Cincinnati Reds Sign Shogo Akiyama
The Cincinnati Reds announced today that they have signed outfielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, 21 million dollar contract. While the deal was reported before the end of 2019, it was officially announced on Monday. Akiyama becomes the first Japanese player in Reds history and now every MLB team has employed a Japanese player at least once.
Akiyama’s Nippon League Career
Akiyama is 31 years old and has played professionally since 2011. He is coming from the Japanese Nippon League where he played for the Seibu Lions. During his time with Seibu, he has won two Pacific League Gold Gloves has been an NPB All-Star five times and holds the NPB record for hits in a single season with 216 in 2015. During his time in the NPB, he has slashed .301/.376/.454 with 116 home runs, 513 RBIs, and has stolen 112 bases. An important stat line for Akiyama is his on-base percentage has he has had OBPs ranging from .385 to .419 the last five seasons.
Akiyama’s International Career
Akiyama has also represented Japan at the international level several times. Some of his appearances for the Japanese National Team include in the 2015 WBSC Premier12 tournament, 2017 World Baseball Classic, and 2018 MLB Japan All-Star Series. He also played in the 2019 WBSC Premier12 tournament but withdrew due to an injury.
What Akiyama Brings To Cincinnati
Akiyama will play all three outfield positions, but his main one is center field. Despite the positional flexibility, it will be hard for them to find playing time for Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino, Phil Ervin, and Akiyama. Because of that, one of those players is likely to move. Akiyama is a left-handed batter that provides speed and a high on-base percentage. Those skills suggest he will hit at top of the order. Akiyama also does not strike out much which is ideal for top of the order. He has stolen 12 or more bases and at least 20 home runs the last five seasons. How well his numbers translate over to Major League Baseball from NPB is left to be seen, but his skill set makes this team better.