On Saturday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins formally introduced 26-year-old middle-infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He toured the stadium (which was snow covered), chose the No. 1 to wear in the upcoming year, and became the first Japanese import to sign with the Twins.
The deal is for three years, $9.25 million, with an option for a fourth year, 2014, for $4 million. According to mlb.com's report he "charmed" in his first press conference.
But the question still begs: Who is this guy?
Will this be another Kosuke Fukudome disaster, where the crowd welcomes him with wide open arms and Japanese flags, only to find out that, in fact, he can't perform consistently at this level?
Or, just maybe, he pulls an Ichiro, shocks the baseball world, and becomes a legend. Hey, I didn't say it. Check out this video. He himself proclaims that his ultimate goal in life is to become the best shortstop in the world.
Again though, can he? During the 2010 season in Japan, Nishioka batted .346 with 121 runs, 59 RBI, 22 steals, and a .905 OPS. Not too shabby. However, his BABIP did increase by .109 points, not a good sign especially when considering that he will be facing the toughest pitching and best defense that he ever has during his career.
His offensive production, especially his OBP clip (which will be key, as he will most likely be batting ahead of the M&M boys), will be something to watch closely as spring training approaches and the season gets underway.
Will Nishioka produce in Minnesota?
While his offense is questionable heading into his first season, his defense should prove to be top-notch, as he won Gold Gloves in Japan at both shortstop and second base. In fact this has been up for debate, whether he should play at short or second. Either way, he will play opposite Alexi Casilla and will add to an already consistent defense in Minny.
In my opinion, he can succeed. When Kosuke Fukudome entered the majors, he was already somewhat washed up. Already 30, he came into the league with a shining Japanese resume, with not much left to accomplish.
With Nishioka, things are different. He is just 26 years old. As you can see in the video, he is here because he has something to prove, a sense of purpose.
So Twins fans, break out the old English-Japanese dictionary, you could be in for a hell of a ride.