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24 for ’24: Can Seiya Suzuki pick up where he left off?

1 month agoAndy Martinez

As the Cubs embark on a new campaign with a new manager (Craig Counsell) at the helm, we answer 24 of the most pressing questions for the 2024 season.

MESA, Ariz. — Seiya Suzuki showcased just who he could be at the end of last season.

Over the last two months of 2023, the right fielder slashed .349/.406/.667 with 12 home runs, 39 RBI and a 183 weighted runs-created plus. So how does he carry that success over into 2024?

Well, a normal Spring Training is a good place to start. In 2022, Suzuki had a rushed preseason, signing after the lockout was lifted and dealing with an abbreviated spring. Last year, Suzuki dealt with an oblique injury that caused him to miss both the World Baseball Classic where Japan took home the crown and the beginning of the MLB season.

“When you start off the season like how I did last season, then it’s gonna be a tough season for me overall,” Suzuki said through translator Toy Matsushita. “I think it’s about starting off pretty strong. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

Part of the success over those last two months was a more aggressive approach in the box. Suzuki is known for a keen eye at the plate, but at times last season, that ended up working as a hindrance towards him. Over the first three-and-a-half months of the season, Suzuki had a .249/.330/.383 slash line with 9 homers, a 95 wRC+ and a 25% strikeout rate. That led to Suzuki being benched for a few days after the team acquired Jeimer Candelario at the trade deadline.

He used that time to reset, and it led to immediate success. He decreased that strikeout rate to 17.4% in the last two months of the season while improving his slugging percentage by nearly 300 points.

“Staying aggressive is gonna be really important for me this year, but you gotta take into consideration the situation, the game,” Suzuki said. “But yes, staying pretty aggressive throughout the season is gonna be one of my main things coming into the season.”

Suzuki did that by making slight tweaks to his pregame routine. He and hitting coach Dustin Kelly used that time to reduce the number of swings he was taking in pregame work.

“I think him watching some of our other guys and seeing how concise and short they were … I think it started to get the wheels turning for him a little bit when he had that little bit of a downtime where he wasn’t playing,” Kelly said. “Then, when he came back it was a much shorter, more concise routine and we kinda kept some of the drills — still do, ‘em, but we just cut the swings down a little bit more and just kinda focus on what’s important for you.

“Some of it was catching the ball a little further out front. So, we did some slower flips with him and that just carried over when we stuck with it.”

Suzuki is expected to be a big piece of the Cubs offense. When he’s hot, it’s the offensive profile that can carry a lineup. Couple that with the return of Cody Bellinger and players like Dansby Swanson, Christopher Morel, Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ and it has the Cubs feeling bullish about their offense in 2024.

It all comes down to building off how he ended 2023.

“I finished off the season pretty strong last year and I’ve been able to continue to that same type of feeling when I finished the season,” Suzuki said. “I still feel like I have that same mentality coming into this season, so just really excited for what’s ahead.”

24 for ’24 series

What are the Cubs expecting from Kyle Hendricks in 2024 and beyond?
What role will Drew Smyly fill on the 2024 Cubs?
How will Jameson Taillon fare in Year 2 with Cubs?
How will Shota Imanaga handle the adjustment to MLB?
Who will DH for the Cubs?
Who is the Cubs’ fifth starter?
Will defense once again be the Cubs’ strength?
Can Seiya Suzuki pick up where he left off? 
What are the Cubs’ long-term plans at first base?
Have the Cubs done enough to address their left-handed hitting?
Will Justin Steele replicate his stellar 2023 season?

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