Add Hiroyuki Nakajima to the list of possible replacements for teams searching for a new shortstop in 2011.
As Yahoo! Japan reports , Nakajima (image courtesy Nippon Pro Baseball) will likely be posted for MLB teams to bid on. Nakajima is considered the second-best hitter in Japan by Patrick Newman, who runs the NBP Tracker , a blog dedicated to Japanese baseball. Newman, in an article for Fangraphs, said that Nakajima has solid gap power and is considered a good fielder. The 28-year-old primarily plays on turf, however, so his longevity at the position has to be questioned.
The righty replaced Kazuo Matsui at short for Seibu after Matsui left for the States. Nakajima quickly emerged as one of the league's better players and hit .364/.516/.545 in the 2009 World Baseball Classic after leading the Lions to a Japan Series victory in 2008. He homered off Koji Uehara to win Game 1 and then blasted Hisanori Takahashi the next day in an eventual loss. Both pitchers are now pitching for the Orioles and Mets, respectively, turning in solid seasons in advance of free agency.
Nakajima hit .314/.393/.511 in 579 plate appearances in 2010 and has been hit at least 10 times per year since becoming a full-time player. There figure to be no shortage of teams interested in Nakajima. The Yankees, who have Derek Jeter expiring, could have interest along with the Mariners, who are owned by a Japanese corporation (Nintendo) and are in the market for a shortstop.
Below, you can see Nakajima hitting a home run off Dicky Gonzalez. The man he does a high-five routine with is Dee Brown .
-- Evan Brunell
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