Seiya Suzuki has won over Cubs' clubhouse; next impression will come with bat

Seiya Suzuki has won over Cubs' clubhouse; next impression will come with bat

MESA, Ariz. — Safe to say, Seiya Suzuki has made a good first impression in the Cubs clubhouse.

“Oh, he’s funny,” first baseman Frank Schwindel told The Sporting News. “Even just starting with the Mike Trout comment. I was cracking up about that.” 

“I can tell that he’s got a sense of humor,” Clint Frazier said. 

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Second baseman Nick Madrigal: “He’s been awesome. Super nice guy. Seems like he’s one of the guys already. He walked in and loves to joke around, it easy to be around. Yeah, it’s going to be awesome playing with him.”

And, of course there was this: 

The baseball adjustment has been a bit rockier for Suzuki, a right-handed hitter who was one of the best hitters — the best — in Japan for the past six seasons for the Hiroshima Carp. 

His early at-bats for the Cubs in spring training have mostly been rough — five strikeouts, one walk and one hit-by-pitch in 11 plate appearances over his first four games — but it’s easy to chalk that up to nerves and just trying to find his timing at the plate. His first hit was a doozy, a home run on Wednesday. 

But nobody’s really worried about spring training stats. His numbers in Japan speak for themselves (more on those in a moment). Instead, just listen to his fellow Cubs talk about what they’ve seen in live BP.

“He hit just about every pitch I saw out of the park,” Schwindel said. 

Madrigal, again: “He just has such an easy swing. It seems so controlled but the ball just explodes off his bat. You don’t see that too much with guys. He has a real good approach up there, knows what he’s doing. He’s looking good so far.”

“Power to all fields,” Ross said. “Bat-to-ball skills are real. Doesn’t chase outside the zone too much, and when he does get fooled he’s still able to foul off really tough pitches.”  

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Frazier, again: “The power stands out, but his batting practice routine stands out. You can tell he’s not just going up there and trying to hit home runs. The first couple swings, he’s always hitting to right field on the ground. He’s got a plan, so it’s not just power only.”

Frazier paused, then smiled. 

“He’s a good hitter and the power comes with,” he said. “Those are the scary ones.”

Here’s that first home run.

The Cubs paid a posting fee a little bit north of $14 million, then signed him to a five-year, $85 million contract a few days after the lockout ended. 

Suzuki made his debut with the Hiroshima Carp at 18 years old, and by 21 he was a legitimate star in Japan. In his “worst” season — 2020, at Age 25 — he batted .300 with a .953 OPS, 25 homers and 75 RBIs in 118 games. He followed that with a spectacular 2021 campaign, blasting 38 homers in 134 games, to go with a .317 average, .433 on-base percentage and 1.069 OPS. 

Over at FanGraphs, Suzuki’s ZIPS projections put him in the 21-23 homer range for the next several seasons. Those feel like conservative projections. 

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With his power from the right side, Cubs fans are just excited to see him at Wrigley soon. His teammates are, too.  

“Especially when the wind’s blowing the right way,” Schwindel said. “He’ll hit a couple across the street. It’ll be fun to watch.”

The Cubs certainly hope — and expect — that will be the case.