Japanese Position Players
Hideo Nomo started the craze for players from Japan when he dazzled opposing batter for the Dodgers back in '05, winning NL ROY honors. Thereafter, more pitchers made their way to the MLB from Japan, but didn't have the same success that Nomo did. People thought that Japanese players could only compete in the majors as pitchers... because they hadn't seen the likes of Ichiro yet. Ichiro made an even bigger splash in '01 than Nomo did 6 years earlier. He showed the world that he could compete both as a position playing fielder & hitter. Over his 6 year MLB career so far, he has posted a .331 BA and has averaged 229 hits & 40 SB per 162 game season. Not to mention breaking the single season hits record (262 hits in '04) and winning the AL ROY & MVP in '01. UD had the lock on his only 2 base Auto RCs: SPx Auto/Jsy ($800) and Ultimate Coll Auto #'d 250 ($1500); both extremely rare and coveted finds.
Four other promising position players from Japan have since joined Ichiro here in the states; So Taguchi (STL, OF), Hideki Matsui (NYY, OF), Tadahito Iguchi (ChiWS, 2B) & Kenji Johjima (Sea, C).
Taguchi has played a less active role than the other 3 players, but has been a key contributor for the Cards in their quest for the WS. He's shown decent longevity compared to his '02 RC classmate Kaz Ishii, and continues to make the St. Louis roster. His best base RCs from '02 are his Bowman Chrome Auto ($50) and SPx Auto ($25)*Best Buy.
Matsui, who is by far the most popular hitter in Japan, has found his place in the middle of the Yankees' lineup, providing a threat at the plate beyond their ARod, Jeter, Giambi & Damon arsenal. Over his 4 year MLB career so far, he's averaged .291 BA, 23 HR & 108 RBI per 162 game season. His best base RCs from '03 are his SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 864 ($400), Ultimate Coll Auto #'d 250 ($350) and SP Authentic Auto #'d 500 ($300). *All Very Expensive! Like with Ichiro, UD had a lock on all of his Auto RCs also.
Iguchi has provided stable support for the White Sox in his 2 years in Chicago, helping them win the WS in his RC year in '05 (the first Japan-born player to win a WS). He's averaged a decent .280 BA, 20 HR & 15 SB per 162 game season so far. His best base RCs from '05 are SP Authentic Auto #'d 185 ($80), Ultimate Coll Auto #'d 99 ($120), UD Update Auto #'d 75 ($80) and Ultimate Signature Auto #'d 125 ($60)*Best Buy. Again, another UD exclusive for Auto RCs.
Johjima, the first catcher from Japan, has only played one season so far and has done quite well. Playing along side Ichiro, he averaged .291 BA & hit 18 HR his RC year. His key base RCs from '06 are Bowman Auto ($100) Bowman Chrome Auto ($120) and Topps Co-Signers Auto #'d 200 ($100). Topps finally got an exclusive on one of these Japanese players (strange since he plays in Seattle with UD man Ichiro).
One other Japanese player is Kaz Matsui (Col, 2B). He's had a shakier career compared to the others thus far, playing for the Mets, then moving to the Rockies during last season. Due to injury, he's only played over 100 games in one of his three seasons in the majors ('04). He has a MLB career batting avg of .266, but finished last season hitting .345 in his 32 games with the Rockies.
Ichiro & Hideki Matsui Auto RC's are extremely expensive, but Taguchi & Iguchi can be found at very reasonable % of BV levels. Kaz Matsui's RC's are are the lowest priced, but also have the highest risk (of not increasing in value).