Everyone expected Cubs rookie Seiya Suzuki to get off to a slower start this year. After all, he got an abbreviated spring training experience and the Major League Baseball environment and competition are all new to him. Apparently, though, somebody forgot to tell him he’s not supposed to be the best offensive performer on the team.
Entering Thursday’s series opener in Colorado, Suzuki leads all Cubs hitters with a 1.524 OPS that ranks second in the National League. His Statcast numbers are absolutely mind-blowing, too. He checks in at the 99th percentile in barrel percentage and chase rate, no surprise given how selective he is at the dish.
He’s walking in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances and also leads the NL with three home runs. It’s hard to think of a single at-bat he’s turned in that didn’t end in hard contact or see him work deep into a count.
"“He’s done a really good job of controlling the strike zone since the season started,” Cubs bench coach Andy Green told MLB.com this week. “I think early in spring, he was anxious to show some things, might have chased a little bit more, but as the season has gotten here, he’s really stayed in the strike zone, swung at good pitches, shown how strong he is. … That strength and that decision making is going to translate.”"
One of the biggest gripes with the former core was its feast-or-famine approach offensively. Sure, there were days the Cubs would hang 12 runs on an opponent. But too often, it was followed with one total run over a two or three-game span, which led to a whole lot of frustration given the talent level of the roster.
With Suzuki, we’re getting something we haven’t seen – at least not to this extent – in some time. He goes into each at-bat with a very detailed plan. Even during his two-homer game on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, you saw him go back into the dugout and immediately start poring over video to break down his at-bat and how he was being pitched to. It’s that level of focus that’s led to him exceeding already high expectations early on.
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Watching him play his first series in Colorado this weekend should be entertaining, especially if he really gets ahold of some pitches. The season is young and it’s far too early to be making any claims about player’s performances, but, at the same time, Suzuki has been firing on all cylinders so far.