Mejia, Viciedo named NPB’s top hitters for April

A pair of first basemen, the Seibu Lions’ Ernesto Mejia and the Chunichi Dragons’ Dayan Viciedo, grabbed the first monthly honors of the Nippon Professional Baseball season on Tuesday.

On the pitchers’ side, Pacific League honors went to the Chiba Lotte Marines’ Hideaki Wakui and the Central League award was issued to the Yomiuri Giants’ Tomoyuki Sugano.

NPB Pitcher of the Month awards generally go to the starting pitcher with the most wins, while the Player of the Month awards ignore defensive contributions.

Mejia went homerless through April 8, but finished the month with 10, the most in either league. He also tied for the NPB lead (with the Hanshin Tigers’ Mauro Gomez) in RBIs with 28.

It was the first monthly MVP award for Mejia, who in 2014 tied for the PL lead in home runs despite not playing in his first game until May 15.

Viciedo, a 27-year-old who joined the Dragons during the offseason after turning down minor league offers and invites to big league spring training camps, twice hit more than 20 homers in a season for the Chicago White Sox.

The Cuban opened his first Japan season by homering in his first three games. He finished April with a .347 batting average, nine home runs to tie for the CL lead and 23 RBIs.

“I’m more than satisfied with my strong start,” said Viciedo, who became the first foreign CL hitter to win the April award in his debut season.

Viciedo faced strong competition in the balloting from reigning CL MVP and second baseman Tetsuto Yamada of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, who batted .340 with an NPB-best .477 on-base percentage while hitting eight home runs and tying for the NPB lead with seven steals.

Sugano went 3-0 with a 0.56 ERA, and threw back-to-back shutouts on April 6 and on April 13 and allowed an earned run in only one of his six starts through April.

“I don’t feel I’ve been overachieving,” said Sugano, the Giants’ Opening Day starter. “Every time I take the mound, I feel I’m going to keep our opponents scoreless.

“My theme has been to overwhelm. And the results are a consequence of the degree that I’ve been able to challenge batters in the zone.”

Wakui went 5-0 with a 2.59 ERA over 42-2/3 innings to beat out the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ Rick van den Hurk, who went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA over 35 innings. Wakui’s award was his third and his first since July 2009, when he was with Seibu.