Tag Archive > Hiroyuki Nakajima

Nakajima Update

» 06 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 14 Comments

Update: And it’s the Yankees. I wonder if he’ll sign with them.

Only a quick update needed here — As expected, Seibu is going to accept the high bid for infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima. This is all over the Japanese media, but I’ll choose the Jiji Press’s brief writeup, which says that Seibu will file the paperwork on the 7th (JST) and the winning team will be made public within the same day.

So we don’t know the winning team or bid amount yet, though the Giants and Brewers have both clarified that they did not bid. So who might the winner be? My first three guesses would the Mets, the A’s, and the Rockies. But I’m not really up on the infield needs of most of MLB, so those really are random guesses.

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Grains of Salt

» 03 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 11 Comments

So unsurprisingly, I’m getting questions this offseason about how guys like Tsuyoshi Wada, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Wei Yin Chen project as MLB prospects. Truth be told, trying project established guys from NPB to MLB always makes me a little nervous. I don’t feel like I’m that great at it, so I decided to go back and look at my public track record, to give you the chance to decide if I’m worth listening to.

Here’s what I found:

  • Koji Uehara — I was bullish on him when he moved across the Pacific; injury history had me questioning whether he could start; he was one of my favorite guys to watch in Japan and I’m glad he’s done well.
  • Kenshin Kawakami – My synopsis was “mid-rotation guy you can win with“. In retrospect that was a little aggressive; he was more like a competent #4 guy before the Braves decided to bury him.
  • Hitoki Iwase – I thought his stuff would translate to MLB, particularly after watching Scott Downs pitch; he obviously never moved to MLB.
  • Junichi Tazawa — I really liked his stuff, but also expected him to hit a wall somewhere. He reached the majors before hitting a wall, which really impressed me.
  • Ken Takahashi – I predicted “a little bit of an uphill battle” for Tak1, but also thought he could be a useful pitcher. He basically was for his year in the Mets organization, though his career ended immediately after returning to Hiroshima.
  • Ken Kadokura – Remember when he signed with the Cubs? I felt like he had something left in the tank, but he wound up getting dropped by the Cubs at the end of spring training and went on to have a few good years in Korea.
  • Hisanori Takahashi – I liked Tak2 a lot better as a reliever than a starter; that one turned out to be true.
  • Ryota Igarashi — I don’t think I made an explicit prediction for Igarashi, but I thought he would do okay. He didn’t seem to trust his stuff in his first year, and though he did better in year two, he went from “effectively wild” in NPB to just “wild” with the Mets.
  • Chang-Yong Lim – Like Igarashi I don’t know that I really made an explicit prediction for him, though I really liked his stuff. I still do. Lim is still with Yakult and not a free agent, and I doubt we’ll ever see him in MLB.
  • Colby Lewis – I found reasons to be optimistic about Lewis in his return to the Rangers, but he certainly has exceeded my expectations.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Over at Fangraphs, I called Nishioka a “Chone Figgins/Ryan Theriot type”. What I meant by that was that he could be an infielder who would get on base but have minimal power, and play decent defense. I didn’t see him flaming out in year one the way he did.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma — Also at Fangraphs, I put Iwakuma’s upside at mid-rotation, noting he has to keep his forkball and he will probably regress some in innings pitched. I still mostly think this is the case, assuming he’s healthy. We’ll find out next year.
  • Yoshinori Tateyama – I never published much of anything about Tateyama, though I have an unfinished draft still sitting on Fangraphs, where I intended to make the case that he could be an MLB ROOGY/righty specialist. There was little original thought there, as he was dominant against righties in 2010 for Nippon Ham. In 2011 he exhibited a similar split for the Rangers, with a 2.04 against righties, versus 7.71 against lefties.

I kind of set out to prove that I’m not that great at these predictions, so I was surprised that the results here actually weren’t too bad. I seemed to do all right with Uehara, Tak1 and Tak2, while I probably underestimated Lewis and over-predicted Nishioka. The Nishioka flop makes me worry that I don’t know how to project position players. I think overall though, it’s pretty clear that I tend to see the glass as half-full with these guys as prospects. I also noticed here was that I seem to look at specific skills and how they might translate, rather than trying to project specific stats. Maybe I’m more of a scout than a numbers guy at heart.

That said, there are plenty of things I’ve been wrong about, I just haven’t always had a platform like this to assert my wrongness. If NPB Tracker had been around, however, I would have told you that…

  • …of the two Matsuis, Kazuo was the far better MLB prospect. I was a huge fan of Kazuo’s; I saw him as a five-tool player.
  • Kei Igawa’s changeup was going to be a good MLB pitch.
  • Nagisa Arakaki was Japan’s next great pitcher.
  • So Taguchi wouldn’t have anything to offer to and MLB club.

…and so on.

So you might see me make a few statements on how I think the 2012 NPB imports may perform after they cross the Pacific. I’ll let you decide the appropriate measure of salt to take them with.

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The NPB Tracker Post Season Awards

» 01 December 2011 » In npb » 1 Comment

Better run this before ALL the awards are announced… several weeks ago, Randy, Ken and I made our selections for the top performers of 2011. And here they are, with minimal analysis.

Sawamura Award: Masahiro Tanaka (Patrick, Ken), Yu Darvish (Randy)

Ken and I liked Tanaka’s crazy 1.27 ERA, while Randy favored Darvish’s higher innings pitched and strikeout totals. Can’t really go wrong either way.

Apologies to: Kazuki Yoshimi, Tetsuya Utsumi

Pacific League MVP: Tanaka (Patrick, Ken), Darvish (Randy)

The new NPB ball made this a pitcher’s year, and there was general consensus that the performance of Darvish and Tanaka put them ahead of everyone else.

The real winner, Seiichi Uchikawa, finished third on Randy’s ballot and fifth on mine. He would have been my winner if he had missed less time.

Apologies to: Takeya Nakamura, Yoshio Itoi, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Uchikawa

Central League MVP: Hisayoshi Chono (unanimous)

The overall lack of offense around the league meant that Chono’s performance stood out enough to win our votes. The lack of a Tanaka or Darvish type starting pitcher in the CL played a role here as well. Yoshimi and Utsumi were extremely good this year, but not scarily dominant.

The real winner, Takuya Asao, finished fourth on my ballot. You can argue that he put up that Tanaka-level performance in the CL this year, and I guess the voters did, but personally I valued a starting position player over a relief pitcher.

Apologies to: Asao, Yoshimi, Utsumi, Kenta Kurihara, Hirokazu Sawamura

Pacific League Rookie of the Year: Kazuhisa Makita (Patrick, Ken), Shota Ishimine (Randy)

While there were a lot of strong rookies in the PL this year, Makita pitched over 100 innings for Seibu out of the rotation and out of the bullpen, solidifying each when his team needed it. Ishimine stuck in the Lotte outfield throughout the season, got on base at a respectable clip, and swiped 32 bases.

The real voters agreed with Ken and I.

Apologies to: Takahiro Shiomi, Yuki Saito

Central League Rookie of the Year: Sawamura (unanimous)

Probably the most obvious award in quite some time, thanks to Sawamura’s 2.03 ERA over 200 innings pitched. The real voters thought so.

Apologies to: Daiki Enokida

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NPB Bullet Points: Coming & Going

» 08 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 16 Comments

Looks like we’re in for a busy offseason on the posting market. Here’s the latest.
  • Like last year, Seibu shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will again ask his management to send him to MLB via the posting system this offseason. This year, Seibu is expected to grant his wish. Nikkan Sports keeps mentioning the Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Orioles as possibly interested teams, but it’s not clear where that information is coming from.
  • Yakult Swallows centerfielder Norichika Aoki has also petitioned his team to post him, according to Toshiyuki Tachimatsu of the Mainichi News.
  • As of October 26, Chunichi lefty Wei-Yin Chen was 50/50 on moving to MLB, according to the Chunichi Shimbun.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Hiroshima has an offer out to Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda commented: “I’m happy that they would evaluate my contributions like that. Naturally, I’m happy. A feeling that they really want to win came across. (Hiroshima’s competitiveness this season) has come to a frustrating place, to a place where they are one step away… I’m very happy I got an offer from the Carp.”
  • A number of NPB teams have interest in Kei Igawa, among them Rakuten and Orix, who are both managed by men who managed Igawa with the Hanshin Tigers.

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Hot Stove Preview, Part Two: 2012 Posting Candidates

» 26 July 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

As promised in part one, here are my guesses at what will happen with the posting market this offseason. Remember, unlike free agency, posting is not a scheduled event. Players must request to be posted, and their teams must consent for the posting process to actually take place. As such

Posting Candidates

Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS, Seibu Lions) — Nakaji made multiple requests to be posted last offseason, all of which were denied by Seibu’s management, citing a desire to compete this season. It hasn’t really worked out, as the Lions are currently in last place in the Pacific League (despite my preseason optimism). Like most of NPB, Nakajima’s numbers have been suppressed by the new ball, but he still sports a .279/.339/.431 line. Sadly that .430 slugging percentage is good for sixth in the Pacific League. I don’t really see Nakaji as an MLB shortstop, but if he can come close his current .770 OPS at the MLB level, he’d be a useful second baseman. (Hiroyuki Nakajima tag archive)

Norichika Aoki (OF, Yakult Swallows) — Posting rumors involving Aoki were once common but have really died down over the last few years. There was some reporting that he was going to ask to be posted last offseason, but nothing came of it. It seems pretty clear that Yakult wants to hang on to him, so my take is that it’s highly unlikely that Aoki will be posted this offseason. If he was, his MLB value would be questionable. In this year’s depressed offensive environment, Aoki has largely held on to his on-base skills, but seen his power decline significantly. After regularly slugging around .500 over the last several years, Aoki has just 12 extra base hits (no home runs) in 292 at bats this season, for a .363 rate. (Norichika Aoki tag archive)

Yu Darvish (SP, Nippon Ham Fighters) — I need to be careful what I write about Darvish, because it tends to get repeated, frequently without much context. Darvish is not a free agent until after the 2014 season. There’s also no concrete evidence that Darvish is going to be posted this offseason, and I have my doubts about the journalistic integrity of those who claim otherwise. It is heavily rumored that this is the year, but that’s been the case since before I started this blog in 2008, and here we are. The only on-the-record quote I’ve seen recently from anyone who’s involved are these, from Nippon Ham GM Masao Yamada, last month in Sponichi: “posting is done at the request of the individual, and he hasn’t said anything to us, so we can’t ask ‘what shall we do’ from our side” and “when the time comes, we’ll take the circumstances of the team and the player’s performance into consideration”.

Having said all that, Darvish has done nothing to discourage the rumors with his performance. After a rough opening day start, Darvish has been flat-out dominant this season. I would go as far as to say this is the best work I’ve ever seen from him. Part of that is because of the new, offensive-choking ball, but Darvish has done his part, leading Japan in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts. I don’t have any doubt that he could perform well against better competition. (Yu Darvish tag archive)

My best guess is what of the three players profiled above, only Nakajima is posted. We may see a player I haven’t discussed posted as well; last year I didn’t think Hisashi Iwakuma or Tsuyoshi Nishioka would be posted, and they both were.

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My Team Japan

» 08 May 2011 » In npb » 27 Comments

Last week, I got a pretty good question Twitter — who would my Japanese national team be today?

It’s a good question, and a nice change of pace from the Darvish questions I frequently get, so I decided to write up a post about it. Coincidentally back when I was teaching English at the now-defuct NOVA, I used to do a lesson like this with my baseball fan students, and it was always a fun one.

I’m picking my team as if they would have to compete at the highest level, so as cool as I think the World Port Tournament is, I’m following the WBC roster rules. In summary, I get a maximum of 28 players, with a minimum of two catchers and 13 pitchers.

Outfield

No reason to deviate from the 2009 WBC starting outfield of Ichiro, Kosuke Fukudome, and Norichika Aoki. For my fourth outfielder I’ll go with the gap power, strike zone judgement, and defensive prowess of Nippon Ham CF Yoshio Itoi.

Infield

There’s one easy call for me in the infield: Hiroyuki Nakajima at shortstop. At second base, I’ll start Tsuyoshi Nishioka, without regard to his current injury.

The corners are a little trickier. At third base, I like Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura’s bat and Eiichi Koyano’s glove, with Takahiro Arai striking a balance between the two. Choices are a bit limited on other side of the diamond, and Sho Nakata might be the best choice by the end of the year, but for now I prefer the contact bat of Seiichi Uchikawa.

This group of four gives me some flexibility. I can play the stronger defensive group with Koyano at third, Arai at first, and Okawari-kun DH’ing, or I can for the better offensive lineup and have Arai at third, Okawari-kun at first, and one of my other candidates batting DH. The presence of Uchikawa gives me the option of playing the hot hand as well.

On the bench, I’ll stash Yasuyuki Kataoka and Munenori Kawasaki, both of whom can pinch run, steal bases, get bunts down and play good defense all over the infield.

Designated Hitters

Nakamura would DH for my team when he’s not playing in the field. Hideki Matsui never participates in these things, but dammit,this is my dream team, so he’s in.

Catchers

Catcher is an easy call. Kenji Johjima starts, Shinnosuke Abe backs up.

Starting Pitchers

The first three starters are easy choices: Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Hiroki Kuroda. The next three are pretty easy too: Masahiro Tanaka, Hideaki Wakui, Kenta Maeda. Hang on, no lefties in there, so I’ll call on Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi, and Masaru Takeda.

That’s nine starters, so some of these guys are are going to relieve. In particular, I like Tanaka as a power arm out of the bullpen, and Takeda as a lefty specialist.

Relief Pitchers

I’m rounding out my 13-man pitching staff with four full-time relievers for my squad: Kyuji Fujikawa, Takuya Asao, Hitoki Iwase and Tetsuya Yamaguchi.

Those last two are kind of risky picks, given Iwase’s struggles in the 2008 Olympics, and the fact that Yamaguchi got lit up for 10 home runs last year. But Iwase is a good pitcher, and I like Yamaguchi’s ability to get lefthanded batters out.

Notable absences

The last name I deleted off my list of candidates was Chihiro Kaneko (ignoring the fact that he’s been out injured all season). It was either him or Koyano, and I went with Koyano for his third base defense and gap bat. Kaneko’s righty starter skillset is already well-represented.

I would love to have another power bat on this team, but the only other guy I really thought about was Shuichi Murata. A few years ago, his inclusion would have been a no-brainer, but I prioritized defense, and his down numbers last season concern me. Nobuhiko Matsunaka would have been a great inclusion, but he is a shadow of his former self.

I gave some consideration to Koji Uehara and Takashi Saito, but they are too injury-prone to displace either Fujikawa or Asao, and too righthanded to bump Iwase or Yamaguchi.

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Offseason Changes: Saitama Seibu Lions

» 21 February 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Coming: Yataro Sakamoto

Going: Toru Hosokawa, Koji Ohnuma, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Kenta Matsuzaka, Yoshihiro Doi, Shinji Taninaka

Staying: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Jose Fernandez, Dee Brown, Brian Sikorski, Alex Graman

Summary: This series is titled “Offseason Chages”, but the Lions haven’t given me much to write about. Seibu let defensively-minded catcher Toru Hosokawa take his .191 batting average south to Fukuoka, and will let Ginjiro Sumitani and Tatsuyuki Uemoto carry the load. They also swapped righty relievers with Yokohama, picking up Yataro Sakamoto. Beyond that, the Lions replaced some bit players with 2010 draftees.

The real keys Seibu’s offseason are in the players who will be returning. Denying Hiroyuki Nakajima’s repeated posting requests is addition by not subtracting. The rest is mostly addition by health. Slugger Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura was never really healthy last year, but still popped 25 home runs. #2 starter Takayuki Kishi missed all of July and August last year. The low-profile but highly-productive bat of mid-season signing Jose Fernandez will be available from opening day. 2011 Sophomore Yusei Kikuchi lost a year of development, making only two ni-gun appearances . And even Alex Graman, who was lights-out as a reliever but has been shelved for two years, is back. Obviously some of those guys are going to contribute more than others, but healthy seasons from Kishi and Okawari-kun alone would add a couple wins to the bottom line.

The underlying fact is that this is a talented group that didn’t need much tweaking to remain competitive in 2011. The Lions took a magic number of four into the last week of the 2010 season, and won more games than anyone else in the Pacific League; if they had managed just one more tie, they would have taken first place. Just three games separated the first and fourth teams in the PL last year, and I expect things to be similarly tight this season.

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NPB Bullet Points: Late Contracts, New Uniforms

» 30 January 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

We interrupt our series of 2011 offseason reviews to bring you a bullet list of news items from around NPB. All links in Japanese.

  • Beom-Ho Lee has left the Softbank Hawks and will join the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. Lee hit .205 in 132 at-bats last year, and was well-down the Hawks’ depth chart for this season. He had said that he would go back to Korea if he couldn’t stick at third base, so I give him credit for sticking to his words.
  • In other Hawks news, Hitoshi Tamura finally signed for 2011, agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay a JPY 180m salary. Softbank had offered a multi-year deal but he wanted a one-year deal, saying that he can perform better.
  • Hiroyuki Nakajima was another late signing, agreeing to a JPY 280m salary for 2011. He’ll gun for MLB again next offseason.
  • Craig Brazell has arrived in Japan, and from the looks of things he came straight from the golf course.
  • The Nippon Ham Fighters have unveiled their new uniforms
  • Wladimir Balentien brought his PlayStation 3 to camp, with the idea that he could get to know his teammates over a couple of auto racing games during the spring. He impressed the author of the linked Sponichi article by arriving in Okinawa early and working out on consecutive days.
  • Hideaki Wakui had his salary dispute with Seibu settled in a rare NPB arbitration case, reports Naoko Toyakoshi of Nikkan Sports. Wakui will see his salary rise to JPY 253m, a little short of the JPY 270m he had requested.
  • Meanwhile, Hanshin ace Yasutomo Kubo has yet to renew for 2011 and could wind up paying his own way to camp.
  • Rakuten items: Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura modeled their Eagles uniforms at K-Sta; later new manager Senichi Hoshino led his team to a pre-camp shrine visit on a snowy day in Sendai; Byung-Hyun Kim was also introduced in the snow.

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2010 At The Half

» 27 July 2010 » In npb » 5 Comments

This post is a little late — we’re officially in the second half of the season as the first post-All-Star games were played on Monday. The All-Star game is only a symbolic marker anyway though, as all the NPB teams have played at least 87 games out of the 144-game schedule. Still it’s a good time to take stock of the season that’s been played so far. Here are some thoughts conveniently split up into three categories.

A few general observations:

  • The Central League is again a three-team race between Yomiuri, Hanshin, and Chunichi. This makes the playoff race somewhat uninteresting but the playoffs themselves should be good.
  • The Pacific League is much more balanced, with SoftBank, Seibu, and Lotte nine or more games over .500, Orix even and Nippon Ham one game under. Rakuten is in the cellar at 40-49, but they have the second best pitching results in the league and could get into contention for a playoff spot if they start to hit.
  • We’re seeing a strong performances from a number of starting pitchers.

Follow up from previous posts:

  • The answers to my six storylines so far: no, yes, unfortunately not, maybe, yes/not yet, probably none.
  • Yokohama is again a doormat. I thought they’d be a little more competitive this year.
  • My rookies to watch are either injured (Yusei, Kazuhito Futagami, Takashi Ogino), fat (Ryoji Nakata) or Hisayoshi Chono (Chono).
  • A couple of the imports I put on my watch list, Matt Murton and Kim Tae-Gyun, have taken off in Japan. Gio Alvarado is getting it together as well.
  • The veterans I picked to watch have mostly been duds, which isn’t a surprise as I deliberately listed a bunch of guys with question marks. That said, Yoshinobu Takahashi is having a nice bounce back season, Aarom Baldiris has contributed some a performance to Orix, and Sho Nakata is showing some signs of life.

NPB Tracker mid-season awards:

  • My first half MVPs: Central League – Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi), Pacific League - Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu)
  • First half Sawamura Award winner: Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima)
  • First half RoYs: Central League – Chono (Yomiuri), Pacific League – Ogino (Lotte) despite missing significant time on the injured list
  • Breakout players: Central League – Shun Tohno (Yomiuri), Pacific League – T-Okada (Orix)

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Japan-Korea Bullet Points

» 18 March 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off

It took a while to find a way to actually watch the game here in the States, but I finally did.

About the game…

  • Jung Bong shut Japan down again, indicating that his round one performance was no fluke.
  • Yu Darvish was better than the final line makes him look. He was done in in the first (from what I saw of the highlights) by a couple of a couple of booted infield grounders and a weak throw from Norichika Aoki.
  • After the first inning, Korea didn’t do much of anything until the eighth, when they let Japan’s pitchers beat themselves with walks.
  • Japan got runners on base and generally made contact, but they didn’t get any extra-base hits and didn’t really play the small-ball game. I think that’s what cost them the win more than anything.
  • Akinori Iwamura looked like he had no chance against Chang Yang Lim in the last at-bat of the game.
  • I wasn’t crazy about Korea planting their flag on the mound at the end. They didn’t win the tournament.

Hindsight is 20/20…

  • Tatsunori Hara had the infield positioned for a play at the plate when Korea had the bases loaded in the first. If they had been a double-play depth they would have gotten at least one out on Jin-young Lee’s grounder went for a two-run single.
  • I would rather start Munenori Kawasaki than Yasuyuki Kataoka if Hiroyuki Nakajima can’t play, especially since Kataoka is out of position at shortstop.
  • What was the point of putting Yoshiyuki Ishihara in for Kenji Johjima, just to pinch hit for him with Shinnosuke Abe after an inning? Johjima got ejected — shame on me for watching with the sound off.
  • Minoru Iwata didn’t look sharp — and leaving him in to face the righty looked really bad when Masahiro Tanaka came in and blew the next guy away.

On the live chat…

  • The chat thing was a spur-of-the-moment idea, so I didn’t give much notice. If I try this again, I’ll give more notice and hopefully I’ll get to chat with a few of the regulars.
  • The chat was pretty well-trafficed, mostly because it wound up near the top of the Google rankings for several variations on “wbc japan korea live”. A lot of people found this site for the first time because of that, and I hope some of them will stick around.
  • It took some time to find a good video feed, but I think at least a couple people were able to follow along.
  • Some of the comments I got on the chat tested my patience — though the people causing the problems clearly weren’t frequent visitors to this site. I hope everyone will be cool next time we do this.
  • I think it was insane for ESPN to show the NIT tournament instead of this.

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