After showing up to spring training significantly bulked up, it was all eyes on Seiya Suzuki last February. But an oblique injury wound up costing him the entire Cactus League slate and the Cubs outfielder got off to a sluggish start in the regular season, evidenced by a .706 OPS in the first month.
He briefly bounced back in May, only to bottom out in June. In the first half, Suzuki was a barely above average offensive player, susceptible to massive peaks and equally cavernous valleys in his production. Consistency was a major issue for the second-year outfielder. That is, until everything clicked over the final two months.
Cubs need Seiya Suzuki to be an offensive centerpiece in 2024
Over the final 50 games, Suzuki put it all together, slashing .350/.406/.667 with 31 extra-base hits, emerging as a dominant force in the lineup for Chicago. That's what Cubs fans had hoped for when he came over from Japan, signing a five-year, $85 million deal prior to the 2022 campaign. Now, the hope is he can put up those kind of numbers over the course of an entire season.
Digging into Suzuki's Baseball Savant page, there are a ton of metrics that suggest that's just what he's poised to deliver in 2024, his third year in the league - and one where he'll arguably be counted upon for more than in any season prior.
It's not just the batted ball numbers (83rd percentile in average exit velocity, 84th in hard hit rate) but it's how Suzuki goes about getting his results. He's got a very good eye at the plate, rarely chasing out of the zone (91st percentile in chase rate) and staying locked in on pitches he can do damage on.
Although there's still time to reshape this roster and make the necessary additions - namely 1-2 impact bats - there's no way for the Cubs to get over the hump in 2024 and make their first full-season postseason appearance since 2018 without Suzuki continuing to establish himself as an offensive force. The good news is the combination of how he finished 2023, paired with all the data at our disposal, suggest that's very much in the realm of possibility next year.