According to Hochi Sports of Japan, outfielder Shogo Akiyama’s decision is down to the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres. And they note that a decision could be made by the end of the year.
— ?????? (@SportsHochi) December 27, 2019
This isn’t terribly surprising news, as it was reported on Christmas night that Nikkan Sports said the Reds were the top candidate to land the Japanese outfielder. MLB Trade Rumors projected a 2-year deal worth $6M for Akiyama. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago noted at the Winter Meetings that the outfielder was seeking a deal of 2-years and $10M.
At those prices, it seems that there’s some question of exactly what teams expect from Shogo Akiyama. The contract doesn’t quite suggest teams believe he’s an every day kind of player – but also suggests that he’s more than a 150 plate appearance bench guy.
With the Reds being so closely linked to Akiyama I decided to take a look at the last decade of Japanese players making their way to Major League Baseball and was surprised by a whole lot of what I found.
The biggest surprise was the lack of players. Only five players in the last decade have come from Japan to Major League Baseball and registered at least 200 career plate appearances. One of those five players is Kenta Maeda – who is a pitcher.
There are two successes there, and two guys who struggled to hit. Shohei Ohtani and Nori Aoki were both successful, but they are also very different hitters. Aoki hit for average and walked about as often as he struck out, getting on base plenty. What he didn’t do was hit for much power. Ohtani walks plenty, but also strikes out plenty, too. But he’s got power that’s on a very different level.
Nori Aoki is an interesting statistical comparison for Shogo Akiyama. Well, sort of. Let’s take a look at how each performed in their final five seasons in Japan, and let’s be sure to note that Aoki was two years younger in his last five seasons than Akiyama was.
When you look at it like this there’s really two big differences between two players. Nori Aoki struck out just 9.5% of the time, while Shogo Akiyama struck out 14.3% of the time. That’s a difference of 50%. The other big difference is the power. Akiyama showed a bit more power than Aoki did with an IsoP (SLG-AVG) of .176 to .138.
Statistically, they are similar overall – but they got to the final line a bit different, too. This is why scouting is so important. The numbers can only tell you so much. Relying on your scouts to tell you how a player will transition to a game that’s pitched quite a bit differently matters. And the numbers won’t exactly tell you that. Cincinnati has had a presence in Japan for several years now, but they haven’t been able to sign anyone. Assuming all of the rumors are true at this point, the scouts certainly think that Shogo Akiyama can help the team out. Just how much, and in what specific role, though – that’s a bigger question.