Regardless of where the 2022 Chicago Cubs wind up in the standings, new outfielder Seiya Suzuki will be a name to keep an eye on this year. The longtime Japanese standout is ready for his first MLB season – and is already being viewed as a favorite in the National League Rookie of the Year race.
Here’s what MLB.com had to say about the new Chicago outfielder in a piece breaking down each league’s top Rookie of the Year candidates heading into the season (in which they ranked Suzuki #1 in the Senior Circuit):
"This is definitely a matter of talent meeting opportunity. Suzuki, who has played nine seasons in NPB in Japan, will play regularly for the Cubs, and he’s a relatively known quantity. The guy can hit. The 27-year-old outfielder smacked 38 homers for Hiroshima last year, and has four straight seasons of at least a .300 average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging. Oh, and he also has more than 100 career steals in NPB. He’s not ranked as a prospect, but that’s due to experience in Japan, not ability."
Last year with the Hiroshima Carp, Suzuki posted a 1.069 OPS and hit a career-high 38 home runs. He was viewed as, hands-down, the biggest international free agent in this winter’s class and the Cubs coming away with him on a five-year deal was a big win for Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins.
So far this spring, Suzuki has struggled at the plate – with just one hit in his first 14 Cactus League at-bats. But, boy, how he broke into the hit column was definitely memorable.
Already, we’ve heard how great of a presence Suzuki is in the clubhouse and his sense of humor is quickly gaining attention, even from his own manager, David Ross. As the Cubs head into 2022 looking to figure out just what they have in terms of long-term pieces on the roster, Suzuki will have a long leash as he makes the transition to the big leagues.
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No one should expect him to immediately set the league on fire. But by season’s end, the hope is that he has his feet solidly under him and is a major piece of the puzzle for the club moving forward. For now, we’ve got plenty of optimism and hype. Here’s to hoping at season’s end, Suzuki is hoisting up some hardware for what he brings to the diamond this year.