Tomohiro Nioka Could Come To MLB

Tomohiro Nioka is a 31 year-old shortstop for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan.  He’s starting to generate a little buzz as a possible MLB crossover this winter, especially given the weak free agent shortstop market.

Nioka will be a free agent this winter (no posting fee required).  I haven’t seen any recent quotes indicating that he wants to come over here, but he did say "I’d most definitely consider playing in the Major Leagues" back in 2003.

The Daily Herald’s Scot Gregor notes that the White Sox could opt to pursue Nioka over Juan Uribe.  The Sox have had success in the past with the Tadahito Iguchi and Shingo Takatsu signings.  Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star expects Nioka to come over, but doesn’t see the Jays signing him.

Nioka hit .295/.346/.457 with 20 HR in 508 ABs this year.  You can find his earlier numbers here.  I talked to one Japanese fan who considers Nioka a poor man’s Akinori Iwamura.  He ranks Nioka’s defense as good but not great.

It seems likely that Nioka’s teammate, pitcher Koji Uehara, will attempt the jump to MLB this year.  Perhaps Nioka will follow suit and plug a hole for the White Sox, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Giants, or Cardinals.

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