d like to have him contribute to a Japan championship as a core member of the Saitama Seibu Lions.”

Along with Hiroki Sanada, we’re now 0-2 on postings this year, with Norichika Aoki and Yu Darvish pending.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,

Top Ten From 2011

» 01 January 2012 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

I really wanted a list of 11 things, but I could only think of ten things I wanted to include, so here we go… the top ten events from 2011.

10. Hideki Irabu commits suicide

Obviously a very sad event and something I wish didn’t have to be on this list.

9. The Central League MVP award goes to… a setup man

Chunichi’s Takuya Asao, to be specific.

8. Mass departure of veterans to MLB

Yu Darvish, Hisasahi Iwakuma, Tsuyoshi Wada, Wei-Yin Chen, Norichika Aoki, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Munenori Kawasaki are MLB-bound, though only Wada has signed so far. In with the new

7. That whole thing with Yomiuri and former GM Hidetoshi Kiyotake

Shortly after the season, there was a bust-up between (now former) Yomiuri GM Kiyotake and chairman Tsuneo Watanabe, over Watanabe’s meddling in coaching personnel decisions. I didn’t write about this one at all, so I’ll rely on the Japan Times’ run down of it. The row eventually led to Kiyotake’s dismissal, which is a shame because he did a pretty good job with the Giants, setting up an effective development program and poaching mostly the right guys from other NPB teams.

6. Softbank wins its first Japan Series since buying the Hawks from Daiei, immediately suffers pitching exodus

Softbank’s years of consistent competitiveness were finally rewarded with its first Nippon-Ichi since 2003, when the team was still the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. Then three-fourths of its core rotation hit the road, with Tsuyoshi Wada joining the Orioles and Toshiya Sugiuchi and DJ Houlton departing for Yomiuri.

5. Chunichi dismisses the manager that oversaw the most successful period in team history, Hiromitsu Ochiai

Apparently five Nippon Series appearances in eight years wasn’t good enough. Worst baseball decision in franchise history?

4. The new, standardized NPB ball renders wood cylinders known as baseball bats largely useless

I don’t think I did a post dedicated to the new ball, but it was a big enough story for the NY Times to cover. Six starting pitchers finished with sub-2.00 ERAs, plus Hirokazu Sawamura and Shohei Tateyama right behind at 2.03 and 2.04 respectively.

3. DeNA buys Yokohama, immediately injects some life into the franchise

I haven’t written about DeNA yet, but there is more buzz and excitement around the BayStars now than there has been since the Bobby Rose days. Hopefully it translates into competitive baseball at Yokohama Stadium.

2. Yu Darvish finally moves to MLB via the posting system

He has yet to sign, so it’s not a done deal, but Darvish is certainly the most widely-anticipated Japanese import in MLB history.

1. The Great Tohoku Earthquake

Hopefully this goes without saying, but like the Irabu item, I wish this one wasn’t on the list. While the earthquake was probably the single most devastating event in 2011, it was still only one of many significant events in a turbulent year. I hope 2012 will bring global recovery and a greater level of peace.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Changing of the Guard

» 22 December 2011 » In npb » 18 Comments

This is a big year for NPB imports into MLB, with as many as seven front-line players poised to be wearing MLB uniforms in 2012. While all of the these players will be missed, their departures do collectively open spots for younger talent to fill. Here’s a look at who we might see stepping up in the next year and beyond.

  • Hisashi Iwakuma (Rakuten) – Masahiro Tanaka took over as Rakuten’s ace in 2011, and the presence of Satoshi Nagai and Takahiro Shiomi softens the blow of losing Iwakuma. For me, the question of who inherits the title of Japan’s best groundball pitcher remains open.
  • Wei-Yin Chen (Chunichi) – I’m not sure I see an immediate successor on Chunichi’s roster, though they do have young lefties Toshiya Okada and Yudai Ohno. And although he might be a year or two away, I’m looking to Yusei Kikuchi to emerge as Japan’s next top hard-throwing lefty starter.
  • Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu) – Hideto Asamura played his way on to the Lions’ opening day roster in 2011, and was a tough out all season. He should move to shortstop in 2012, though he’ll have to fend off competition from Esteban German.
  • Munenori Kawasaki (Softbank) – Softbank has young infielders Kenta Imamiya and Tu-Hsuan Lee waiting in the wings. It’s probably unrealistic to expect either to have the same kind of impact that Kawasaki did though. And it seems like the Kawasaki will be back at some point.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada (Softbank) - Tadashi Settsu established himself as Softbank’s ace in waiting with a strong 2011. The losses of Wada and Toshiya Sugiuchi mean that there will be more pressure on guys like Kenji Ohtonari, Sho Iwasaki, Shota Ohba and Shingo Tatsumi to pitch quality innings at the ichi-gun level. We’ll see who steps up in 2012.
  • Norichika Aoki (Yakult) – So far, Lastings Milledge is set to replace Aoki on Yakult’s roster. Softbank’s Seiichi Uchikawa would currently get my vote as Japan’s top contact hitter, though he lacks Aoki’s plate discipline. I’m not sure I see any Aoki-type prospects on the horizon… I’ve read some good things about Orix’s Shunta, but he needs some time to put it together.
  • Yu Darvish (Nippon Ham) – In terms of public stature and marketability, Yuki Saito is certainly Darvish’s heir as the face of the Fighters. Saito is no replacement for Darvish on the mound, and I don’t think Nippon Ham will really have a true successor for him for a long time. Rakuten’s Tanaka seems poised to begin his tenure as Japan’s ace.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NPB Foreign Player Notes: Stavinoha, German, Hodges

» 07 December 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

A few notes to share as we await word on where Hiroyuki Nakajima will wind up.

  • The Chugoku Shimbun reports that the Hiroshima Carp are working on signing outfielder Nick Stavinoha. As of Monday, Hiroshima’s inquiry to the MLB commissioner’s office was complete, and negotiations were making progress.
  • Sponichi reports that the Seibu Lions are moving on Texas infielder Esteban German, as a means of replacing the departing Nakajima on next year’s roster.
  • In other Seibu news, Nikkan Sports reports that the Lions have hired former Yakult Swallow Kevin Hodges to scout the United States. Currently international scout Tetsu Suzuki will take over as Seibu’s farm director.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,