Yuji Yoshioka (吉岡 雄二)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 195 lb.
- High School Teikyo High School
Yoshioka was a two-way star in high school, hitting 51 home runs. In the 1989 summer Koshien, he allowed one run in 46 innings to pitch his team to the title. The Yomiuri Giants picked him in the third round in 1989, but he injured his arm the next year and missed two seasons. He was then converted to a position player. He came to the big show in 1993 and went 8 for 30 with two walks for the Giants. His first hit came off Hideki Takahashi. He spent all of 1994 in ni-gun, leading the Eastern League in home runs and RBI. Back with the Giants' top club in 1995, he hit only .209/.269/.374 in 30 games. He joined former star Tatsunori Hara in backing up Jack Howell at third base. Yoshioka was just 5 for 38 with a homer, two walks and 16 whiffs in 1996.
He was then traded with Hiroshi Ishige to the Kintetsu Buffaloes for Hiroo Ishii. He saw limited action in 1997, going 7 for 27 with a double, two home runs and three walks. The Tokyo native split first base with Phil Clark in 1998, batting .268/.349/.563 with 13 home runs, 32 RBI and 39 runs in 190 at-bats, finally becoming a regularly the year he turned 27.
Yoshioka hit .276/.361/.440 with 28 doubles and a career-high 12 steals in 18 tries in 1999, taking over the starting first base job for Kintetsu as Clark moved to DH. Yuji produced at a .290/.351/.495 rate with 18 homers in 2000 providing a good third power option to support Norihiro Nakamura and Tuffy Rhodes.
The veteran hit .265/.357/.481 in 2001 with 26 home runs and 85 RBI, including three grand slams. Nakamura and Rhodes combined for 101 homers, with Yoshioka third on the pennant-winning club known for its long ball strength. He was just 1 for 15 with two walks and five whiffs in the 2001 Japan Series, as Kintetsu's bats were silenced by the Yakult Swallows.
Yoshioka batted .269/.324/.508 in 2002 with 40 doubles and 26 homers, but hit into a Pacific League-worst 20 double plays. He tied Kazuya Fukuura for second in the loop in doubles, behind only Kazuo Matsui. He again played third fiddle as Nakamura and Rhodes both cracked over 40 long balls. That year, he made his only PL All-Star team.
When the Rakuten Golden Eagles formed as an expansion team in 2005, Yoshioka went to them as their main first baseman. He hit third primarily that year and batted .282/.335/.419, leading the PL by grounding into 23 double plays. His 52 RBI were second on the expansion club behind fellow veteran Takeshi Yamasaki. Yoshioka hit the first sayonara homer in Rakuten history, on June 8. The next year, he split time at first with Jose Fernandez and Rick Short, hitting only .240/.289/.274 in 49 games.
His Japanese career over, Yoshioka signed with Mexico's Nuevo Laredo Owls for 2009 and hit .280/.376/.405 while playing third base regularly for the first time in over a decade.
Primary Source: Japanbaseballdaily.com