Some Thoughts on Nakajima

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.

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

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13 years ago

Are there any studies on Japanese players changing their mechanics when they come to the US? Ichiro/Matsui didn’t. Dice-K hasn’t. I’m not sure why anyone would take a 28 year old and retool their swing.

My gut says getting away from the slap hitting and quieting his lower body would give him more power and more strikeouts, which might be a worthy trade off, or he could stick with what he’s doing. An average defending shortstop that pops 15 hrs a year has plenty of value.

Has anyone attempted to use minor league equivalences on japanese stats?

13 years ago
Reply to  pack

It has been shown that the NPB has about the same equivalency as AAA, although there is more deviation in NPB than AAA.

13 years ago
Reply to  Will

By who? I thought that the competition was better than AAA, but not quite at the level of MLB.

13 years ago
Reply to  Will

Piccamo is correct. The level of pitching, however, seems even closer.

13 years ago
Reply to  Will

very close to the mlb. but won’t be in the future, if we’re taking their best players.