Hop on the Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki train while you still can

Seiya Suzuki’s move to the MLB went smoothly as the Chicago Cubs rookie scored in each of his team’s first six games.

Suzuki wasn’t the most popular pick for NL Rookie of the Year prior to the season, but that’s changing fast. Although the NPB’s Hiroshima slumped .317/.443/.639 with 38 homers and just 16.3 percent strike rate last year, most pundits doubted his move to the MLB would go so smoothly.

Not every former NPB star can be Shohei Ohtani, but Suzuki proved that maybe we should have more faith in the league as a whole. FanGraphs and ZiPS predicted that Suzuki would lose some strength at Wrigley Field, in part due to field dimensions and harder pitching in MLB, but so far he’s questioned those predictions.

As of today, Suzuki is a top 20 batsman in baseball, mind you, due to a small sample size. At 28 and with very little room for opposing MLB managers to strategize against, there’s a reason his chances for NL Rookie of the Year are skyrocketing.

NL Rookie of the Year: Seiya Suzuki the favorite

Suzuki started the season with +500 on WynnBet as NL Rookie of the Year. In just six games he has established himself as a favorite with odds of +300.

This is one of those really rare scenarios where I can yell “I told you so” off my high horse, but I’m not going to come down anytime soon. According to our MLB season preview, I was on the Suzuki bandwagon. I challenge you now to join me:

“Seiya Suzuki will be the most exciting rookie of 2022 for good reasons or bad. We have no idea how his NPB numbers will project to MLB or if there will be a learning curve. ZiPS projects its slash line at 0.287/0.351/0.480 with moderate performance. In one of the best baseball markets in the world, the uncertainty alone is enough to fuel the news cycle for months.”

I retire a little earlier than my colleagues.

Seiya Suzuki Projections: What Can We Expect?

Suzuki immediately had to prove himself against a capable Brewers pitching staff. He did so with ease against Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff.

A sample size of six games is far from enough to project across the entire season, but Suzuki has been as advertised from a power perspective and perhaps better than expected when it comes to coming to base against MLB pitching. The 28-year-old routinely works the count and awaits his throw rather than overdoing it early in at-bats.

As of Thursday, he had a follow rate of just 10.9 percent, according to FanGraphs. Analyst Jay Jaffe compared Suzuki’s eye and patience at the plate to some of the all-time greats in today’s game:

“Of the MLB qualifiers, only Juan Soto (15.1%), Max Muncy (19.1%), Robbie Grossman (19.2%) and Tommy Pham (19.3%) have less than 20% of pitches outside the zone swung; Ohtani, the only one of the above players to qualify last year, had a 30.1% follow rate in 2021 and is 31.1% in his career, so maybe we can expect Suzuki’s line to end in one area , which is comparable to his in Japan.”

Should Suzuki come up with numbers like that — say .317/.443/.639 with 38 homers — NL Rookie of the Year will be the first of many awards he should make room on his mantle for. Hop on the Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki train while you still can

John Verrall

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