Koji Chikamoto

From BR Bullpen


Koji Chikamoto (近本 光司)

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 6", Weight 158 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Koji Chikamoto has played in Nippon Pro Baseball and for the Japanese national team.

Chikamoto played for Osaka Gas in the industrial leagues after college. Picked for Japan's squad in the 2018 Asian Games, he hit .250/.333/.313 as their primary center fielder with four runs in five games. He did most of his damage (3 of his 4 hits, both his RBI, two of his four runs, his only double) in a win over China. In the Gold Medal Game, he was 0 for 3 as Japan was stymied by South Korea. [1] He was picked to the Best Nine in the industrial leagues that year. [2] The Hanshin Tigers took him in the 1st round of the 2018 NPB draft. [3]

He came up big on Opening Day, starting in center and hitting 2nd. He tripled off Yasuhiro Ogawa to score Seiya Kinami with Hanshin's first run of the year to tie the game at 1 in the 6th; Hanshin went on to win 2-1 in extra innings. [4] His first NPB homer came off Yuki Kuniyoshi on April 11. [5] After 25 games, he was batting .312/.347/.527 with 4 homers, 15 runs and 14 RBI for a superb start in NPB. [6] He made the Central League team for the 2019 NPB All-Star Games though his numbers were down from that brilliant start. He was 0 for 1 in a Game 1 loss after replacing Yoshihiro Maru in CF. In game 2, though, he started and dazzled. He homered off Taisuke Yamaoka to become the first rookie to hit a leadoff homer in a NPB All-Star Game. He added a single, two doubles and a triple to go 5-for-5 and take home the MVP. It ended a five-game losing streak for the CL. He was only the second player to hit for the cycle in an All-Star Game, following Hall-of-Famer Atsuya Furuta by 27 years. He was the second player with a five-hit All-Star Game, following Roberto Petagine's feat in 2001. [7] For the 2019 season, he hit .273/.313/.375 with 36 steals in 51 tries, 7 triples and 81 runs. He had 10 outfield assists. He was 9th in the CL in runs (between Neftali Soto and Ryosuke Kikuchi) and led in triples (two more than anyone else) and steals (3 ahead of Tetsuto Yamada) while he was one caught-stealing behind leader Seiya Suzuki. He had 139 votes for the 2019 CL Rookie of the Year, finishing second behind slugger Munetaka Murakami, who had 168. [8] He also was 7th in 2019 CL MVP voting, between Kazuma Okamoto and Kan Otake. [9] He did not make the Best Nine as four outfielders got more votes. [10]

Chikamoto posted better numbers in 2020 at .293/.344/.416. He stole 31 bases in 39 attempts and scored another 81 runs. He was third in runs (behind Takayuki Kajitani and Suzuki), ninth in average (between Suzuki and Hayato Sakamoto), tied for second with five triples (two behind Yota Kyoda) and led in steals (8 ahead of Daiki Masuda). [11] He was 3-for-4 with a walk, run and a RBI in the 2021 NPB All-Star Games to keep up his All-Star stardom. [12] He had the first intentional walk in the NPB All-Star Game's long history and set the NPB All-Star Game record by having 7 straight hits, between 2019 and 2021. [13] For the 2021 campaign, he hit .313/.354/.441 with 91 runs, 33 doubles and 24 steals in 31 tries, while fielding .996. He was 4th in average (between Shugo Maki and Masayuki Kuwahara), led in runs (7 ahead of Kuwahara and Yamada), led with 178 hits (13 ahead of Keita Sano; he was the first Hanshin player to be hit leader since Matt Murton), 4th in doubles (between Sano and Toshiro Miyazaki), tied Yohei Ohshima for 3rd in triples and second in steals (6 behind teammate Takumu Nakano). [14] He made his first Best Nine, joining Suzuki and Yasutaka Shiomi as the CL outfielders chosen, and also won his first Gold Glove, joining Ohshima and Suzuki. He was 12th in voting for the 2021 CL MVP, between Scott McGough and Koyo Aoyagi. [15]

The Awaji native was 4-for-5 in the 2022 NPB All-Star Games to remain superb against Japan's elite. [16] He tied Murton's team record with a 30-game hitting streak, 3 shy of Yoshihiko Takahashi's Japanese record. [17] He produced at a .293/.352/.352 clip for a drop-off in 2022 but still stole 30 bases in 35 tries. He paced the CL in swipes, six ahead of Shiomi and Yuki Okabayashi. He was also 6th in average, between Dayán Viciedo and Okbayashi. [18] He again won a Best Nine (alongside Sano and Obakyashi) and a Gold Glove (joining Shiomi and Okabayashi). [19]

Despite being picked for the 2023 NPB All-Star Game and his past All-Star heroics, he declined to participate. [20] His 2023 season was fairly typical in his role as a strong leadoff provider: .285/.380/.429, 83 R, 12 3B, 28 SB, 3 CS, 67 BB, no errors in the outfield. He was among the CL leaders in average (8th, between Sakamoto and Nakano), OBP (3rd, after Yusuke Ohyama and Miyazaki), OPS (10th, between Teruaki Sato and Takumi Ohshiro), runs (tied Okamoto for first), triples (first, two ahead of Okabayashi), stolen bases (first, eight ahead of Nakano) and walks (4th, between Okamoto and Nakano). [21] He saved his best for last - in the 2023 Japan Series, he helped Hanshin win its second Japan Series and first in 38 years, breaking the Curse of Colonel Sanders. He had three hits in the opener, including a two-run triple off Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Orix, NPB's top pitcher from 2021-2023. He reached five times and scored three runs in their 4-3 Game 4 victory, and had four hits in their Game 7 title clincher. He hit .483/.545/.586 with 8 runs and won the Series MVP. [22]