Coincidentally, Chunichi was in the same boat as
At any rate, I'm familiar with Fukudome in name only; most fans have only seen his few at-bats in the World Baseball Classic. Scouting reports and comprehensive stats on Pro Yakyu players are hard to come by, but I was able to find some good info via JapaneseBaseball.com (if you're interested in learning more about the league and its culture, that's a great place to start).
By the Numbers
Fukudome has followed in the footsteps of Ichiro and Matsui as one of the premier super-stars in
*Represented Japan in the 2004 Sydney Olympics
Fukudome continued to improve offensively, hitting 34 HR the following season. He reached the 30 HR mark in 2006 and just missed it in 2005 with 28. Fukudome has a tendency to draw walks and a reputation as a doubles machine (he set a league doubles record with 47 in 2006). His usual approach seems to sacrifice power for more control. There seems to be a rough correlation between his K rate and HR totals, but this pattern can be found in many players. Fukudome has good pop in his lefty bat and should still pose a solid power threat in the Majors.
Even if Fukudome’s power totals were to slip after he crosses the Pacific, he still has a superb OBP to fall back on. Fukudome has posted at least a .400 OBP five of the past six seasons, with 2005-2007 resulting in career highs in OBP. He has decent speed on the base paths, legging out all those doubles, but is not a major base stealing threat. Fukudome’s plate discipline, doubles production, and power potential would make him a good fit at either the top or heart of the lineup.
Mike Plugh of Baseball Prospectus provides a scouting report on Fukudome’s game:
Most important among his skills is his batting approach, which relies on patience and a level left-handed swing. At roughly 6'0" and 190 pounds, Fukudome isn't a classic slugger. There is power in his bat, but it's of the line-drive variety. His hands are quick and he handles the inside pitch very well.
As I've watched Kosuke over the years, the few weaknesses I've noticed come against soft throwers, who like to go away, or down and away, against Fukudome. He'll chase high and inside on occasion, but looks worst when flailing at an offspeed pitch tailing low and outside.
On defense, Fukudome is a very good right fielder. His right arm is a gun, and has helped him to earn four Gold Gloves in
. Japanese baserunners, even of the speediest variety, have learned to run conservatively against the Dragons. Japan
Where his lack of lateral quickness hurt him as an infielder, Kosuke's good athletic ability and fast legs are assets to him in tracking down balls. Generally, he gets good reads off the bat and reacts quickly to get into solid, fundamental position to make a catch and throw.
Below is a video of a Fukudome at-bat. You can see a slow motion of his swing and follow through at the 55 second mark.
Is There a Need?
What would Fukudome be replacing if he came to
|Left Field Production||PA||R||H||HR||BB||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS|
|AL Avg. 2007*||650||N/A||147||15||49||.275||.335||.426||.760|
|CLE 2007 (Platoon)||673||N/A||156||15||51||.259||.315||.404||.719|
*Adjusted per 162 games or 650 PA
One could argue that upgrading a slot in
What’s the Contract Situation?
Fukudome has been relatively healthy over his career, but suffered from pain in his right elbow in July of 2007. He played in just 81 games this season because of the injury and underwent arthroscopic surgery in August. I have not heard any reports regarding the surgery aftermath or his recovery timetable. The elbow is more of a question mark than a risk, given his healthy track record. Fukudome will be 30 when he signs his next contract, but his recent numbers show no signs of decline.
Judging by the strong interest he has already received from other teams, his health is not a major concern and should be set for 2008. The Cubs and Red Sox are rumored to be the front runners for Fukudome’s services, which is already bad news for smaller market teams. The Red Sox do not have as strong a need for an outfielder as