When it comes to Nippon Professional Baseball, the most persistent topic of discussion tends to be the names of the players who are going to try and make the jump to Major League Baseball. There are a number of NPB players who have been vocal about their desire to play in MLB one day. Unfortunately, because of the current posting system and clubs who will not let players be posted, most of these players are more hope than actuality. There are, though, certain players who will be posted in the near future, including one player who has made it known he wants to make the jump next season.
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has let everyone know for a while now that MLB is where he wants his career to turn to next. The third baseman, outfielder, and designated hitter is eligible to be posted come 2020. All signs point to his team, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, being willing to grant him his wish and post him for MLB teams to bid on his negotiating rights. While he’s not a player who will garner the heavy interest of a Hideki Matsui or Masahiro Tanaka, nor a player able to attract attention through his ridiculous talent level like a Shohei Ohtani, he’s also not someone to dismiss. He’s had a great NPB career and if I were to bet money on him succeeding in MLB, I’d be willing to wager a fair amount.
For his career, Tsutsugo has slashed .285/.382/.528 with 205 home runs in 10 NPB seasons (he also had a very brief stint in 2015-2016 with Leones del Escogido of Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana that did not turn out that well). The power numbers are present, as is his ability to get on base and do more than just mash home runs. He is a modern baseball player in that he strikes out a fair amount, but that comes with the territory these days and it’s not like he strikes out at a super concerning level. His defense would play at first base, but he’s more suited for a corner outfield spot or stints in a DH role.
No matter where he has played in 2019 or where he has hit in the lineup, the Hashimoto native has produced. He has put together another great season for the BayStars both traditionally and in a more advanced sense. His .272/.388/.511 slash line and 29 home runs are in line with his previous production. Beyond those numbers, he’s posted a .239 ISO, .391 wOBA, and 138 WRC+. His Spd of 1.0 is actually pretty good for a big bopper such as Tsutsugo. His season total dWAR of 1.6 is not as high as in years past, but spending time at DH comes with a penalty. His latest season is not an outlier, but rather a continuation of the success he first found in the 2014 season.
Tsutsugo seems tailor-made to help an MLB team come 2020. He has the power in his bat to hit 20+ home runs, fits well into the positional flexibility that teams want, and–based on his ability to get on base–could be plugged into a team’s lineup in the 2 spot and set the table nicely for those batting behind him. He may not carry the cache of recent big-name crossovers, but Tsutsugo has the potential to succeed in MLB. I see no reason to doubt that he will do exactly that and then some.
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