Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spotting Tsuyoshi Nishioka

It has been pretty easy to "spot" the new man on campus for the Twins this Spring Training. He is followed by a mob of media, he has a bright red glove, and Adidas pays him a lot to wear their clothes. There are a few different "spots" that the Twins are trying to figure out when it comes to their new middle infielder, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Which "spot" will he play in the middle infield? Which "spot" will he be placed in the batting order? These are both integral parts of the make-up of the roster for the Twins this season. Nishioka is going to fit into the line-up in some form but where and how remains to be seen.

"Spotting" Nishioka's Infield Position
2nd Base: Many experts have slotted Nishioka as the Twins 2B for the coming season because of the apparent "weakness" in his arm strength. This could also be seen as the easier of the two options for Nishioka and this placement could help to ease his transition to the US. Having to focus less on his defence may also allow him to focus more on his hitting and other attributes to add to the team.

Shortstop: There are others that think the Twins need to keep Nishioka at SS, the position that he won multiple gold glove awards. Patrick Reusse thinks the Twins best option would be to keep Nishioka at SS for a variety of reasons. Let Nishioka show the team what he has at SS and if it doesn't work out then some shifting can occur. This also allows for players like Luke Hughes and Matt Tolbert to compete with Alexi Casilla for a starting spot in the middle infield.

My "spot": Shortstop
Former MLB Manager Bobby Valentine, who coached in Japan at the beginning of Nishioka's career, said, "He doesn't look like a classic major league shortstop. But I think he can be an outstanding shortstop." He also wants to be recognized as the best shortstop in the world (Adidas Ad featuring Nishioka). Why should the Twins hamper that dream?

"Spotting" Nishioka's Batting Slot
Number 2: Batting in the number two spot with the Twins will allow Nishioka to be a pace-setter ahead of Mauer and Morneau. The Twins can utilize his speed and athletic ability to run circles around the competition. His switch hitting ability also allows for some flexibility at the front end of a line-up that is heavily left-handed. The Twins want to see what he can do and throwing him in the fire right off the bat could be the best way to see how he is composed.

Lower in the line-up: The benefit of placing Nishioka in a lower position in the line-up is the fact that there will be less pressure on him as he tries to familiarize himself to the American League. All of the pitchers are new to him, the ballparks are unique, and the major league atmosphere takes some adjustments. The best way to do this will be to start off lower in the line-up and move up in the order if his performance dictates this shift.

My "spot": Lower in the line-up
By the end of the season I feel that Nishioka will show the Twins that he is a true number two hitter. I think that their will be a learning curve for the first few months of the season. It will be more favorable to the team and to Nishioka if he is lower in the line-up during that learning curve. Also taking into account the higher-caliber defensive position that I placed him in above, it seems natural to relieve some of the pressure with this placement.

No matter the position or the batting order, Twins fans are just hoping that Nishioka will be "spot" on.

What "spot" do you think Nishioka will fit in for the Twins? Leave a comment below.

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