Five Hitters in Japan to Keep an Eye On

The same disclaimer that I gave for the pitchers applies here: it’s highly likely that none of the following pitchers will be in MLB in 2011. So read this post with an eye to the future.

1. Norichika Aoki (OF, Yakult Swallows): Japan’s top contact hitter got off to a terrible start last season, but rebounded in the second half to hit over .300. Has made repeated overtures to his management for posting, but been rebuffed each time.
2. Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS, Seibu Lions): The best shortstop in NPB played well for Japan’s WBC team last year, and anchors one of NPB’s top offenses.
3. Takeya Nakamura (3B, Seibu Lions): Nicknamed "okawari-kun" ("another round") for his weight, Japan’s Prince Fielder has slugged over 45 home runs in each of the last two seasons.
4. Seiichi Uchikawa (1B/OF, Yokohama BayStars): Dominated to the tune of a .378 BA in 2008; fell back to earth at .319 last year. Still knows how to make contact and control the strike zone.
5. Tony Blanco (1B, Chunichi Dragons): Despite minimal experience above 3A, Blanco won Chunichi’s starting first base job last spring, and proceeded to hit 39 home runs playing in the spacious Nagoya Dome. He begins a two-year contract this season.
Bonus: Sho Nakata (OF/DH, Nippon Ham Fighters): Nakata was heavily hyped coming out of high school, even drawing big-money contract offers from a couple MLB clubs. He’s finally earned a job with the Fighters in his third professional season, so we’ll see if he can make the most of it.

Coming up next, I’ll have an update on the Mets’ import duo, Ryota Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi.