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Toshiaki Imae

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Toshiaki Imae

[edit] Biographical Information

Toshiaki Imae was the captain of a Boys League team that won a world championship when he was in 9th grade. After hitting 30 HR during his high school career, he was drafted in the third round in 2001 by the Chiba Lotte Marines. He played briefly for the Marines in 2002-2003, primarily playing in ni-gun. In 2003, he was MVP of a minor league All-Star game. In 2004, Imae began seeing some playing time with the Marines and hit .258/.296/.358. Given the starting third base job in 2005, Toshiaki did a fine job for a guy who was 21 years old most of the year. He batted .310/.353/.451 (.377 average versus left-handers) and led the Pacific League with 35 doubles and was sixth in batting average. Winning the Gold Glove in the PL at third base, he was also named to the Best Nine there. He had hits in 8 straight plate appearances during the 2005 Japan Series and finished 10 for 15 with 15 total bases, 5 runs and 4 RBI in the 4-game Marines sweep, earning him Japan Series MVP honors. After the season, he was named to Japan's 2006 World Baseball Classic roster as one of the country's brighter young stars. Imae was a disappointment in his second full season, hitting .267/.293/.389 and often hitting in the bottom third of the order by year's end.

Imae broke his hand in May of 2007 and was expected to miss six weeks after surgery. He hit .249/.283/.397 in the injury-plagued year, but still won his third Gold Glove in a row. In 2008, he rebounded to .309/.344/.509 with 37 doubles and yet another Gold Glove. He was 6th in the Pacific League in average, second to Jose Fernandez in doubles and 7th in slugging (between Atsunori Inaba and Shoitsu Omatsu).

Toshiaki's batting line in 2009 was .247/.277/.369 for a big letdown from 2008. He failed to take the Gold Glove for his first time as a starter, as Eiichi Koyano beat him out. In 2010, his roller-coaster ride continued as he hit .331/.364/.461 with 37 doubles. He was third in the PL in average (behind Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Kensuke Tanaka), third in doubles (behind Tadahito Iguchi and Koyano), 5th in hits (176), third in sacrifice hits (30) and 9th in total bases (245). He did not make the top 10 in OBP or slugging. Imae was 12 for 27 with four runs and six RBI in the 2010 Japan Series to win his second Japan Series MVP award. In game 7, the free-swinger drew the Takuya Asao walk that started the winning rally in the 12th inning, coming home on a triple by Yoshifumi Okada.

Main source: Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland

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