When the New York Yankees brought Hideki Matsui to Major League baseball from Japan, he was just 28-years-old and coming off a 50 homerun season with Yomiuri in 2002.
Matsui posted a .334 batting average with 107 RBIs in addition before making the jump. His transition ended up being seamless as both a batter and defensive player. He hit .287 in his first season with 16 homers and 106 RBIs, showcasing his power and contact-hitting abilities. Hideki went on to be one of the most illustrious Yankee players in franchise history, and the team has had tremendous success helping Japanese players make the move overseas.
Another high-upside player is looking to make the move is Hiroshima carp outfielder Seiyu Suzuki, who is preparing to turn 28 this year after a phenomenal season in the Japanese Central League.
Matsui and Suzuki display eerily similar statistics at 27-years-old, with the ladder recording 36 homers, 88 RBIs, and a .317 batting average. Matsui posted 36 homers, 104 RBIs, and a .333 batting average.
There are several teams who are planning to pursue Suzuki once free agency opens back up aggressively, and the Yankees will likely be one of them as they prepare to make a few changes in the outfield with Brett Gardner, Tyler Wade, and Clint Frazier leaving the team this off-season.
With short porches in Yankee Stadium, Suzuki has the potential to hit double-digit homers in a reserve slot with the potential for more (he would serve as a great DH too).
The expectation is that Seiya will garner a contract worth about $55 million over five years, so the Bombers can utilize him as a depth piece for one season until Joey Gallo’s contract expires in 2023. It will give the team a flexible element to inject seamlessly without disrupting the team’s momentum, considering he will then have experience.
Defensively, Suzuki posted a .989 fielding percentage with three errors over 127 games this past season. Adjusting to the MLB may take some time, but that is why utilizing him in a reserve role makes the most sense for the first year of a prospective deal.
Not only with the Yankees be adding a solid outfielder they can rely on, but one that contains plenty of power to adhere to the Analytics department and their love for home run hitting players.