Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (筒香 嘉智)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 209 lb.
- High School Yokohama High School
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has been an All-Star slugger in Nippon Pro Baseball.
Tsutsugo hit 69 home runs in high school. He played for Japan in the 2009 Asian Junior Championship; they won a Bronze Medal. The Yokohama BayStars took him in the first round of the 2009 NPB draft. Despite a wrist injury, he set an Eastern League rookie record with 26 home runs in 2010 for the Shonan SeaRex and also led with 88 RBI. He was 5 home runs and 18 RBI ahead of runner-up Taishi Ota. He broke Naotaka Takehara's home run mark of 23. He made his NPB debut late in the year and went 1 for 7 with two walks; his first NPB hit was a two-run homer off Tomoyuki Kubota.
He split 2011 between the minors, where he again led the EL in home runs (.224/.302/.457, 14 HR in 57 G) and the BayStars (.241/.306/.476, 8 HR in 40 G, but 51 K in 145 AB, backing up Brett Harper at 1B) while also missing more time with wrist problems. When Yokohama 3B Shuichi Murata departed via free agency that off-season, the team made Tsutsugo their starter at third base. He hit a disappointing .218/.309/.352 with 10 home runs, though he did field .970 at the hot corner. Yokohama signed veteran Norihiro Nakamura as their third baseman for 2012, and with Tony Blanco at 1B, there were no corner infield slots free. Tsutsugo hit .216/.286/.294 in 56 plate appearances, missed time with an ankle injury and wound up back in the minors.
The Wakayama native blossomed in 2014, taking over left field from veteran Hitoshi Tamura. He produced at a .300/.373/.529 clip with 22 home runs and 77 RBI. He tied Jose Lopez for 6th in the Central League in dingers (only Tetsuto Yamada and Yuhei Takai had more among Japanese natives), ranked 8th in RBI, was 7th in OBP (between Hector Luna and Takai), placed 4th in slugging (after Wladimir Balentien, Brad Eldred and Yamada) and was 4th in OPS (after Balentien, Yamada and Yoshihiro Maru). He was a late addition to the NPB All-Stars for the 2014 Nichi-Bei Series, replacing the injured Akira Nakamura. Tsutsugo did very well, hitting .429 as NPB beat the MLB All-Stars for the first time ever in a Nichi-Bei Series. He tied Jose Altuve for the best average in the event.
In 2015 NPB All-Star Game 1, Tsutsugo started in left field and hit cleanup for the CL. He was the first player in NPB All-Star Game history to hit cleanup in their first All-Star Game and then get a hit in their first plate appearance, as he doubled off Shohei Otani in the second and scored on a hit by Lopez. In the third, his sacrifice fly off Yuki Nishi scored Yuhei Nakamura. Facing Hideaki Wakui in the 5th, he hit into a double play. He left in a double swithc, as Takahiro Suzuki took over in left and new catcher Tsubasa Aizawa took his spot in the lineup. The CL won the game, 8-6. In Game 2, he batted cleanup as the CL DH. He fanned in the first against Mitsuo Yoshikawa and in the 4th against Ken Togame In the 5th, though, he doubled off Togame to score Luna, then came home on a double by Takahiro Arai. The CL won again, 8-3.
Tsutsugo hit .317/.400/.522 with 28 doubles, 24 home runs, 79 runs and 95 RBI for Yokohama in 2015 while cutting his strikeout total further, to 98 in 496 at-bats. He was on many CL leaderboards: average (3rd, behind Shingo Kawabata and Yamada), OBP (2nd, .016 behind Yamada), slugging (2nd, a distant .088 behind Yamada), OPS (obviously 2nd to Yamada, 79 ahead of #3 Lopez), total bases (259, 2nd, 81 behind Yamada), runs (4th after Yamada, Kawabata and Maru), hits (157, 3rd after Kawabata and Yamada), doubles (tied for 7th with Mauro Gomez and Maru), home runs (4th, between Lopez and Kosuke Fukudome), RBI (3rd after Kazuhiro Hatakeyama and Yamada) and walks (68, 5th). He made his first Best Nine, picked alongside Fukudome and Ryosuke Hirata as the CL outfielders.
With Samurai Japan for the 2015 Premier 12, he hit .375/.516/.417 with 7 walks, 4 runs and 5 RBI in the first 7 games (the medal games did not count towards the event statistics) as a LF/DH. He was 8th in OBP in the event (2nd to Yamada on Japan) and tied Aldo Mendez and Dan Black for 2nd in walks (4 behind Yamada). In the Bronze Medal win over Mexico, he went 1 for 2 with two walks and two runs.
He started 2016 even hotter than in 2015, slugging over .600 by late July including becoming the first player in NPB annals to have three straight multi-homer games.. Hitting cleanup for the CL in the 2016 NPB All-Star Games, he put on a show. In game 1, he homered off Takahiro Norimoto then doubled off Chris Martin to open the 7th but was stranded in a 5-4 win; he was named MVP, the youngest NPB All-Star Game MVP from the BayStars, breaking Yutaka Takagi's 31-year-old record by over two years of age. In game 2, he kept it up. He homered off Hideaki Wakui to open the scoring, then added a single off Yuji Nishino in the 6th in a 5-5 tie for another 2-for-3-with-a-homer day. He lost MVP in game 2 to Otani.
- Associated Press: "Before MLB career, Tsutsugo aims to improve baseball at home", USA Today, January 25, 2019.