According to multiple reports, the Chicago Cubs have signed top international free agent, Seiya Suzuki to a five year deal.
While this news falls under the category of major league transaction, the unique nature of international free agency also means that Suzuki is a prospect. So let’s run through how outlets view the outfielder.
Fangraphs ranks Suzuki as a 45 Future Value player, which falls just outside their pre-season Top 100 (really 114). They are effusive of praise for the outfielder, who they note has the talent to be a starting-caliber right fielder but do note a concern that will need to be monitored related to his swing.
He has a cogent two-strike approach in which his leg kick gets toned down, and he’s great at recognizing and crushing breaking balls. In fact, if there’s one hole in his game, it’s that he can be vulnerable to velocity on the inner third. Suzuki is at his best when he’s getting his arms extended on pitches well out over the plate, but he tends to foul off or swing under fastballs creeping in on him. It’s tough to say whether this would be exploited more in MLB and impact his success, and it’s even harder to say whether Suzuki will be able to adjust to MLB velocity (pitchers’ fastballs in Japan averaged 90 mph in 2021) until we see him face it.
Perhaps the best dive into Suzuki comes from Prospects Live. I won’t spoil the whole article, but these two passages have me very excited. make sure to give the report a read.
His patience and ability to stay off of pitches out of the zone with less whiffs is huge for coming over to the majors. Since, he’ll already have a sense to wait for his pitch to hit, he is less likely to struggle with major league quality of pitching. Although he will likely have more whiffs, just out of the pure pitching talent in MLB alone, these numbers of his discipline are intriguing for his future.
Ultimately, Seiya Suzuki is a player that every fan of MLB should be excited about coming over. The high floor and potential he has should make him an intriguing piece for GMs to chase heading into next year should he be posted. He’s the type of guy every scout dreams about watching progress
Baseball America provided a dynasty prospective on Suzuki ($) as part of a larger “Names to Know” article, which featured Cubs prospect James Triantos. It is another encouraging report, this time with scouting input.
Scouts see Suzuki as a potential average hitter, once he adjusts to MLB velocity, with above-average game power and raw power that grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. His swing is geared for damage with an uppercut bat path, as opposed to the middle-of-the-field or even inside-out hitting approaches favored by many Japanese hitters.
While it’s been a disjointed offseason, it has been a busy one. Questions remain how Suzuki’s addition will affect the outfielders already in the upper levels. Rest assured Brennen Davis’ playing time is not a concern, but could we see Nelson Velazquez have to wait longer for his opportunity? it’s better to have the talent than not. These questions can be answered later. It is an exciting day to follow the Cubs.
Photo of Seiya Suzuki courtesy of his Instagram