Hisayoshi Chono: One of Japan’s best hitters

Last night in a match-up between the Yomiuri Giants and the Hiroshima Carp, Giants lead-off hitter Hisayoshi Chono hit the first pitch he saw over  the right field fence in the first inning and in the second inning he hit the second pitch he saw in the game over the left field fence for his eleventh home run of the season.  Last season’s batting champ, Chono is a skilled an aggressive hitter who is an above average defender at center with a strong arm.  Although he would not be an elite defender in the Major Leagues, he would be an upgrade on what most Major League teams put in their outfield offensively, defensively and on the base paths. In 2011, Chono beat out Matt Murton for the Pacific League batting title with a .316 batting average. What makes Chono extra special is his ability to hit to all areas of the field and still hit for moderate power (17 home runs in 2011 in a “deadball” era).  Of his 17 home runs in 2011, nine were hit to left, four to center, and four to right. Of his 164 hits, 51 were hit to the left, 57 were hit to center, and 56 were hit to the right. He hit .274 against lefties and .338 against righties, which indicates that he can “struggle” (if you can call a .274 batting average struggling) against lefties.

Following a stellar career at Nippon University , when in his senior season he won the spring and fall batting titles, he was drafted by the Nippon Ham Fighters as their fourth selection. Wanting to sign with the Giants, he chose to play in Japan’s Industrial League for Honda’s baseball club. At Honda, he developed his skills and talents to the point when after two years the Giants drafted him in the first round of the 2010 draft. The Giants immediately inserted him into their lineup and became a fan-favorite. In Japan, he is a “five-tool” player.

Will Chono ever play in the Majors?

Chono would not be a five-tool player in the Majors because he most likely would be a contact hitter hitting anywhere between 10 to 15 home runs a year, a decent amount but not exactly eye-popping numbers. He would steal anywhere between 15 to 30 bases a year, and would hit anywhere between .270 to .300, though he has to potential to hit above .300 a season. At 28-years old, he is in his prime years and he only has two seasons of service in Nippon Pro-baseball, which means that, unless the Giants post him, he still has to wait around seven more years before he’s eligible for free agency, at which time he’ll be in his mid-thirties, well beyond the age he could realistically contribute and build a name for himself in the Majors. However, 40-year old Atsunori Inaba, the Nippon Ham Fighters all-star first basemen, can play and contribute on most Major League teams now.

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