More NPB Prospects You Should Know

Picking up where I left off last time

Norichika Aoki (OF, Yakult Swallows, 28) – In a post-Ichiro, post-Matsui NPB, Aoki reigns as the consensus top hitter. I’d actually go so far as to say that he”s the best pure hitter Japan has produced since Ichiro. Aoki is a line drive hitter with occasional power who uses the whole field. He’s also a disciplined batter, walking about as often as he strikes out, which is rare in Japan. Aoki is short and somewhat stocky at 5’7.5, 182 lbs, but is a good runner with tremendous range in the outfield. The only knock on his game is his rather weak throwing arm, which may limit him to left field at the MLB level. For video, I dug up some batting and fielding highlights and a breakdown of his swing on YouTube.

Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS, Seibu Lions, 28) – Nakajima gets my vote as Japan’s second best hitter, behind Aoki. Nakajima doesn’t quite match up with Aoki’s pure contact skill or plate discipline, but is still very good in both categories and adds a bit more gap power to the equation. Nakajima is a back-leg hitter, with a big stride that he will occasionally shorten up. On the turf, Nakajima plays a solid shortstop, among many good shortstops in his league. The best video I could find of Nakajima was this one, of him hitting an opposite field home run off Dicky Gonzales (I know, not the best competition). Also of note in the video, you can see that he’s made friends with teammate Dee Brown. The high-five routine they do after home runs shows up on Japanese highlight shows.

Wei-Yin Chen (LHP, Chunichi Dragons, 25) – Last offseason, Chen was probably the more outspoken about wanting to be posted than any other NPB player. Chen is Taiwanese, but signed with Chunichi as an amateur out of high school, apparently without any provisions to make him a free agent if he and the team can’t agree to a contract during the annual negotiations (as veteran foreign players who sign from 3A or Korea usually do). This is an unusual situation, but not unprecedented, as the first couple postings for Dominican players the Hiroshima Carp had signed as amateurs, including current Giant Ramon Ramirez. Chen does appear to be serious about MLB, as he hired agent Alan Nero last offseason, and I expect him to push to be posted again this year.

Chen features NPB’s top lefty power arsenal, primarily throwing fastballs and sliders, while mixing in occasional forkballs and the random big, loopy curve. His fastball reaches 95 mph or so, but usually sits around 90-92, while his slider breaks in on righthanded batters and sits in the 85-87 range. Chen has been letting his pitches get up in the zone much more this season, and is showing more of a flyball tendency than he did last year.

The Chen video I have is two hours of game footage from his August 17 start, against Seth Greisinger and the Giants. The video occasionally switches to a Yokohama game, but still gives you a better sense of what Chen throws than a 10-minute highlight reel will.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAyoigqsLt8


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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at npbtracker.com, and on Twitter @npbtracker.


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Mike B.
Guest
5 years 11 months ago

Thanks Patrick. As a follower of NPB I’m always curious which players might make the transition to MLB. Though I’d like to see Japanese pro baseball keep most of its biggest stars it’s exciting to think about some of them having success across the pond as well. Now if only the BayStars could field a decent team…

Harrison
Guest
5 years 11 months ago

With the ever thinning gap of pure shortstops in the Major Leagues, what are the chances that Hiroyuki Nakajima gets posted in the next year?

Lou
Guest
Lou
5 years 11 months ago

Has anyone heard what the odds are of Aoki getting posted this year?

Bando
Guest
Bando
5 years 11 months ago

Hi Patrick, thanks for the great NPB posts. I’m sure you get asked this question every fifteen seconds, but do the chances that Yu Darvish decides to come to the MLB and convinces his team to post him this off-season remain almost nonexistent? Any significance to the story that was everywhere last week about the Yankees sending top scouts to watch him?

this guy
Guest
this guy
5 years 11 months ago

Great footage of Wei-Yin Chen. I’d put him right up there with Darvish in terms of prospect status.

Annette Arzabala
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I to find It really helpful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and help others like you helped me.

Herb G
Guest
Herb G
4 years 8 months ago

Patrick, I hope you are still monitoring this. I have a question. I understand that NPB deadened their ball in 2011 to more closely approximate MLB conditions. Hence Norichika Aoki’s significant dropoff in his hitting stats. I wonder, did the majority of position players in Japan suffer similar drops? And if so, did the pitchers see a comensurate improvement in their numbers?

jwb
Guest
jwb
4 years 7 months ago

The league ERA dropped from 4.02 to 3.00.

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