Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nishioka is Japanese for mistake

The life of an MLB franchise is going to be similar to the life of a human. We all have things in our past that we wish would not have happened and we have all made mistakes. There have been some of these moments in the history of the Twins since they moved to Minnesota in 1961. One of the biggest that comes to mind letting an injury prone David Ortiz walk for nothing before he developed into the star player he is today. It is easy to question that move now but at the time the Twins thought it was moving the organization in the right direction.

The organization thought it was moving in the right direction this offseason by adding a speedy, defensive infielder from Japan. The Twins have done a decent job of finding talent in the international market. The current farm system has players from Australia, the Netherlands, Latin America, and other countries throughout the world. It seemed natural that this newest acquisition would fit the talent level of the other prospects in the Twins organization.

The team and the front office have painfully found out that Tsuyoshi Nishioka does not belong in the major leagues. It seems that the skill set he offers in multiple parts of his game are that of a minor league level player. He struggles to make contact at the plate, his fielding has be atrocious, and even some of the little parts of the game have made him look like a little league infielder trying to play with the big boys.

There are some that might look at his season and try and find some light at the end of the tunnel. The month of August was his best month at the plate so far this year. He batted .264 with a .291 OBP and a .318 BAbip. There were also many things distracting him from baseball during the season. He moved to a country he had never been to before, he became a father for the first time, and he had to adjust to a game that is played a slightly different than the one in Japan.

Even with the signs of life from Nishioka in the last month, the team could have a tough decision to make with the Japanese star after the season is finished. It seems there is no way that he will be a starter on the 2012 version of the Twins. That means there are a couple of things that could happen with the Twins and their $14 million investment.

Utility Infielder: He could be given a job as a utility infielder off of the bench for next season. It seems that the Twins are going to be comfortable going with Alexi Casilla at one of the two middle infield spots for next year. That means the other spot will be filled by Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, or a free agent brought in by the team. Nishioka could serve in a Matt Tolbert type role on the bench being used for pinch running and to fill in the line-up on sporadic occasions.

Minor League Infielder: The team could approach Nishioka in the offseason and tell him that he will be fighting for an infield spot in Spring Training but there is a good chance he will end up in Rochester for the start of the season. This would allow Nishioka to work on some of his skills but it is doubtful that the team would want a player making $3 million to be festering in the minor leagues.

Japanese Infielder: This season cannot be what Nishioka envisioned for his dramatic entrance into the culture of America. He could be ashamed enough at the end of the year to head back to Japan and finish his career. There is opportunities for him to make more money across the ocean and the competition might be closer to his level.

In the end, the Twins have to know they made a mistake with Nishioka. Especially with the way JJ Hardy has played this season (but that is a rant for another day). I suspect the team will not give up on their Japanese son at the end of the year and he will find a spot on the Twins 25-man roster for Opening Day 2012.

That still does not take away from the fact that for most Twins fans...

Nishioka is Japanese for mistake.

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