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Is Fukudome Really That Great?

Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome is expected to make his announcement tonight on whether or not he is coming to the United States, but reports have already come out saying that he will be. The Cubs, Padres, Rangers, and White Sox are believed to be the four teams that have made an offer to him, and a decision is expected as early as tonight. The reason I bring this up is because the level of play in Japan is not as good as it is here, so if he can make the switch and perform is in question. Not only that, but he is coming off surgery, after playing just 81 games. So his endurance is in question for next season and whether or not he can perform at a .305 average with 20-25 homeruns. He is drawing comparisons to Hideki Matsui, but I look at him more as a "better Aki Iwamura."

Hideki Matsui hit .334 with 50 HR and 107 RBI in 2002 with Yomiuri Giants. The year before, he hit .333 with 36 HR and 106 RBI. When he came over and signed with the Yankees, the following year he hit .287 with 16 HR and 106 RBI in 123 more at-bats than 2002. He was not coming off surgery the year before, and had 500 at-bats compared to Fukudome's 269. The year after he hit 31 HR and batted .298, but has started to decline since then. Fukudome is 30, and it is possible we could see that similar occurrence.

Aki Iwamura of the Devil Rays hit .311 with 32 HR and 77 RBI in 2006 for the Swallows. The year before that, he hit .319 with 30 HR and 102 RBI. Last season with the Devil Rays, he hit .285 with 7 HR and 34 RBI. Obviously the numbers do not transform like you would think and if you look at Fukudome's stats, they are not as good as either Matsui or Iwamura in Japan.

Now maybe Fukudome would be like Kenji Johjima, who has batted .289 with 32 HR and 137 RBI in two seasons with the Mariners. The year before in Japan, he batted .309 with 24 HR and 57 RBI, so it is pretty similar. However, he had 200 more at-bats than Fukudome did this year so it brings into question his endurance.

I'm not saying that Kosuke Fukudome would be a bad signing, but I think that he is being way over hyped. Look at how over rated Daisuke Matsuzaka was when he came over. He put up fourteen wins, but it does not look that good because everyone was expecting his 'gyro ball' to get him 20 wins. I think the Cubs and Padres are the two leading candidates, and whoever signs him has made a good signing. However, do not expect him to be like Hideki Matsui. Expect a mix between Aki Iwamura and Kenji Johjima, someone who will hit .275-.290, with about 10-20 homeruns. I expect a signing to happen in the next couple of days, probably a four year deal between 10-13 million dollars annually. As for who is the front-runner, a lot of people are saying the Cubs, but my money is on the Padres.