Player Spotlight: Kosuke Fukudome

FukudomeThe 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

photo from mlb.com under the Creative Commons license

This article has 8 comments

  1. I haven’t even looked through this entire site for the first time yet and I already have to start commenting on how ridiculous an article is. Fukudome will not do anything for the Chicago Cubs this year. There are arguably only two position players in MLB right now that are from Japan and can be considered “feared” hitters: Hideki Matsui and Ichiro. Both of them posted far superior numbers compared to Fukudome’s in Japan. Matsui had a career avg. of .304 compared to Fukudome’s .305, but Matsui averaged over 33 HR’s a year compared to just over 21 for Fukudome. Ichiro had a career batting avg. of .353 in Japan and he batted .387 in his final season there….compared to .294 by Fukudome. I would expect more along the lines of Tadahito Iguchi, Akinori Iwamura, or even Tsuyoshi Shinjo-type numbers from Fukudome and I think he will have a hell of a time getting used to fielding in those swirling Wrigley winds as compared to those cozy domes he’s used to in Japan. My overall point is that Fukudome will not put up $12 million a year numbers and he hardly warrants a 7th round draft pick. .265/15 HRs/65 RBI and a .970 FA… and 10 SBs Jake? The guy’s career high in Japan was 13 and that is against guys with meatball arms. He will probably steal 3 bases and it will be because Brad Ausmus threw the ball so hard that Kaz Matsui couldn’t handle it (because he’s used to Japanese catcher noodle arms) and it sailed into center. Fukudome will just help the Cubs sink into another disappointing season.

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  2. Mitch-
    Even though Godzilla was a home run king when he arrived, Fukudome and Matsui’s SLG %’s during their Japanese careers are only 45 points off. Fukudome is more of a line drive hitter than Matsui, a lot of his japanese doubles will turn into Home Runs in the MLB, especially in the Windy City.

    His Japanese OBP? .392 vs Ichiro’s .418, Iwamura may be a good comparison for Fukudome, but Fukudome is still a little bit better. Considering Iwamura was injured much of last year, Iwamura will have a much better year this year, as well.

    What about the steals? In Japan he was the 3 hitter, he’ll definitely be in a better spot in the order to steal in Chicago. Considering Iwamura stole 12 bases after averaging less than 8 in Japan, 10 is not out of reach

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  3. Mitch,

    I never said he was going to be better than Ichiro or Matsui and my projections for him don’t exactly make him a “feared” hitter. You can’t compare his average in his last year because he was injured and eventually had surgery and didn’t play the whole season. I guess we will see what kind of player he turns out to be, worst case scenario he turns out to be the player you think he will be, which he very well could, but I don’t see him playing as poorly as you predict.

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  4. josh-

    I was hoping no one would bring up the slugging pct. issue between matsui and fukudome, but you had to look into it. For that, I applaud your interest in proving my points illegimate, but a point in fact still remains that Matsui’s pct. was 45 points higher in Japan and he still only hit 16 HRs his first year in the bigs with that short wall in right at Yankee Stadium. Also, I think it is obvious that Fukudome was a 3 hitter for the latter part of his career, but at the beginning of his career it would be rather odd that he would be put in the 3 spot in any batting order because his numbers were significantly lower the first three years of his career (steroids anyone?) and he still had minimal stolen bases. Iwamura may have improved his stolen base total when he came here, but they also play more games in MLB and he was playing in Tampa where Joe Maddon likes to run. I think that we could go back and forth on this issue for a while, so my final stance on this is that Fukudome is going to be rather disappointing in that Cubs uniform this upcoming season.

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  5. Jake-

    I forgot to ask you- if he was injured and is coming off surgery from his last year in Japan, why would anyone think that he would be able to bounce back nicely playing in a higher brand of baseball?

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  6. There is no doubt he will be playing a higher brand of baseball and I think that he will have an adjustment period getting used to playing in the MLB and facing pitchers that are going to challenge him rather than nibbling at the corners and throwing softer stuff. Also it is yet to be determined if he will be back from that surgery but he is reportedly going to back to full strength by spring, so coming back from the injury might also contribute to his adjustment time. I feel though that once he adjusts he will hit well and produce with the Cubs lineup he has around him. As you said we could go back and forth on Fukudome but the only way we will know what kind of player he will be in the MLB is to wait and see. I think that the fact that he is a line drive hitter playing in Wrigley will help him, and on days where the wind is blowing in he might be able to get some balls out when other players can’t because of the line drive. The high walls in Japan took away some homers from him as well so he might hit a few more in Wrigley than he would’ve in Japan.

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