Seiya Suzuki came to the Chicago Cubs in 2022 with a lot of excitement. He was automatically penciled in to be a part of the new “core” that led the Cubs into the future. A star throughout his nine-year NPB career, his rookie season saw a lot of ups and downs. The Cubs right fielder looks to draw from that experience and build upon it during his second year in the United States. Let’s take a look back at his 10-year career and where he goes moving forward.
The Japanese slugger had a stellar career before arriving in Chicago. He exited NPB with a career average of .315 and OPS of .985. Seiya averaged over 20 home runs per season over the course of his nine years in NPB. He did this while (on average) walking (54) almost at the same rate as pitchers were able to strike him out (63). The fans needed to remember that an adjustment period would be coming as he saw action in the United States for the first time.
Keeping that in mind, I would not say Seiya’s 2022 season was a disappointment. The season began with a rushed Spring Training, a regular season that started late with a schedule that made up the lost time as the season progressed. This was not exactly an ideal environment you would want for your rookie year, whether that be for a player coming up through the minors or a foreign player seeing American pitching for the first time. Then there were the 50 games he missed due to injury and then being on paternity leave.
When Seiya was in the lineup, he carried a batting average of .262 with an OPS of .770. He had 15 homers with 22 doubles and 46 RBI. Not great numbers but decent with all things considered. The most alarming numbers were his strikeouts and walks. Remember earlier, his career averages were 63 strikeouts and 54 walks. I expected that difference to widen some as he was getting adjusted. I didn’t, however, expect it to explode. He struck out 110 times with only 42 walks. The first-year Cubs’ showed some flashes of the NPB version of himself during a stretch beginning in late August. During these 25 games, Seiya went 29-86 with 4 home runs and 5 doubles. He was able to draw 9 walks in that span also.
Showing improvement in 2023 was very important to Seiya. He showed up to spring training looking like he had spent countless hours in the gym during the offseason. I’m sure all of you have seen the pictures already and the added muscle is obvious. The big thing for Seiya will be to stay healthy so that he can stay in the lineup to get comfortable with MLB pitching. That should help bring down his strikeouts and improve his walks. His 15 home runs weren’t bad considering the amount of time he lost. I’m sure if he had been healthy we would have seen more than his career average. To be honest, if he can stay on the field I think we might see something closer to the 38 he hit in 2021 during his last season in NPB. One thing is for certain, Seiya Suzuki looks like he is ready to show the United States who he is.
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