I was pleasantly surprised to read that our new second baseman was 2-for-3 the other day, and both hits were interesting: a hit-and-run single to the hole between first and second, and a well-struck triple to right-center. Through 17 spring training at-bats, Nishioka has 5 hits, the triple being the lone extra base hit, and 3 RBIs. His defense also has reportedly been above average.
Most Twins fans, of course, would be thrilled if Nishioka could replicate such numbers through the regular season. That, however, is a lot to expect from a rookie, notwithstanding the fact that he excelled in Japan. I was on an airplane this morning thinking what we reasonably should expect from Nishioka in order for the Twins' deal to have made sense. In writing this, I am aware that this is the first year of his contract, and I expect that he will improve as he logs more time in MLB. Assuming Nishioka stays healthy through the 162 game season, here is what I would be content with in 2011: .270 batting average, .340 on base percentage, 25 stolen bases, and a total of 35 extra base hits. I would basically like to see Orlando Hudson-esque numbers, with better speed. And we would be getting that at about half the price.
Nishioka will be viewed as a success offensively if he gets on base in front of Mauer and Morneau. And, because pitchers will want to get him out so that they don't have to face two of the league's best hitters, Nishioka will see a lot of fastballs. If he can prove early on that he can hit a MLB fastball, it could be an interesting season. With Nishioka in a groove, the 2-5 portion of the Twins' offense could be lethal.
What do you think? What's a fair expectation for Nishioka's rookie season with the Twins?