State of the Cubs: Seiya Suzuki is the present — and future — in right field
The 2022 season is over and the Cubs are facing one of the most important offseasons in recent memory. Before the stove starts heating up, we examine where the Cubs depth chart stands at each position and where the holes might be for Jed Hoyer’s front office to fill.
Next up: Right Field
- Seiya Suzuki
- Nelson Velázquez
- Patrick Wisdom
- Narciso Crook
- Alexander Canario
- Brennen Davis
- Darius Hill
Like left field, the right field spot for the Cubs is locked down — it’s Seiya Suzuki’s job. The Cubs signed the 28-year-old from Japan to a 5-year, $85-million deal last spring.
In his first big-league season, Suzuki performed admirably, posting a 2.0 WAR (per Baseball-Reference) while slashing .262/.336/.433 with 14 home runs and 46 RBI. He did all that while adjusting to a new culture and league. Suzuki took the league by storm, hitting .429 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI in his first 10 MLB games. He suffered a thumb injury in late May, missed all of June rehabbing and then came back with a tear, hitting 2 home runs in his first 2 games back including an inside-the-park homer off Josh Hader in Milwaukee.
“It’s a real transition from the things you imagine, like facing major league pitching every day to things like travel and time zones and not having every Monday off and things like that,” Jed Hoyer said in his end-of-season press conference. “I think he learned a lot a lot about how to take care of his body over here and things he would change for next year.”
Behind Suzuki, the backups on the active roster are Nelson Velázquez and Patrick Wisdom — Velázquez is a natural corner outfielder, but primarily played center in his first big-league season. Wisdom has shown his versatility playing around the diamond, including the corner outfield spots.
In the minor leagues, Narciso Crook (who the team signed as a minor league free agent last spring) and Alexander Canario are both on the 40-man roster. Crook made his major-league debut in 2022, going 2-for-8 in 4 games. Canario was acquired in the Kris Bryant deal from the Giants and clubbed 37 home runs with 97 RBI, 23 stolen bases and a .252 average across 3 minor-league levels.
Brennen Davis — the Cubs’ top prospect — should make his major-league debut at some point in 2023, barring an injury, and the Cubs could use him in the corner outfield to ease his transition to the big leagues and give either Suzuki or Ian Happ a day off. Darius Hill — a 20th round pick by the Cubs in the 2019 draft — hit .314 with an .812 OPS, 36 doubles and 53 RBI in the minor leagues. He is Rule-5 draft eligible this offseason, so the Cubs face an important decision on whether to place him on the 40-man roster.
The future of the position is and will be Suzuki. Signed to a long-term deal, the Cubs believe in his ability to man the corner outfield position and provide plus offense.
The Cubs and Suzuki both expect him to continue to improve off his first big-league season, especially as he has a full, normal Spring Training under his belt and the experiences from 2022 to build off.
“I thought he did a really, really good job, given the injury and the transition,” Hoyer said. “His numbers ended up in a solid place and I think there’s real room for growth going forward as he makes that that transition and gets used to the pitching and really is able to kind of change his habits and things to better fit our game versus the game in Japan.”
This position belongs to Suzuki. While many question marks still surround the Cubs at other positions heading into this pivotal offseason, there’s no queries about right field and Suzuki’s continued growth at the position is reassurance enough.