December 17, 2010

Coming to America: Twins sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka to three-year deal

By trading J.J. Hardy to the Orioles last week the Twins signaled that they were all but certain to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka after bidding $5.3 million last month to secure the Japanese middle infielder's exclusive negotiating rights. And sure enough the 26-year-old switch-hitter arrived in Minnesota yesterday to undergo a physical exam in preparation for signing what's expected to be a three-year, $9 million deal with a $4 million team option or $250,000 buyout for 2014.

General manager Bill Smith has made it clear that the Twins targeted Nishioka largely due to Ron Gardenhire wanting more speed in the lineup, and despite his excellent range defensively Hardy is among the slowest shortstops in baseball. Whether that focus makes sense following the team's most successful three-year stretch offensively since the early '90s is questionable, but there's no doubt that going from Hardy to Nishioka is a huge speed upgrade.

Nishioka averaged 28 steals per season in Japan, including 22 this year, but his career success rate on the bases is a poor 72 percent, which is below the standard break-even point where attempting steals is actually beneficial. His raw speed, while far superior to Hardy, is generally considered very good rather than elite. As for the rest of Nishioka's game, like past Japanese players coming to America projecting his performance requires a lot of educated guesswork.

Nishioka is coming off a career-year, winning the batting title with a .346 average and notching 206 hits in a 144-game season for the most since Ichiro Suzuki in 1994. However, he entered 2010 as a career .280 hitter in six seasons and batted just .260 in 2009. His breakout season was fueled by a .395 batting average on balls in play, which simply isn't sustainable. His career average on balls in play is .327 and no MLB hitter this decade has a career mark above .360.

Based on his track record the Twins should be happy if Nishioka can manage a batting average around .275, which should lead to a solid on-base percentage assuming he's able to maintain some of the plate discipline he displayed in Japan. He drew 79 walks this year and 67 walks in 120 games last year while posting a fairly low strikeout rate. Based on previous hitters going from Japan to MLB his walks will fall and his strikeouts will rise, but a .330 OBP seems doable.

Power hitting in Japan hasn't translated well to MLB, as only Hideki Matsui has been able to maintain any kind of significant pop following the move and even he went from 36 homers per 150 games there to 23 homers per 150 games here. Guys like Kaz Matsui, Akinori Iwamura, and Kosuke Fukudome went from sluggers there to singles hitters here, and even Suzuki was good for 17 homers per season in Japan.

Projecting a similar power dropoff for Nishioka makes sense, except he never actually showed much power even in Japan, with a career-high of 14 homers and just 11 homers in 596 at-bats this year. In fact, among the nine prominent Japanese hitters to come to MLB thus far only So Taguchi did it after showing Nishioka-like power over there, and he went on to smack a total of just 19 long balls in 1,369 at-bats for the Cardinals, Phillies, and Cubs.

Nishioka will be hard-pressed to reach double-digit homers for the Twins and a .400 slugging percentage probably represents his realistic upside, with a mark in the .360-.375 range more likely. Add it all up and an optimistic but reasonable projection would look something along the lines of .275/.335/.375, which is very close to the .268/.338/.372 mark by Orlando Hudson this year and similar to the .281/.345/.385 career mark of another familiar name, Jason Bartlett.

Of course, Kaz Matui's career MLB mark of .267/.321/.380 also puts him squarely in that same company and he was vastly more productive than Nishioka in Japan. Nishioka has a .790 OPS for his career, including .905 in his batting title-winning breakout. Matsui averaged a .920 OPS during his final five seasons in Japan, batting .320 with 25 homers and 25 steals per year. And then he hit .267 with a .701 OPS in MLB, so even .275/.335/.375 by Nishioka is far from certain.

Matsui also provides a cautionary tale when it comes to expectations for Nishioka defensively. Nishioka has won the Japanese equivalent of a Gold Glove award three times, winning as both a shortstop and a second baseman, but Matsui was a four-time Gold Glove shortstop in Japan and proved to be awful at the position in MLB, very quickly getting moved to second base and posting an Ultimate Zone Rating of 12.6 runs below average in 968 total innings at shortstop.

In an effort to learn more about Nishioka following the Twins' winning bid last month I talked to several people who frequently saw him play in Japan, including a pitcher who faced him on multiple occasions, a scout who filed reports on him to an MLB team, and a writer who tracked him closely. They all had doubts about Nishioka's ability to thrive as an MLB shortstop due to his arm strength and the difficult transition Japanese fielders face going from turf to grass.

In signing him the Twins seem to recognize those potential issues, indicating that they'll take a look at Nishioka alongside Alexi Casilla in spring training before deciding who plays shortstop and who plays second base. Since he doesn't project as an impact hitter defense will go a long way toward determining Nishioka's overall value, and for their $15 million investment to be a good one the Twins likely need him to be capable at shortstop or a standout at second base.

If he can hit .275 or so with a solid on-base percentage and be an asset on defense the Twins will have added a nice all-around player at a premium position smack in the middle of his prime years and under team control at reasonable salaries through 2014. Nishioka definitely appears capable of that if his transition to MLB goes smoothly, but his gaudy 2010 totals dramatically overstate his upside and his arrival brings at least as much uncertainty as excitement.

33 Comments »

  1. I don’t think this guy will be any better than Punto. Hope I’m wrong, otherwise they’ll have two #9 hitters in the line-up (Casilla the other one) and Gardy will have one of them in the 2-hole.

    Comment by Dose of Thunder — December 17, 2010 @ 5:05 am

  2. I believe they manage the roster around Gardy and not about assembling the best roster. i.e. I think most of us think Morales is the more preferred 2nd backstop and we just moved him because Gardy preferred Butera. (possibly the worst hitter in MLB?)

    Comment by MC — December 17, 2010 @ 6:14 am

  3. Assuming Aaron’s good-case performance comes true, the fact that he meets Gardy’s vision of a middle infielder is a good thing, as it will keep him in the lineup and off the trade block.

    There are a couple things Gardy and the Twins like that seem to make scouts happier than stats guys – lots of base hits, and quick-and-shallow over deep-and-rangy in the infield. I sometimes wonder if sabremetrics will catch up to those notions someday, because a lot of MLB seems to go this way – look at the relative overrating/underrating of Jeter/Bartlett, for example, and not just in the media, but in front offices.

    I suppose Runs Created holds the ability to rack up base hits in high esteem, but is RC still in favor?

    I’d be curious whether DER or other team-wide stats would favor the infielders that MLB conventional wisdom favors.

    Or maybe it’s just about having all the skills somewhere on your team. Yes, OBP will drive your offense, but if Greinke just is not going to walk you or serve up taters, you still have to score runs, so it’s good to have guys who can get hits whatever the pitch.

    And now, proceed with my banishment…

    Comment by justme — December 17, 2010 @ 8:42 am

  4. Aaron, please tell me there is someone in the front-office familiar with basic things like BABIP and UZR/UZR-150?? I don’t see how spending $15M to sign an unproven Japanese player trumps spending that same money, or perhaps even less, on a proven commodity like JJ Hardy to re-sign him for a couple of years?

    Maybe I read it in one of your posts or maybe it was somewhere else, I can’t remember, but “team speed” does not correlate to the post-season nearly as well as team defense does…I’m really confused by the moves this team has made so far this off-season, it’s demoralizing.

    Comment by AK47 — December 17, 2010 @ 8:53 am

  5. I think this move makes a lot of sense from a business standpoint. Tsuyoshi will likely bring lots of new fans to the Twins; he’ll probably increase merchandise revenues more than any other single player could. The Mariner’s merchandise sales went up 60% after signing Ichiro; even the most-popular Yankees saw merchandise sales increase 10% after signing Matsui.

    So even if Tsuyoshi can’t translate, it won’t be a total waste.

    I have a good feeling about Tsuyoshi. He seems very talented and disciplined, and he will still only be 26 when the season starts. Ichiro and Akinori Iwamura were 28 when they debuted in MLB; Kaz Matsui, Hidek Matsui, and Kosuke Fukudome were all 29.

    Comment by Maija — December 17, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  6. AK47, one of the FO guys was interviewed last year, and he had no idea what any of the advanced stats even stood for, let alone what they could or could not tell you. It is, of course, possible that was an isolated case…..

    Let’s hope the Twins are right about Hardy being overvalued, because they just went all in on Alexi Casilla, a guy that has never played in the US, and Matt Tolbert/Luke Hughes/Trevor Plouffe…..

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 17, 2010 @ 10:20 am

  7. More minor surgery for Mauer, on his knee….gee, nope, we don’t have to worry about him being a catcher….it won’t impact his ability or healthy or anything….

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 17, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  8. @AK47: Hardy probably would have cost $18-$20M over the same span, so it’s not a truly comparable situation. Of course the real problem with sticking with Hardy is Gardy didn’t like him, and we’ve seen what happens with players our manager doesn’t like. I would have preferred to keep Hardy as well, but if the Twins believed Hardy was never going to be more than a 110-120 game player for them over the next few years, they might be making a good call in moving on. Of course, that’s a lot of guess-work, unless they knew he’s never top 120 games because the fucking manager would just bench his ass…

    I actually like the Nishioka signing as a replacement for the O-Dog. He’s younger, faster, and (a little) cheaper. He’s also a bit of a risk as a player as AG has pointed out so well, but it’s a reasonable risk at the price. If he can hit around .280 with an OB% above .330, as a switch hitter he’ll fit very nicely in the 2-hole, and we all know Gardy wants to bat a speedy middle INF in the 2-hole. From a business standpoint, he may help sell some Twins merchandise in Japan and bring in some revenue that way. I can see it now: tourist packages from Japan where they visit MOA, see Nishioka at Target Field…

    Here’s the thing that really scares me, though. Gardy just went on record about wanting Punto to return to the team next year. I have a bad feeling that the first slump Casilla or Nishioka runs into, we’d suddenly see Lil’ Nicky Punto back starting, and playing big ABs regardless of how badly he’s slumping as Gardy plays favorites once again. Bill Smith should NOT sign Punto under ANY circumstances if he wants Nishioka to work out.

    Comment by Josh — December 17, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  9. Josh, are there many tickets left for Twins’ games, because last year, that package would not have been available after May….

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 17, 2010 @ 11:28 am

  10. @Josh I’m not talking about a 3-year deal, I’m talking about a two-year deal for Hardy. My overall point was questioning the $15M spend on an unproven guy when they could have had a known commodity for the next couple years for as much or less.

    @MikewantsWINS that’s scary. To not know these stats as a player/personnel decision maker is to handicap your team. The way I see it, the Twins are going to have two guys in their starting lineup next year (Valencia & now Nishioka) who had career-best BABIPs last year which is a recipe for a steep decline…

    Comment by AK47 — December 17, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  11. 83-79

    Comment by glAssJaw2222 — December 17, 2010 @ 11:41 am

  12. We could have given up a couple of pitchers and got Bartlett back. Of course, there’s personal issues there so I that would never work, but still… this guy is going to bomb.

    A 140 pound (dripping wet) shortstop, with a weak arm, with no power. He won’t steal that many bases because teams in MLB are obsessed with having catchers that can throw guys out, and his SB% was only passable in Japan. He’ll strike out more and walk less because pitchers won’t be pitching around him, or being careful with him.

    Consider that $10M probably paid for our top 10 prospects’ signing bonuses, or it could be used to bring back Thome.

    Comment by AndyW — December 17, 2010 @ 11:47 am

  13. It’s a crapshoot. Not much is known about Nishioka’s attitude/toughness; that will make or break him, as he has to transition to grass, MLB pitchers, language, new teammates, and other impediments. It seems like a big gamble unless the scouts know more than the rest of us (supposedly a plus in the Twinks’ organization).

    BTW, your Top 40 list is fatally flawed: where is Alex Wimmers???

    Comment by Stu in SDGO — December 17, 2010 @ 11:47 am

  14. @AK47 – I wasn’t one of these guys who thought Hardy was the 2nd coming of Cal Ripken, but I agree – 2 years of Hardy at 13 mil, versus 3 years of Nishoka for 15? I would go for Hardy. It just seems to me that the Twins are mistaking “speed” for “good baserunning.” Hardy, although he did strike me as something less than a hard-nosed ballplayer – was a good baserunner. Nishoka? We’ll see.

    They should fire Ullger and make Molitor the 3rd base coach, so he can work with guys all year on baserunning. I know Span, in particular, could be a far better baserunner than he is right now. I would also fire Vavra for Rod Carew. If they’re going to trust hitters like Span, Casilla and Nishoka with 1/3 of their lineup, why not get the guy who perfected that style of hitting, as well as Twins royalty, as their coach?

    Comment by Jake — December 17, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  15. Is it possible that his batting average on balls in play is a function of technique?

    Comment by MG — December 17, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  16. There has been more discussion about J.J. Hardy in the last couple of weeks than during the entire time he was with the Twins. Hardy was a player the Brewers wanted to dump, and we got him for a player we wanted to dump. He was hurt a lot of the year, and was nothing more than decent when he was healthy. I would be willing to bet that Baltimore will be shopping him or will outright release him in a year or two because Hardy just isn’t that good of a player. Get over it, people (AG included).

    This Nishoka signing does look like a total disaster.

    Comment by Pedro Munoz — December 17, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  17. IIRC, last year it was reported that the Twins did hire a an organizational sabrematician, perhaps the last Ballclub to do so. However, it’s clear that the Twins prefer the traditional scouting approach.

    BTW, your Top 40 list is fatally flawed: where is Alex Wimmers???

    Aaron typically does his top 40 prospect lists later in the Winter. The prospect list you are looking at is almost a year old, predating Wimmer’s entry into the Twins System.

    Comment by Steve Johnson — December 17, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

  18. You seemed to miss a couple of big things. 1. He’s relatively young for Japanese players coming to America. So there is some hope that he will be on the incline of his career bell curve, rather than the decline, as most other Japanese players were. 2. Last year was his first healthy year in a while. It also happened to be a career year. Perhaps he’ll have some regression, but not to the mean of his injury-plagued younger years. Using his career averages seems to ignore upside and place too much importance on his growing pains. I’m not sure how good he’ll be, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be better than you estimate.

    Comment by cmathewson — December 17, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  19. What a waste of 15 million. I would bet Hardy would have signed a 2 year deal for around 12 million. Lets hpoe Plouffe is ready to be an everyday player this year.

    Comment by Jeff — December 17, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

  20. Plouffe? Please. Everyone knows Punto will be the starter if/when Nishioka or Casilla falter.

    Comment by Ben — December 17, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

  21. They should fire Ullger and make Molitor the 3rd base coach, so he can work with guys all year on baserunning.

    Yes. Actually, they should fire Ullger and replace him with anyone. Anyone off the street. The blind guy on the park bench would be fine. Really. He’s an utter disaster. He was terrible as the hitting coach, useless as a bench coach (whatever that is), and he’s even worse as the 3rd Base coach.

    Gardy’s a decent manager (not great, but decent) but he’s inexplicable at times. He convinces management to ship reasonable talented cheap players off, likes to play useless, unproductive veterans when possible, loves no-hit utility infielders far beyond their value to anyone, overvalues things like “hustle” and “speed” in the wrong way, refuses to use player in the way that would help them be successful and play to their strengths (like in obvious platoons) and keeps coaches like Scotty around even though they’re a detriment to the ballclub and actually cost the team wins.

    Comment by Son of Shane Mack — December 17, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  22. Like Tom Kelly keeping Dick Such around, Gardy is loyal to a fault. I just spent 3 hours stack ranking employees to discuss bonuses and raises for next year, and the scores some managers give their employees astounds me. To some people, loyalty is more important than honesty. I highly value loyalty, but at some point, a leader needs to be honest with himself and his people about their performance.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 17, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  23. Gleeman,

    While you could argue that he should be attempting to steal less often, I’d disagree that it’s “below the standard” breakeven point. If you search for “stolen base break even”, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of consensus. The baseline I had always heard was 66% (SB-(2xCS), which works out if you’re trying to adjust OPS by base stealing), but going off of whatever formula one may choose, it seems to vary anywhere between 66% and 80%.

    FWIW, according to Tango, the breakeven point on SBs is 72% (http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/the_value_of_the_stolen_base/).

    Comment by AaronGNP — December 17, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

  24. This Nishoka signing does look like a total disaster.

    I’m glad everybody is so confident in this appraisal considering the lack of any kind of formula that translates Japanese success into MLB success. Might I suggest we wait ’till he steps on the field and plays a little before we pronounce this deal a “total disaster”? Even with Aaron’s pessimistic outlook, he looks on par with Orlando Hudson, while being six years younger and costing less per year than Hudson just signed for.

    Comment by cmathewson — December 18, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  25. Wow. I simply can’t believe all of the Gardy bashing here. Unbelievable. It reminds me of all the criticism Garnett got because he “wasn’t clutch in the fourth quarter.” Well, the Wolves got rid of Garnett…

    I’m not suggesting Gardy can’t be criticized for dumb decisions, but let’s take a deep breath. Suggesting he scrapped Hardy because he “didn’t like him” in favor of Casilla because he is “one of Gardy’s guys” borders on asinine. First, the rift between Gardy and Casilla is very well documented. Casilla has been demoted to the minors twice, reportedly for his poor attitude as well as performance. Secondly, what coach in ANY professional sport doesn’t want guys that fit his style? Such demands are foolish when the team stinks, but the Twins are regular contenders. I can only imagine what a Royals fan might think of our silver-spoon fed whining.

    Lastly, the Twins don’t only sign “washed up veterans and scrappy middle infielders with no skills.” They (now) have one of the highest payrolls in the league, a result of huge paydays for players like Mauer, Morneau, Nathan, etc. – hardly a collection of aging veterans. Sure, they take a chance on players like Rondell White. But they also took a chance on Pavano and Thome with success. And, in just about every case, these players were signed to be bit players supporting a more impressive cast. You can’t complain about the failures without at least recognizing the successes. Otherwise, you are just a nattering naysayer of negativity.

    Now, I don’t know whether letting Hardy go in favor of Nishi was a good idea. In fact, I share the same concerns others here have expressed. However, making the logic leap to pin this all on Gardy is nothing more than Gardy-conspiracy theorizing. At best, Hardy was a 2-year plug for a wide organizational gap. He was not a long-term solution. The Twins can’t afford to compete every couple of years for top-talent FAs, so they will need to take the occasional chance with a signing like Nishi. (And no, they couldn’t afford both). My personal projection (for what it’s worth)… Casilla stinks and is demoted for poor attitude by mid-season… Nishi performs as Aaron projects (meh)… and none of it matters, because the fate of the Twins’ season lies with Mauer gagillion dollar knees, Morneau’s brain, Nathan’s tender elbow, and a cast of starters that that need to stay healthy and have career years. I would mention the bullpen, but no one really knows who the heck will be relieving. Unfortunately for the Twins last year (a season in which they won the freaking division), Morneua’s brain broke along with Nathan’s elbow, the starters underperformed, and (recent) fan-darling Hardy and Hudson were often on the shelf. But, please, continue with your Ulger rants (rolls eyes).

    Comment by ismist — December 18, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  26. Please. We’re not nattering naysayers of negativity. We’re nattering NABOBS of negativity.

    I wasn’t really paying attention till you butchered that quote, but then I noticed you sort of butcher some other things too. Like, about Hardy:

    “He was not a long-term solution. The Twins can’t afford to compete every couple of years for top-talent FAs…”

    That is a total non-sequitur. Hardy wasn’t a free agent. That’s the whole point. They had an above average player for below market rates.

    And comparing the Twins to the Wolves getting rid of Garnett based on some petty complaints…your point being? Isn’t that exactly what WE’RE complaining of regarding Hardy? That when you have one player who outperforms another in every significant way, you swap them because he lacks “speed” — which doesn’t correlate with either runs scored or defensive range?

    I agree that you can’t judge a front office on just their bad moves without acknowledging their good ones, and Thome and Pavano were good. But that still doesn’t make the bad moves good. If us nabobs are trashing Smith on the Hardy move alone, fine. But if we’re trashing the Hardy move on its merits, the point is irrelevant.

    I do agree that saying they chose Casilla over Hardy because GArdy doesn’t like Hardy is inconsistent, because GArdy doesn’t like CAsilla either — point well taken.

    But you know what inconsistency bothers me a lot more? SAying they don’t like Hardy because he might get injured, then getting another player who has been injured virtually non-stop and giving him a free pass. And saying the new player’s offensive stats are probably undervalued because he was injured so much, so he’ll likely do better next year than usual — while saying the old player, who actually did very well post injury, and seems to be healthy now, will likely do worse next year because he used to be injured. Total double standard. Personally, I’m more worried that Nishioka will get injured, and more optimistic that Hardy will kick ass because he’s healthy. Who knows who’s right? Just don’t call injuries a minus with one player and a plus, in terms of predicting next year’s performance, with another. That’s transparent rationalizing to justify a move without a clear explanation, and raises eyebrows. Just as valuing “speed” over actual defensive range does.

    The scariest thing in Gleeman’s post to me was that .395 BABIP of Nishi’s last year. That is clearly an outlier. And given that his BA was clearly an outlier too, it seems much more likely his burst of production was due to his high BABIP than some sudden unveiling of his true talent.

    He could earn his salary of about $5 million next year (including prorated posting fee); possibly even the two years after as well. But even if he does, it’s unlikely the TWins will be better off than they would have been with Hardy.

    Comment by Nay-Bob — December 18, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

  27. Damn. I hate it when I butcher quotes. Nabob point taken.

    To follow up… I wasn’t suggesting Hardy is a free agent. I was suggesting he will be a FA in a year, at which point he will be a) a shortstop with a pulse (so the Twins can’t afford him), or B) an often injured bust (at which point the Twins wouldn’t sign him). I agree that Nisei is a long shot. However, he has more long-term potential (with the Twins), so there may be more thinking behind his signing than just “added speed”.

    Also, if you re-read my post you’ll see that I am just as concerned about Nishi as others. I just get a bit defensive when a relatively minor move results in a blogosphere lambasting of Gardenhire. There are far more factors at play than Gardys need for speed.

    If the Twins kept Hardy next year, what would they do he year after? I’m sure there are some smart cats here that could come up with a proper strategy, but instead we are comparing apples and oranges.

    Comment by Ismist — December 19, 2010 @ 1:14 am

  28. How many people here criticizing Nishioka have seen him play in a game yet? Let’s at least wait until he gets on the field. He had over 200 hits in Japan last year and was their MVP at 26. If the dude hits his career average of .280 and steals 15 bases and plays good defense seems like a good sign for 3 mil per. And come on, it’s not like Hardy was Cal Ripken.

    Comment by Alphonso — December 19, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  29. Ismist, since this is the latest thing to happen, doesn’t it makes sense that this is what we would talk about? Does every criticism of every move have to be accompanied with a list of things Smith/Gardy have done well? Doesn’t it make sense that we’d mostly comment on this set of moves, and not others? I’m confused by your post.

    Who is criticizing Nishi? Most people are saying that the risk of trusting an unknown player and a player that has been bad in 1000 ABs is higher than we want. This is NOT about Nishi in isolation, this is about trusting two players that have no MLB experience (or have been bad in their MLB time), and weakening the bench at the same time.

    Comment by mike wants wins — December 19, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

  30. It is going to hurt watching Crain blow sliders and 95 mph fastballs past Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Welcome to the MLB.

    Comment by brian — December 19, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

  31. an unknown player and a player that has been bad in 1000 ABs is higher than we want

    If that’s bad, I wonder what you consider is good. Name one alternative who projects better for less money.

    Comment by cmathewson — December 19, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

  32. cmatt, are you arguing that Casilla has not been bad? Why is my choice limited to less money? Wouldn’t Hardy plus Casilla be lower risk? If money is a big deal, I’d rather they got rid of Kubel, and kept Hardy. If money is a big deal, then I’d rather they dealt Blackburn and gave his job to random guy X and kept Hardy.

    If you go to Fangraphs, and look at Casilla, he’s been awful. 2010 was the first year that his Offense or his Defense had a positive value. In 2006-2009, his offense and defense had negative values. In 2009, only 6 players made their teams worse than Casilla did, of all of the hitters in MLB. We can hope that 2010 was a sign of things to come, but we have around 1000 ABs that indicate that he’s not a legit MLB player. Obviously, that could be wrong. He could turn out to be good or even very good. But the risk, based on the statistics, is high. I certainly have no crystal ball to predict the future, but I’d say that the Twins have gone all in on guys that we either don’t know much about, or that have SO FAR shown to be bad at the MLB level.

    I would have prefered keeping Hardy, but I also don’t know the payroll constraints they are under. I also don’t know what other options they are considering at this time (maybe more changes are to come). Frankly, they are flush with OF prospects, and very low on MIF prospects. I’d have rather dealt Kubel, and kept Hardy (assuming they had to cut budget someplace).

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 20, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  33. @Brian

    Was Jake Peavy good in 2006? Nishioka went 2 for 4 against him when he faced him. Don’t romanticize how good MLB is relative to NPB. Nishioka is a very toolsy, athletic player and he’ll do well in the US.

    Comment by Alphonso — December 20, 2010 @ 9:07 am

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