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Mike Plugh On Kosuke Fukudome

Mike Plugh is a Japanese baseball guru, and he's writing quite a bit these days.  I first caught on to his reading with the Matsuzaka Watch.  He also has a Yankees blog called Canyon of Heroes, and has been featured at Baseball Prospectus regularly.   

Following my April 29th post on Japanese right fielder Kosuke Fukudome, I asked Mike whether he thought Fukudome could play third base or center field capably.  Not only did Mike answer that question, but he gave some interesting background on Fukudome in general.  His thoughts are below.

On which positions Fukudome could play:

Fukudome would be an excellent Red Sox outfielder, and he'd hit a million doubles in that park. His days as an infielder are finished, but I think he could play any of the outfield positions. He's best in right though. Center would be an option, but not the most attractive one from a defensive standpoint.

What we can expect offensively:

He is an on base machine with power to the gaps. He won't be a home run slugger, but he'll be standing on first or second base after about 40% of his plate appearances. 

On Fukudome's personality and attitude:

He's a competitor too. Kind of a throwback guy. No dyed hair, jewelry, image enhancements. Buzz cut, square jaw, intense eyes. Not that those things make you a good or bad player, but fans will be turned on by his serious approach.

On possible interested teams:

I think it's premature to say who is or who isn't interested in Fukudome. I happened to know that several MLB clubs are going to make a serious run at him. I can't say who those teams are for confidentiality reasons, but it will be a multi-team battle for his services. He should command in the $12-15 million range over 3 or 4 years. It will be a very good buy for whichever team he chooses. The Red Sox would benefit from the additional TV coverage they'd receive, but a lot of clubs would like to break into the Japanese market and have scouts over here on a permanent basis.

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I'm loving this. Manny Ramirez, Coco Crisp, J.D. Drew, Wily Mo Pena, David Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury. If we're going to ignore the 6 man outfield and shell out 12-15 over 3 or 4 years for a japanese outfielder why would it be fukudome when there is an Ichiro out there to be had?? I hope the guy comes over and kills the ball, gets on at a 40% rate and becomes a star if only to stop this can Japanese players translate to the MLB nonsense argument, but he won't be doing it at Fenway.

Not to detract from Ichiro's awesomeness (and amazing SB percentage last year), but the Red Sox are very OBP-oriented, and Ichiro's OBP has been .360 over the last two years. Furthermore, Ichiro wouldn't run as much in Boston, which would hamper a lot of his value.

Fukudome may (or may not) translate into a .400 OBP guy with some pop, and .380 is not unrealistic. Fukudome would also be 31 next year, while Ichiro will be looking for his last big contract as a 34-year-old.

As for Coco, I think his time is waning if Ellsbury continues his torrid pace. At this point, it doesn't look like Wily Mo will ever be a regular in the outfield (even if Manny's options aren't picked up), and David Murphy will probably never even sniff Fenway unless several key players lose appendages.

Granted, if we assume that the Red Sox decide that Manny's contract is reasonable these days, then the outfield looks cluttered with Manny, Ellsbury, Drew. The only way Fukudome makes sense in a scenario with Manny around for a couple more years is if Ellsbury is dealt in a blockbuster deal for a Miguel Cabrera type, and Drew moves to center.

Either way, I think Coco, Wily Mo and David Murphy have more of a future elsewhere.

I would be surprised if the Yankees did not make a run at him. The fact is that the Yankees have a great exposure to the Asian market. And with Bobby Abreu's option up in the air after the year, why shouldn't the Yankees go for a younger, more marketable player?

The Yankees make more sense than the Red Sox, because money is no object for them and they certainly have less clutter out there.

Matsui is signed through 2009, and Abreu, as you said, is up in the air. I could see them making a push. Shy of Andruw Jones, he may be the best option in terms of age and affordability (surprisingly I don't hear much about interest in Dunn... must be fear of the Ks). And with Damon locked up in center, Jones wouldn't have the same value in NY, so a RF makes more sense.

So what sort of power could they expect from him? If he's hitting all those millions of doubles, you'd think he could get 10-15 homers a year, no?

By the way Roto, great stuff covering this story and getting inside information, etc etc.

Everything in baseball revolves around the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets and Cubs, so I'm assuming it will be one of those 4. I hope the Phillies settle for Ichiro.

Roto,
I forget the guys name but there was a Korean who made a big splash during the World Baseball Classic. A real good hitter who got along look..hit well during the classic too...I think he may of had dyed hair. They were questioning whether he'd be able to leave Korea, but there seemed to be no doubt that he had the talent to make in the Major Leagues. I was wondering if you had any info on him.

I think Fukudome would look good in a Rangers uniform. He could easily be the starter in LF & CF there.

PeteRose,

The Korean was Seung Yeop Lee, but he is locked up for 4 years with the Yomiuri Giants. The only way he gets to the Majors is if the Giants win the Japan Series, at which point a free agency clause kicks in.

Fukudome will be a very good MLBer with around 18-20 homers tops. He'll hit to the gaps for doubles, and he'll be a very tough out. Sounds like Abreu, no?

Thanks Mike

Well, Abreu's option was picked up by the Yanks, and Seattle resigned Ichiro longterm during the 2007 year.

Now with Jose Guillen's option declined by Seattle, there's mention that Seattle could be a front-runner & word is they are interested!

Ibanez is a the ONLY defensive liability Seattle has, so they can easily move him to DH with Adam Jones manning LF, Ichiro in CF, and Fukudome in RF.

Seattle's a great fit for him!!!

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