We have seen plenty of players come over from Japan in recent years but for every Ichiro or Shohei Ohtani, there are plenty of Kosuke Fukudome or Masumi Kuwata who didn’t work out as well. All early signs right now though look to be pointing toward Seiya Suzuki being the real deal for the Chicago Cubs, and he could find himself as one a steal for those who picked him up for their fantasy baseball teams on draft day.
Seiya (pronounced Say-yuh) Suzuki has been tearing the cover off the ball to start the year. In just six games, he has already accumulated three home runs and a double and with him playing in Colorado this weekend, we could soon be pronouncing his name as “See-ya” as his slugging percentage continues to rise.
His profile coming out of Japan was of a power hitter. Suzuki averaged 29.25 home runs per season and an OPS over 1.000 over his last four seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. That ranks him easily among the best power hitters in that league and so far, we have seen that profile translate well into MLB - albeit in a very short sample size.
We should expect to still see plenty of ups and downs from Suzuki. His expected slugging percentage and expected batting average show that there is going to be some regression, as they are both more than 100 points lower than what his actual slugging percentage and batting average are. The good news is that he is putting the ball in the air with a 21-degree launch angle, which is ideal for power hitters. His exit velocities are high and his barrel percentage is in the 97th-percentile at the moment. These things should add up to Suzuki continuing to hit for power, which is going to be great for fantasy baseball. As MLB pitchers start to adjust to Suzuki, it's likely we will see his batting average regress below .300. But with him already having eight years of professional baseball experience, he should be able to make adjustments to how he is being pitched to faster than your average first-year players might. The Cubs are also in a place where they can be patient should he hit a prolonged cold streak from Suzuki as they shouldn’t be viewed as World Series contender this season (sorry Cubs fans). They also don't have a ton of other outfield options.
It will be fun to see how Suzuki’s season ultimately plays out with the Cubs. If he can stay on this current trajectory, be a 30+ home run bat who hits near .270, and be a mainstay in the middle of the lineup, then Suzuki ultimately will be a bargain at his average draft ADP of 137. We still have quite a ways to go before we will completely understand what kind of player he will be in the long run, but he is in his prime years. There are some very encouraging signs that we could be having a lot of fun this summer watching “See-ya” Suzuki hit.
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