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Kosuke Fukudome

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Kosuke Fukudome

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[edit] Biographical Information

Seven teams bid for Kosuke Fukudome's services out of high school, but he opted instead to go to the industrial leagues. In 1996 he won a silver medal in the Olympics. In the 1997 Intercontinental Cup, he was on the Japanese squad that stunned Cuba, handing the Cubans their first Gold Medal game loss in 15 years. Fukudome hit only .190/.217/.286 in the event while splitting time between DH and third base. Due to his struggles, he sat out the historic finale.

He was the number one draft pick of the Chunichi Dragons in 1999 and became a star immediately. As a rookie he hit .284/.359/.451 with 16 homers as the regular shortstop despite an 0-27 slump at one point. In 2001, Fukudome was converted to 3B/OF and in 2002 he became the Dragons' RF. That year he led the Central League in batting average (.343) and doubles (42), was third in slugging (.537), third in OBP (.456) and 2nd in hits (186), making his first Best Nine team.

In 2003 Fukudome hit .313/.401/.604 - he led the Central in OBP, runs (107) and triples (11) and was second to Alex Ramirez in slugging, second in the league in walks (78) and third in RBI (96) as he again made the Best Nine. He hit 34 homers and reached double digits in every extra-base hit category. Fukudome led the 2003 Asian Championship with 5 RBI, helping Japan win Gold. In '04, Fukudome was again doing well, though not as good as in 2003 (.277/.367/.569), but he lost time due to the 2004 Olympics and then injured his finger on September 1st when he was hit by Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi pitch. He hit .316/.386/.605 with 3 homers, 11 runs and 10 RBI in 9 games in the Olympics, helping Japan to a bronze medal. He was second to Ariel Pestano in RBI and tied Yurendell de Caster, Yoshinobu Takahashi and Brett Roneberg for the most homers. Due to his injury, Fukudome missed the Japan Series, which the Dragons lost 4 games to 3 absent their star hitter. He still managed to lead the Central with 7 triples.

Fukudome bounced back in 2005, hitting .328/.430/.590 with 39 doubles, 28 homers, 93 walks, 102 runs and 103 RBI. He was second to Norichika Aoki in the batting race, second to Tomoaki Kanemoto in OPS, third in total bases, third in slugging, 10th in homers, tied for 4th in RBI, second to Kanemoto in walks, led the league in OBP for the second time (edging Kanemoto by one point), led in doubles for the second time, was second in triples (6) and third in RBI. He also struck out 128 times and won his third Gold Glove.

He won the Central League MVP award in 2006. He hit .351/.438/.653 and led the league in batting average (28 points ahead of runner-up Seung-Yeop Lee), runs (117), doubles (47), slugging and OBP (36 points ahead of Tyrone Woods). He was second in triples (5), third in total bases (324), walks (76) and tied for third in hits (174), fifth in RBI (104) and sixth in home runs (31).

In 2007, Fukudome was disabled with a right elbow injury. At the time, he was hitting .294/.443/.520 and leading the CL in OBP despite not being in the top 10 in average. He went to the US to have endoscopic surgery to remove bone fragments from the elbow. He did not play again that year. Despite his absence, Chunichi went on to win the 2007 Japan Series, their first Japan Series title in 53 years.

Fukudome's career bating line in NPB was .305/.397/.543 in 1,074 games.

In December, Fukudome signed with the Chicago Cubs for $48 million over 4 years, pending a physical. Chunichi picked up Kazuhiro Wada as a free agent to fill the corner outfield gap left by Fukudome's departure. Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella stated that Kosuke Fukudome would bat third in the line-up behind Ryan Theriot and before Derrek Lee.

Fukudome had an excellent major league debut on March 31, 2008. Hitting 5th behind Lee and Aramis Ramirez and playing right field, he produced all 3 of Chicago's runs on Opening Day in a 4-3 loss to the Brewers. He doubled against Ben Sheets in his first at-bat but was stranded at third base. In the 4th, he drew a walk from Sheets. In the 7th, he singled but was thrown out trying to steal third by Jason Kendall later in the frame. He then smacked a 3-run, bottom of the 9th-inning home run off Eric Gagné to tie the game at three but Chicago lost in extra innings. He hit .327/.436/.480 in April and March but faded as the year went on - .293/.388/.404 in May, .264/.387/.402 in June, .236/.306/.382 in July, .193/.293/.253 in August and .178/.288/.289 after August. Due to his quick start, he made it to the 2008 All-Star Game; he grounded out against Joe Saunders and fanned against Ervin Santana before Nate McLouth replaced him in center field. He finished the season with a batting line of .257/.357/.379 with 81 walks, 10 homers, 79 runs and 12 steals in 16 tries for the Cubs. He was then 1 for 10 in the playoffs as Chicago lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.

Fukudome was the main CF for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, usually hitting 7th. He was just 4 for 20 at the plate with 7 strikeouts but also drew 7 walks and scored four runs. He tied Carlos Delgado, Hyun-soo Kim and Akinori Iwamura for 4th in the Classic in walks. Japan went on to win the Classic. In the 2009 regular season, he played 146 games and improved his batting line slightly over the previous year, to .259/.375/.421. He drew an excellent 93 walks (8th in the 2009 NL between Lance Berkman and Dan Uggla) and showed decent power with 38 doubles and 11 homers. However, he was only 6 for 16 in stolen base attempts while playing mostly centerfield. In 2010, he saw his playing time fall off a bit, getting into 130 games, with 358 at-bats. He posted his highest batting average to date, at .263, and slugging percentage, at .439, and his .371 OBP was only 4 points off his previous year's total. His 13 homers were a career high, but his runs scored fell from 79 in his first two seasons to only 45. He had a 114 OPS+. That year, he played right field exclusively, fielding .995. Only Andre Ethier (.996) had a higher percentage among 2010 NL right fielders.

2011 marked the last year of his contract with the Cubs, and he started the year as the regular right fielder over the first half. His batting average was .273 in 87 games, but he had hit only 3 homers when on July 28th, the Cubs traded him to the Cleveland Indians in return for two minor leaguers, P Carlton Smith and OF Abner Abreu. The Indians looked to Fukudome to pick up some of the playing time available with starting outfielders Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo both on the disabled list. He played a further 59 games for the Indians, mostly in right field, but hit only .249 and with a very poor OBP of .300. The Indians were not interested in re-signing him after the season when he became a free agent. Overall, his OPS+ was an even 100 after four MLB campaigns. He had to wait until February 14, 2012 to find a team, returning to the Windy City to play for the Chicago White Sox. A far cry from his previous contract, he was only offered $500,000 for the season, although with an option for a much more lucrative second season were he to perform up to previous standards. However, he was designated for assignment and released on June 26th after hitting .171/.294/.195 with no home runs and 4 RBI in 24 games played and 41 at-bats. He then signed a minor league contract with the Yankees but was released on September 3 after hitting .276/.440/.378 with 37 walks in 39 games with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Not finding any interest from major league clubs, he decided to return to Japan, signing a contract with the Hanshin Tigers in January 2013.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • NL All-Star (2008)

[edit] References

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