Japanese Slugger Seiya Suzuki Could Be the Next Big Thing to Hit MLB

Once the lockout is over, of course

Outfielder Seiya Suzuki of Team Japan hits a single against Team USA at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Outfielder Seiya Suzuki of Team Japan hits a single against Team USA at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Steph Chambers/Getty

Prior to the start of Major League Baseball’s lockout last week, Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani was named American League MVP after hitting 46 home runs with 100 RBIs at the plate and going 9-2 with 156 strikeouts on the mound as a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels.

Once the lockout is over, one of Ohtani‘s countrymen, also a former rival, may be joining him in the majors.

The only player in Nippon Professional Baseball history to homer the first time he stepped to the plate in five consecutive games, Seiya Suzuki is coming off a season where he accumulated a 1.069 OPS and 38 home runs.

An outfielder who has also played third base and shortstop during his career, Suzuki has a batting average above .300 with more than 620 RBIs and nearly 200 home runs after nine seasons of playing pro ball in Japan.

Assuming MLB actually has a season in 2022, Suzuki’s 10th year of pro ball will be played in the States as he was “posted” in late November to be signed by an MLB team that will have to pay compensation to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Due to the lockout,  Suzuki’s window to be signed is frozen, but once relations between MLB and the MLBPA thaw and a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, the 27-year-old should get a deal with a big-league team.

A five-time All-Star who has walked more than he’s struck out in two of the past three years, Suzuki is a well-rounded ballplayer with a high-grade arm that should allow him to make an impact on defense, per CBS.

Being targeted by clubs including the Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners and Red Sox even though he is not a particularly skilled base stealer, Suzuki is expected to make in-person visits before deciding which team he’ll sign with, per The New York Times.

Per MLB’s current agreement with NPB, the Carp will be due 20% of the first $25 million of Suzuki’s contract in addition to 17.5% of the portion between $25 million and $50 million and 15% of the portion exceeding $50 million.  

After requesting to be posted by the Carp, Suzuki said he was inspired to make the move to MLB by former Yankee pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who returned to play in Japan for the final two seasons of his career in 2015.

“At birth,” Suzuki said when asked about when he decided he wanted to play in America. “No, honestly, I would say when Kuroda San came back here. He would say to me, ‘Look at these players in the U.S. major leagues.’ While they were playing the same game of baseball, the level of their play was so much different. It had a tremendous impact on me. I didn’t grow up interested in the American game and I never really paid attention to it until he convinced me to. Once he did, it opened my eyes to the kind of talent over there and it inspired me to want to compete with them.”

Hopefully, he’ll get the chance once the lockout is over.

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