The newest Japanese import will begin his MLB career with the Chicago Cubs this upcoming season. Fukudome (pronounced “foo-koo-DOUGH-may”) was a phenom growing up in Japan and became the youngest player ever to be named to an Olympic baseball team when he was selected to the Japanese team for the 1996 Olympics. Fukudome was originally a shortstop but had trouble fielding ground balls, so he was moved to third base where he experienced the same problems, so he was finally moved to right field, where he excelled. He has an above average arm and great range in the outfield, which led to him becoming a 4-time gold glove award winner for the Chunichi Dragons. Fukudome has had two full seasons out of his last four, in 2004 he was hit by a pitch and broke a bone in his hand and last year he had bone chips removed from his elbow. Although he has been injured in two of the last four seasons he is by no means “injury prone”, those two seasons are the only two that he has had injuries in during his nine year career, so this upcoming season you can most likely expect somewhere around 500 at bats for Fukudome. In his last two full seasons in Japan he averaged 506 at bats with an average of a .341 batting average with 30 home runs, 104 rbi, 100 runs, and 12 stolen bases. With the Cubs this season there have been talks of Fukudome batting 2nd, 3rd, or 5th in the order, but it is widely believed that he will bat 2nd behind Alfonso Soriano. If he bats second then his runs will be up, possibly higher than ever, but his rbi total will be down especially batting behind Soriano who has a low on base percentage for a leadoff hitter. No matter where he bats in the order it is projected around the fantasy realm that Fukudome will go anywhere from as early as 5th round to as late as 9th or 10th round in fantasy drafts. I believe that he should end up going somewhere between the 7th to the 8th round, meaning that he could end up being a huge steal on draft day or a huge bust, depending on how long his adjustment period is. Personally, I think that Fukudome will be a good option for a 2nd or 3rd outfielder for fantasy teams this year.
2008 Prediction: .285/.388/.475 with 100 runs, 20 home runs, 84 rbi, and 10 stolen bases