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Commentary: Seiya Suzuki is even better in person


by - Correspondent -
Suzuki has been impressive this season (Isaiah Downing - USA Today Sports)
Suzuki has been impressive this season (Isaiah Downing - USA Today Sports)

Going into the 2022 baseball season, not much was expected of the Chicago Cubs. With stars, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez traded last August, and it seemed like only a matter of time before Wilson Contreras joined them, Cub fans didn't know what to get excited about this year. Ownership did not spend much money in the offseason and seemed contempt to ride the breakout players from last year in, Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom.

Two of the exceptions the team did spend money on were pitcher Marcus Stroman and one of the bright spots so far for the Cubs this season, right fielder Seiya Suzuki.

Now, I’ll admit when they first signed Suzuki to that five-year contract, $85 million contract, I was thinking not another Kosuke Fukudome.

After Fukudome hit that home run off of Eric Gagne on Opening Day and made the All-Star team in 2008 every Cub fan was buying his headband and had him ticketed to the Hall of Fame, but unfortunately, he fizzled out after that.

That is a lot of money to spend on an unproven Japanese player in the majors with nightmares of Fukudome in Cubs fans' minds.

As Spring Training wore on, I became more and more intrigued with Suzuki. As I told my friend before his fantasy draft, you might want to take a flyer on him, and so far, the results are great, and I'm glad he has made me eat my words about being another Fukudome. He is one of the Cubs' leading hitters so far this year with a .354 batting average along with four home runs and 13 RBIs, along with also playing a stellar right field and having some adept base running.

Suzuki looks like he could be in line for the next great Cubs right fielder, following Andre Dawson and Sammy Sosa. Looking at Suzuki's career stats in Japan, he was a career .300 hitter, with a career-high 38 home runs in 2021, plus he only struck out once over 100 times in his career, making him a contact hitter.

The rumor is things are always better in person; I was able to attend the Cubs vs. Rockies game in Denver a couple of Sundays ago, and I was impressed with Suzuki's baseball IQ, the reads he took on fly balls, and his instincts on the base paths. He was definitely fun to watch in person. He also seems like a player who can hit anywhere in the line-up, given his contact ability and his power. Suzuki started the season batting sixth but has since moved up to the second spot occasionally, with manager David Ross trusting his ball in play skills.

So the question remains can he keep it up and possibly get the Cubs their next Rookie of the Year? Is he destined to become the next great Japanese ballplayer like Ichiro Suzuki and Shohei Ohtani?

One thing is for sure he is giving Cubs fans hope and reason to watch the team this year. I still think this Cubs team needs an Aramis Ramirez type of player, that RBI machine.

I think that was one of the most significant weaknesses of the team since 2016 is a player who can get that big RBI when needed, the runner home from third with less than two out. Hopefully, Suzuki is that type of player. Along with only being only 27 years old, and if Suzuki keeps this up, and if some of the young outfielders down in the minor leagues like Brennan Davis, Nelson Velazquez, and Pete Crow Armstrong pan out, the Cubs could be on their way to the "Next Great Cubs Team," as general manager Jed Hoyer has said, and I could have a reason to pull out my old headband I bought back in 2008.

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