On Wednesday, Seiya Suzuki finally notched his first hit as a Cub, much to the relief of anxious Cubs fans everywhere, and it was a towering home run to left-center field. A beautiful sight to see, indeed. Suzuki still has a long way to go before he fully adjusts to life in the big leagues, but we continue to get hints on why the Cubs were so eager to give him one of the largest contracts in franchise history.
Speaking of those adjustments, it’s not just about his actual performance on the field, it’s also about just regular old comfort and life. During the last game broadcast, for example, we learned that Suzuki didn’t even have his own bats until Wednesday! I’m sure he doesn’t need his bats to succeed – that’s not the point – but there are probably a million little things exactly like that all piling up at once. So however this goes, let’s remember to give him some time to adjust. There is so much talent there, and people are taking notice.
• On that first home run, Suzuki had this to say (via Cubs.com): “It felt really good to be able to hit it in front of my home fans,” Suzuki said. “They were cheering me on. It felt amazing. When I went back to the dugout, the coaches, the teammates, they welcomed me and they were very, very, very happy as well. So, it just felt really good.”
“My home fans … It felt amazing.”
• I just love that he called them/us his home fans. I know it’s early, but the magnetism of Suzuki’s personality grows stronger every day.
• From that same Cubs.com story, I found this particularly interesting and encouraging: “In Japan, I didn’t have this much data to look at,” Suzuki said. “Obviously, it’s very, very detailed, and most of the pitchers here I’ve never faced. So, I’ll like to use that data, use those scouting reports and get a better at-bat.” The extra data is just one more example of an adjustment for Suzuki to make, albeit one that should help him thrive once he gets the hang of it.
• What else is Suzuki adjusting to on the field right? Well, we all know about the velocity jump, but Sahadev Sharma coaxed a little more out of Suzuki at The Athletic: “The motions of the pitchers are different here, so it’s different to get the timing right,” Suzuki said. “That’s where I’ve been trying to make better adjustments. It’s only my fourth game, so I’d like to continue to adjust, have better at-bats and better results.”
• He also got Suzuki to open up about that HR at-bat, what he was looking for, and what felt off before he tweaked his approach.
It's only spring, but every adjustment Seiya Suzuki makes is a step towards him becoming the potential star some see him becoming. https://t.co/Y3b54jFMzG
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) March 31, 2022
• Heading in a completely different direction, FanGraphs has finally reached their Right Field Power Rankings for the 2022 season. And unlike their poor showings at catcher and second base, the Cubs rank SIXTH in baseball in terms of projected production out of their right fielders (0ver 70% of which is credited to Suzuki, of course):
Suzuki, the latest high-profile player to sign out of Japan, is a 27-year-old slugger who hit .317/.443/.639 with 38 homers and just a 16.3% strikeout rate for Hiroshima last year. He’s a disciplined hitter with a compact swing, excellent plate coverage, and plus power, though there’s concern about how he’ll fare against the higher velocities presented by MLB fastballs. Defensively, he shows a plus arm as well as good instincts and range. The Steamer-based projection above is more optimistic than his ZiPS projection (.287/.350.484, 119 OPS+, 2.6 WAR), but he should be a productive above-average-to-star-level player.
• Suzuki ranks behind only Bryce Harper’s Phillies (5th), Kyle Tucker’s Astros (4th), Mookie Betts’ Dodgers (3rd), Aaron Judge’s Yankees (2nd), and Juan Soto’s Nationals (1st). So … yeah that’s some very high praise. For a little NL Central context, the Cardinals (Dylan Carlson, 10th), Brewers (Hunter Renfroe, 16th), Reds (Tyler Naquin, 28th), and Pirates (Anthony Alford, 30th) were all well behind. And if you’re otherwise looking for more on Suzuki’s projections, we dug way into them right here.
• Here’s a ton of hilarious and fun Suzuki stories that have already come out of Cubs camp/from his teammates. The David Ross/chocolate shaming is my personal favorite.
Seiya Suzuki is MLB's most exciting Japanese arrival since Shohei Ohtani.@ryanfagan on why Cubs fans, and players, can't wait to see @suzuki_seiya_sb in action. https://t.co/8RhSju3bzp pic.twitter.com/9a5Tc5HFnI
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) April 1, 2022
• Meghan Montemurro (Chicago Tribune) got back into the whole “I love you, Mike Trout” viral moment from his opening press conference, including comments from Trout, himself. And for his part, Suzuki expanded on that moment, indicating that his daily motivation stems from his desire to “get on Mike Trout’s level.” He knows he’s not there yet and he won’t stop improving himself until he is. And it’s not just on the field: “I feel to get to where Trout is at you have to be a good person too,” Suzuki said. I mean, how can you not love this guy?
• Just look at this attitude: “There’s no pressure,” Suzuki said. “That’s my passion. Baseball is something I like, something I enjoy so there’s no pressure at all.” I cannot wait for this season.
• Also, if you didn’t see it earlier, Suzuki was tabbed by Baseball America as the best rookie in the National League.