I traded emails today with a baseball-obsessed chum from Japan, and I asked his opinion of outfielder Kosuke Fukodome and pitcher Hiroki Kuroda ("Mr. Complete Game"), both of whom are supposedly of interest this off-season to Jim Hendry and the Cubs.
My friend thinks the 30-year-old Fukodome is an overrated hitter who won't hit a lot of home runs, is not much good in the field, and is slow on the bases; at best, an okay pick-up for the Cubs if they don't have to overspend.
He was more upbeat about the 32-year-old Kuroda, who the Cubs pursued a year ago and who my friend said has a "devastating breaking ball" and "great control."
One other name that came up: Hiroyuki Kobayashi, the closer for the Chiba Lotte Marines and, according to my email pal, possessor of a 95 mph fastball and 92 mph "shuto" (cut fastball).
Finally, my friend answered the most pressing question I had about these Japanese big leaguers: how does one pronounce Fukudome?
If he lands with the Cubs, I'm sure White Sox and Brewer and Cardinal fans will have their own creative twists on the pronunciation.