The rumor mill out of Japan has it that Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima is looking to make an MLB jump this offseason via the posting system. I’ve covered “Nakaji” on FanGraphs before, but here’s a little more detail.
In the Field
Good glove, pretty good arm. I’ve seen some commentary speculating that he’s better suited to second base in MLB, but I don’t see why he shouldn’t get a chance to play shortstop. Nakajima has played his career on turf, in his home games at Seibu Dome and most of his road games, as all of the Pacific League teams have turf infields. The turf-grass adjustment was tough for Kazuo Matsui, but Tadahito Iguchi did fine so it can go either way. Nakajima made 11 errors in 2010, but beyond that NPB fielding metrics are not easy to come by. I’ll have to get back with more if I can collect anything more compelling. My intuition is that he can handle 3rd defensively, though he won’t have a traditional 3b bat in MLB.
At the Plate
Nakajima is a good contact hitter who uses the whole field. I see him as a line drive/gap hitter; in Japan he’s been around 20 hr and .500 slg for the last four years or so. He’s also gotten better at drawing walks over the last few years, but he’s still not great by American standards. Generally speaking, though, there are fewer walks and strikeouts in NPB. Like many Japanese NPB hitters, he has a complex swing, with a long stride and a lot of leg movement. I think he will shorten up his stride and cut down on his lower body movement in MLB, which will likely cost him some power.
I didn’t think Nakajima would get posted this offseason, and it’s still possible that he won’t — Seibu management has commented that “players that can be posted are valuable and as a team we don’t want to let them go” while adding “we want to consider our players ambitions and dreams to the greatest extent possible.” Negotiations between Nakajima and Seibu are reportedly set to begin on October 20th, so we’ll see what happens after that.