Yuki Yanagita was named to his fourth Pacific League All-Star team on Monday, when the results of this year’s fan ballot were announced by Nippon Professional Baseball.
It is the third time that fans have put the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks center fielder on an All-Star roster and it will be his fourth All-Star series. Yanagita received an NPB-high of 509,359 votes in the annual popularity contest.
After winning the PL MVP Award in 2015, Yanagita missed over 20 games last season due to injury and saw his home run production plummet.
This year, he has already matched the 18 home runs he hit last season while continuing to hit for average and draw walks.
“Because a lot of baseball fans voted for me, I want to repay my debt of gratitude to them by meeting their expectations,” said Yanagita, who along with four teammates gave the Hawks an NPB-high five winners in this year’s poll. “I’ll do my best to hit a home run.”
The next-most-popular player in the vote was Hanshin Tigers veteran Takashi Toritani. He received 471,327 votes to lead the Central League vote at third base. It is the seventh time fans have voted him in, although the previous six times were at shortstop.
The award for the most votes for fewest games played goes to Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters designated hitter and ace pitcher Shohei Otani, who received 447,910 votes to win the PL’s vote at designated hitter. Otani has not played since injuring his left leg in the eighth game of the season, although he was activated for duty on Friday.
The Hawks’ Alfredo Despaigne, who has 18 home runs and 53 runs batted in this season was second in the DH vote with 373,258.
Although Otani has barely played, he does enter with quite a resume. Last year, Otani was the PL’s MVP and became the first player to win a postseason Best Nine Award at two different positions in the same season — pitcher and DH.
“It’s complicated,” he said. “But I’m grateful for having been selected. Honestly, I’m still not able to play in games. How this is going to go, even I can’t tell.”
Last year, he won the fan ballot for his league’s starting pitcher, but was forced into the batting order due to a blister that prevented him from pitching. It did not prevent him from turning in a star performance from the batter’s box, however.
Otani took part in the home run derbies before both of last year’s games and won the first one. His three hits, including a solo home run, earned him Game 2 MVP honors.
This summer’s games will be on July 14 at Nagoya Dome and the following evening at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Fan All-Star Ballot winners:
Starting pitcher: Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri Giants)
Middle reliever: Marcos Mateo (Hanshin Tigers)
Closer: Yasuaki Yamasaki (Yokohama BayStars)
Catcher: Ryutaro Umeno (Hanshin Tigers)
First base: Takahiro Arai (Hiroshima Carp)
Second base: Ryosuke Kikuchi (Hiroshima Carp)
Third base: Takashi Toritani (Hanshin Tigers)
Shortstop: Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri Giants)
Outfield: Seiya Suzuki (Hiroshima Carp), Yoshio Itoi (Hanshin Tigers, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama BayStars)
Starting pitcher: Kodai Senga (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)
Middle reliever: Kazuhisa Makita (Seibu Lions)
Closer: Yuki Matsui (Tohoku Rakuten Eagles)
Catcher: Motohiro Shima (Tohoku Rakuten Eagles)
First base: Sho Nakata (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters)
Second base: Hideto Asamura (Seibu Lions)
Third base: Nobuhiro Matsuda (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)
Shortstop: Kenta Imamiya (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)
Outfield: Yuki Yanagita (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks), Shogo Akiyama (Seibu Lions), Seiji Uebayashi (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)
Designated hitter: Shohei Otani (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters)
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