I will be doing a full off season breakdown as soon as the World Series is over, but wanted to look at a certain player from more of a micro level here. That player is Seiya Suzuki, 26 year old corner OF from Japan.
Every couple of winters, there's typically a bigger Japanese player that is looking to make his way Stateside to play against the best competition in the world. Shohei Ohtani is the most recent success from the land of the rising sun, but there have obviously been a LOT of great players to come out of Japan over the last 25 or so years, from Ichiro Suzuki through Hideki Matsui, to my favorite, Tadahito Iguchi who hit one of the biggest home runs in White Sox history in game 2 of the 2005 ALDS:
Without that bomb, the series is ENTIRELY different and they might have about a 120 year World Series drought.
This year, apparently the hot name to come out of Japan is going to be the aforementioned Seiya Suzuki, who has no relation to Ichiro. I don't think. Idk I didn't look into his goddamn personal life.
Regardless, I saw this Bleacher Report click bait article the other day that said "Seiya Suzuki will be one of the most talked about players of this winter" and decided to do some digging on this cat.
When I said he's got no relation to Ichiro, I just assumed that. Even if he does, it doesn't matter in a baseball sense, because he's a WILDLY different player than Ichiro. Ichiro never struck out, never walked, and never hit for power. At all. His career ISO was .091 which is such an odd number for today's style of baseball. It worked though, as he's the all time hit king and one of the best RF's I've ever seen.
Seiya, on the other hand, provides walks on walks on walks, hits for power, and looks to unzip his pants and piss on baseballs when after forcing pitchers to work over the middle of the plate. Here's his stat line over the last 8 seasons for the Hiroshima Carp:
Really fucking good.
Now I will admit that I am FAR from adept on Japanese baseball, but one thing that I do know is that patience and pitch selectivity as a hitter translates from level to level or league to league. Over the course of 4115 career plate appearances, Seiya carried just under a 13% walk rate and in this season alone he's been at 16.2% with a 14% clip in the 2020 season. Both seasons he's had over 500+ PAs.
That plays. That plays all day long, and that plate discipline won't just up and vanish when he makes his way to the states, if he chooses to do so this year.
Now there are two ways to look at his walk numbers:
1. His BB rate should decrease if/when he's posted and decides to come stateside. MLB pitchers are the best on the planet. Their command is better, their breaking pitchers sharper, and their fastballs have more velocity. Though Seiya has walked more than he's struck out more than he's walked in Japan, I don't see that being the case in The Show. Perhaps not even close.
2. Japanese umpires are known to have much bigger strike zones than MLB umpires. The fact that Seiya was able to walk at such a high clip with Japanese strike zones should bode well for him with the traditionally smaller zones in MLB. He won't have to cover as much plate stateside as he would in Japan. He could then force hitters to work even more over the plate now than he does in Japan and could see a spike in power numbers.
Both of these scenarios are hypothetical and me playing devil's advocate. Seiya would also have to get used to facing changeups, a pitch that isn't thrown too often in Japan. They rely more on forkballs/splitters as their put away off speed pitches, as well as arm side breaking pitches like screwballs instead of glove side breaking pitches like sliders.
There will undoubtedly be a transition and adjustment, but as I said: patience and selectivity typically travels, and travels well.
I do love his mechanics though. Seiya's got that classic Japanese style swing…
…with that big ass leg kick that helps him generate most of the power that led to him hitting 35 bombs and 61 XBHs so far in his 2021 season. There is so much built up leverage on the inside of his heel and his body control is fantastic. His fundamentals are pretty text book, all things considered.
There are a lot of moving parts in a baseball swing; we speak quite often about how it's of the utmost importance for pitchers to have repeatability in their mechanics, and the same reigns true for hitters. In the clip above, at the very least, I see a swing that Seiya has mastered. It's short, simple, compact, and repeatable and I think he'll make a ton of contact once he gets his feet wet against big league pitching:
Take away his Japanese style arm extension prior to the pitch and this swing reminds me of someone I'm still EXTREMELY high on:
White Sox fans are unfairly down on Vaughn due to him running out of steam at the end of the 2021 season, but I think we are going to see an insane jump in production from him next year and in my opinion, comparing Seiya to Vaughn is a big time compliment when it comes from me. I am still VERY high on Andrew Vaughn and think he could maybe be the best hitter on the entire team not named Luis Robert next year.
If I'm correct with my comparison, that would have made Seiya a top 5 pick. But Seiya can also snag bases (25 SBs just 2 years ago) and apparently has a hose of an arm in RF. The White Sox NEED a RF next year and need one badly. It sucks that Engel couldn't stay healthy and prove once and for all he is the starting RF for the 2021 season and beyond, but because of those injuries I think the White Sox will be performing due diligence on all three markets for a RF: trade, free agent, and international.
Could Seiya be that guy? No clue. I'd imagine at the very least they'll kick the tires on him. He'll cost a pretty penny, though I don't have near the acumen to tell you what he'd cost. This article from MLB Trade Rumors explains it much better than I could even attempt to. If they are indeed interested, he does carry risk for one, and for two he's RH. They are in DIRE NEED of LH power this winter. Gavin Sheets was great in his cup of coffee both in the 2021 regular season and the playoffs, but they need a LH power hitting RF that shits all over RHP that can play every day. I'm not sold that's Gavin Sheets even with the great start to his MLB career thus far.
Not sure that's Seiya, but Seiya would definitely be an improvement regardless and they could look at add their LH power elsewhere. All in all, this will be a cool player to watch come mid-November. We'll see where he winds up. As much as it makes me sick, I can see the Yankees making a BIG run at him. He'd fit their needs and fit them well IMO.
Nevertheless, I love how international this game continues to get every year. Baseball in east Asia is obviously huge, as it is in Latin America. Now we have Germans and Australians getting in on the mix more and more too. Let's keep it moving just like that. If you want to grow the game, that's one of the best ways to do it. Keep it international.