TRISTIN CLINT WRITES – The prowess of Japanese baseball players is recognized internationally, and a couple of talents have personified athletic greatness just this century. Seiya Suzuki could very well join Ichiro Suzuki and Shohei Ohtani as an unforgettable Japanese ballplayer.
Shohei Ohtani famously took over Major League Baseball in 2021, winning American League MVP to cap off a historic two-way season, and Ichiro Suzuki had an illustrious 28-year career marked by spectacular play in both Japan and the United States, specifically with the Seattle Mariners in the 2000s. Now the public eye is focused on Seiya Suzuki, a four-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star who has scored 189 home runs with a .309 batting average for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, since 2013.
Several MLB front offices are engaged in a bidding war to sign the standout Japanese outfielder. Seiya Suzuki will be 27-years-old for the majority of the upcoming MLB season, if it isn’t delayed by the lockout. Currently, Suzuki is training in Okinawa as he waits for the players union and the higher-ups in Major League Baseball to reach an agreement so that the 2022 season can officially commence. There’s been no indication by Suzuki that he will return to the Toyo Carp if the MLB season is delayed, so it seems likely that he will sign with an MLB squad as soon as possible.
American media covering baseball has tied Suzuki closely to the Boston Red Sox, which seems to be the favorite to sign him up as they look to improve their outfield. Suzuki isn’t just a threat on the offensive end; he also brings solid defense to the diamond, already having won three Gold Glove Awards for his skills in the outfield. The truth is any team would be thrilled to acquire him. Statistics are slightly inflated in Japanese leagues compared to American leagues but projections still place him in a very solid tier of MLB ballplayers. According to Fangraphs, Seiya Suzuki, if slotted into an MLB team’s outfield, increases playoff chances by a median of roughly six percent, depending on roster fit. For example, if he were to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers, their playoff chances would jump from 57.7% to 71.5%. That’s a notable leap!
While professional athletes often avoid specific comparisons between players, that may be inescapable, given that Seiya shares the same last name, position (outfield), number (51), height (5’11”), and league of origin (NPB) as Ichiro.
Regardless of all that, though, Seiya Suzuki will inspire generations that follow, given his boundless determination in making it even this far. How could young players across the globe not take heart at Suzuki’s transition to that biggest of all stages for baseball, especially those from his hometown of Tokyo?