It’s always a little funny to see international professionals identified as one of a team’s best prospects when they finally make the switch over to MLB. They’re usually older, more established, and … well, just not leads anymore. Not in the spirit of the word, anyway. But for as much as I may disagree with that designation, I *do* think these players should be eligible for Rookie of the Year honors, which is probably better defined as best performance from a first-year MLB player.
Speaking of which, the Cubs have a very notable first year MLB player on the roster this year. His name is Seiya Suzuki, and I’m thinking you’ve heard of him by now. He signed the fifth largest free agent contract in Cubs history (cost the Cubs ~$100M for five years), and he’s one of the favorites to be the 2022 National League Rookie of the Year.
• DraftKings: +400 (2nd)
• PointsBet: +500 (t-2nd with Keibert Ruiz)
• FanDuel: +350 (t-1st with Oneil Cruz)
• BetRivers: +400 (2nd)
• Caesars: +550 (2nd)
So there’s a bit of a range there, but Seiya Suzuki is almost unanimously considered the second best bet for ROY honors next season, and for one book, he’s the odds-on favorite. And why not? We just went over his screenings the other day, and they’re fantastic:
Steamer has Suzuki for a drool-worthy .286/.386/.528 (140 wRC+) slash line, with 29 homers and a strikeout rate under 19%. That would be, uh … a dream come true. ZiPS envisions a little less pop and OBP (which often go hand in hand), projecting still solid overall contributions: .287/.351/.480 (124 OPS+).
Until he proves he can handle the higher velocity of MLB pitching, there will be concerns about his ceiling with the bat. It may take a little time. But the scouts seem to agree that he has the bat speed and path to match up just fine. And if he does handle heat well enough, his near-term ceiling is that of an All-Star right fielder, which will certainly translate to a ROY-worthy performance, if it happens all in year one.
Suzuki’s No. 1 competitor? According to the books, that would be Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz (No. 26 prospect in MLB according to MLB Pipeline). Last season, Cruz went all the way from Double-A to Triple-A to The Show, hitting at every stop along the way. And, uh, yeah… this guy is a freak. He’s a 6’7″, 220lbs, left-handed hitting shortstop with 65 power and 70 arm scores on the scouting scale, and he can hit ANYTHING a really long way. He might move off shortstop early in his career, but Cruz has a shot to play there at least this season, which will give him a better shot at taking home some hardware by the end of the year. Seems is a pretty fair favorite.
Note, however, that Suzuki isn’t the only Cubs player with ROY odds on the book. Brennen Davis (+2200) and even Brailyn Márquez (+10,000, 37th) show up on DraftKings books. And here’s how Davis shakes out elsewhere: PointsBet (+2000), BetRivers (+2000), Caesars (+2500), and FanDuel (+3,500). Because Davis will start the year out at Triple-A, he’ll have more of an uphill climb come award season. But it sure would be fun if we had a ROY race to watch in Chicago come July or August, eh? One or both outfielders?