It seems like every international signing is met with lofty expectations - and that has certainly been the case when it comes to Chicago Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki, who is in year two of the five-year, $85 million contract he signed with the team prior to last season.
After a 2022 rookie campaign that saw him start white-hot, then struggle before finding his footing late in the year, Suzuki reported to camp this spring noticeably bulked up, which had all of us dreaming of a monster breakout showing on the horizon. Intead, the outfielder suffered an oblique injury, keeping him out of Cactus League action in its entirety and delaying his regular season debut until April 14.
It took a few weeks for Suzuki to settle in at the plate, but he went on a tear in May, with a .977 OPS in 108 trips to the plate. At that point, we thought that he'd worked out the kinks and was poised to provide a jolt to a Cubs offense that's struggled with consistency and power all season long. Instead, he went into a nosedive at the plate.
Cubs getting another up-and-down season from Seiya Suzuki
He followed up that month with a .177/.247/.228 showing in June, and battled a neck issue late. Heading into the final week of the first half, Suzuki has been fairly mediocre at the dish with a 101 wRC+ and 0.5 fWAR - hardly what the Cubs front office envisioned when they brought him into the fold.
Although the numbers don't bear it out, there's cause for optimism, though. Suzuki ranks in the top 10 percent of the league in hard hit rate and average exit velocity - but at a certain point, the results need to be there and through his first year-and-a-half in the league, they haven't been there consistently. Last season, you're willing to have more patience as a guy not only adjusts to Major League Baseball, but living in a new country and experiencing a completely new culture.
In year two, though, you hope to see more consistency and results. With the Cubs searching for more clutch hitting and power, Suzuki has the tools to be an answer. For now, it's about getting past that neck issue and getting back to what made him so successful earlier in the season.