The Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball have made center fielder Haruki Nishikawa available to Major League clubs through the NPB/MLB posting system, the Japan Times reports. Major League teams will now have a 30-day window to negotiate with the 28-year-old Nishikawa.
The left-handed-hitting Nishikawa batted .296/.419/.388 with just five homers, 15 doubles and three triples this year, although he also swiped 37 bags in 42 tries. He’s posted an OBP of .378 or better in each of the past four seasons while striking out in 16.5 percent of his plate appearances against a 14.3 percent walk rate.
Overall, dating back to 2017, Nishikawa is a .291/.397/.401 hitter through 2433 plate appearances. He’s stolen 144 bases with an 87.8 success rate in that time. Nishikawa has three stolen base titles, three Gold Gloves in the outfield and a pair of All-Star nods in NPB. He made it known last offseason that he hoped the Fighters would post him for big league clubs this winter.
There’s an obvious lack of power that will curb Nishikawa’s earning capacity with big league clubs, but his speed, plate discipline, bat-to-ball skills and ability to play multiple spots in the outfield all will hold appeal. Sports Info Solutions’ Ted Baarda profiled him recently, likening Nishikawa’s skill set to that of Ben Revere: a fleet-footed, contact-oriented hitter with the range to play anywhere in the outfield but arm strength (or a slight lack thereof) more suited for left field or center field. (It should be noted, though, that Nishikawa’s walk rate in NPB is about three times greater than Revere’s career mark in MLB.)
While this is expected to be a rather unforgiving offseason to baseball’s middle tiers of free agents, Nishikawa’s attempt to move to the Majors could be well-timed given relatively thin group of free-agent center fielders. George Springer, of course, is one of the top overall free agents but is also likely to come with an asking price that is a nonstarter for the majority of clubs around the league as they try to scale back payroll. Jackie Bradley Jr. presents a glove-first everyday alternative. Kevin Pillar is again available, but defensive metrics are down on his work in center.
That’s not to say Nishikawa is a clear starter at the big league level, of course. It’s possible that a low-payroll club could give him the opportunity to earn that role, but any team giving him that chance would figure to have alternatives on hand in the event that Nishikawa’s bat is overmatched by big league pitching. Still, his presence adds another option to the free-agent mix in center or for any team seeking a left-hitting fourth outfielder with speed to burn.
Any team that eventually signs Nishikawa will owe a release fee to the Fighters under the aforementioned posting system. That fee, which comes on top of the contract paid to the player himself, is equal to 20 percent of the contract’s first $25MM, plus 17.5 percent of the next $25MM and 15 percent of any dollars thereafter. Nishikawa’s track record in NPB is lesser than that of countryman Shogo Akiyama, who inked a three-year, $21MM deal with the Reds last winter. It’d be a surprise to see Nishikawa top that mark, so in all likelihood his posting fee will fall squarely into that first tier, 20-percent bracket.
Nishikawa becomes the second Fighters player to be posted for MLB clubs this winter, following the previously announced posting of the team’s top starting pitcher, righty Kohei Arihara.