Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki is “highly likely” to start the year on the injured list, writes Patrick Mooney of the Athletic. That has seemed a strong possibility in recent days after an MRI revealed a strain of his left oblique.
The team didn’t provide many specifics on Suzuki’s injury. They declined to narrow down the grade of the strain or a timetable this week, only announcing it as a “moderate strain” on Tuesday. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer stopped short of ruling Suzuki out for the start of the season today but suggested an IL stint was on the table.
“We’re not going to put any firm timetables on it, but there are general expectations of what a ‘moderate’ oblique injury is,” Hoyer said (via Mooney). “That certainly puts Opening Day in strong jeopardy. We just want to make sure we get him completely healthy. When that is, I’m not sure. But when he does come back, he’s going to be ready to go and we’re not going to be concerned about it.”
Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal last offseason, Suzuki made a solid first impression against MLB pitching. He hit .262/.336/.433 with 14 home runs in 111 games, though a sprain of his left ring finger cost him a month of his rookie year. Suzuki walked at a solid 9.4% clip and made hard contact on an above-average 40.3% of his batted balls. His 24.7% strikeout rate was a couple points north of the league average but his contact rate on a per-pitch basis was strong.
It was an altogether encouraging first look, with Suzuki showing the foundation of solid or better contact skills, plate discipline and power. His year featured some peaks and valleys — most notably when he followed up a torrid first month with a dismal showing in May — but his overall offensive production checked in 16 percentage points above league average as measured by wRC+. Paired with his .315/.414/.570 showing over nine seasons at Japan’s top level, Suzuki entered 2023 as a potential middle-of-the-lineup presence.
That’ll likely be put on hold by the oblique issue. There still isn’t much clarity about when the Cubs expect him to return, though it’s not uncommon for oblique strains to sideline players for upwards of four to six weeks. If he does start off on the shelf, it appears right field will fall to Trey Mancini in the early going. Signed to a two-year free agent guarantee this offseason, the longtime Oriole is coming off a .239/.319/.391 showing with 18 homers in 587 plate appearances.
Mancini popped 35 homers back in 2019 but that season increasingly looks like an outlier in comparison to the rest of his career. He typically produces slightly above-average offensive marks, blending solid but not standout bat-to-ball tendencies and power. Mancini has a little under 2500 career innings of corner outfield work at the major league level. Public defensive metrics have generally panned his work in both left and right field, little surprise for a player who played mostly first base in college and in the minor leagues.
While a first base/designated hitter role better suits Mancini, he’s at least capable of holding down a corner outfield spot temporarily. Playing him in right field in the short term would leave a few more first base and DH at-bats for the likes of Christopher Morel, Patrick Wisdom and Edwin Ríos. The Cubs are planning to play Eric Hosmer at first base regularly against right-handed pitching but could turn to Wisdom there against southpaws.
Morel can also factor into the right field mix, as could the likes of Nelson Velazquez and non-roster invitee Mike Tauchman. Should Mancini be pressed into regular right field duty, that’d perhaps open a clearer path for first base prospect Matt Mervis — fresh off a monster season across three minor league levels — to earn his first big league call early in the year.
They should’ve never started putting obliques in baseball players in the 2000s. Recall perhaps?
You may be on to something, Clip. Players used to arrive to camp “in the best shape of my life”. Now nobody says that anymore. Em’ damn obliques installs…
@ybc that is something i’ve always hated hearing “i’m in the best shape of my life”, i always took that as so what last year you decided to be lazy and take the year off. the other is it might be the reason a lot of players are getting hurt during the season because it seems like no one takes time off to rest and heal, it feels like after the season it’s straight to the weight room 3x’s a day with a 30 mile run followed with some cross fit before bed then repeat (i’m exaggerating a bit there but i’m sure you get my point). i think it would serve player more if they took a month or 2 off after the season and rest, like take a trip to hawaii or florida play some golf light workouts twice a week to stay in shape then start back into your workouts for the season afterwards. just my thoughts and i could just be completely wrong on them
Glad the Giants missed on this guy, was unhappy about it last year.
Hopefully feel the same way about 2 other big free agents SF missed on this offseason.
That seems to be the Giants battle cry…..glad we missed out on…
Doug Dascenzo's Mob Boss Dad
As if either of Suzuki’s injuries could have been predicted. Those could have happened to any player.
Poster formerly unknown as . . .
You’re really happy about missing out on Suzuki because he’s going to possibly miss some time at the beginning of the season?
Stronger players = more explosiveness = more risk for injury.
You didn’t see guys blowing out their elbows nearly as often when everyone was throwing 90-92.
The other problem is that there’s too much $ involved now. The player won’t push through anything bc they don’t want it to hurt their body of work for their next contract, and teams are too invested to want the player to risk it.
Poster formerly unknown as . . .
Why should a player “push through” an injury and risk his career? To make couch-bound fans happy? Players who aggravate injuries unnecessarily not only hurt themselves; they hurt their teams.
That’s a crappy way to start out. But the Cubs are far from the only ones. The Silver Lining is I think it’s the position they’re deepest at this year. Love to see Davis just step up and take it.
I was thinking about the kid also and hope he takes it and keeps it.
Uncle—when your depth is Velasquez, Morel, Wisdom and Mancini—you are NOT very deep in the outfield—at the major league level.
Davis, among a pretty decent line of others gives the Cubs superior depth in the minors and the prospect pipeline—but they are not deep in major league outfielders (three of the four I mentioned above are actually infielders).
Yeah I don’t really want to see Mancini out there. At all really. But Davis, Velazquez and Morel are decent options. In a perfect world Davis steps up but don’t sleep on Velasquez. He’s basically struggled in the beginning at each level he’s moved up to so far. And Morel could probably use a year at Iowa but Wisdom is going to have enough problems staying at 3rd and trying to hit the ball. The sad part here is Canario going down in a worthless Winter League game. Anyway hopefully it won’t be for long. When Baseball guys like Suzuki bulk up that much, It always seems to end badly.
I’m with you on all accounts—would like to see Davis ascend but my gut tells me he’s been passed by PCA, Alcantara, Canario (minus lost injury year or so) in terms of upcoming outfield depth.
My point is that the depth is still 2024—not 2023. Pretty thin when the guys mentioned are the hope..
Happ, Bellinger, Suzuki is an “OK” every day trio but when you plug and play after that—-my eyes quick shift to Suzuki, PCA and Alcantara for 24 through 26 or 27.
Steve Cohen Owns You
Seiya in May.
Actually the biggest surprise that I’ve seen in camp so far is Madrigals ability to play 3B. He’s actually been fairly good there and he’s hitting well also. When they said they wanted to try him there I laughed, Didn’t think he had the arm for it. Plus Rucker has impressed me but I always thought more of him than I do Wick. I think Wick is horrible. Other than Suzuki going down the spring has gone pretty well I think. Thoughts?
For a minute I thought it was the Mets pitcher Sugoi Senga ! We’ll see this guy in June or July., so bad news for the Cubbies.
Try Kodai Senga
I have neck stenosis but still a pretty active guy, a few times a year I push it too far and my left oblique will strain up on me; holy hell it’s a bi***! You notice it every time you breathe
The guy is always injured, was injured half my fantasy season last year.
About 6 weeks. Not half the season.
pwn—if a Seiya Suzuki injury impacted your fantasy season you probably shouldn’t be playing fantasy baseball.
It was a freak (and incredibly stupid) injury of messing up a finger sliding head (and fingers) first into a base.
—ps—don’t draft him this year—he probably won’t play until May.
Okay, I thought it was longer than 6 weeks.
And I drafted him as a sleeper. He was expected to be great out of the getgo. Maybe I shouldn’t be expected to play but it’s my third year in a row in a winner’s league. Just have yet to win a winner’s league. It’s all fun though and I don’t play for money.
It’s amazing how your assessment of fantasy baseball comes down to one single player. Bravo my friend.
You’re assuming context as well.
Nahhh….not at all….wasn’t making any assessment of your fantasy team. More a generalization of those who post stuff about their fantasy baseball teams like anybody on a respected site like MLBTR.
He was injured for the Cubs last season. Your fantasy team had zero relevance to his injury.
I never said my fantasy team had relevance to his injury. That makes zero sense. I just said I had him and he was injured. Still feel like that was a clear jab at me with some accusation. It was not relevant to evaluate me as a fantasy player, yet you still did.
By the way, he’s only played one year.
Sorry…didn’t want to make it seem personal….you did say that he was injured for half YOUR fantasy season.
I did follow up that it was a generalization about posting about fantasy teams on MLBTR.
I’m sure you and at least 60,000 fantasy players had Seiya last year. The thing is that the other 60,000 realize that nobody cares about someone’s fantasy team on this site.
Totally wasn’t meant to be personal. Hope you understand that.
Again, the point was made to reiterate the fact he was injured. I didn’t say it to praise my success, seeing how it was a limitation anyway
Doug Dascenzo's Mob Boss Dad
Suzuki has been an MLB player for exactly one season. That’s what you’re basing your statement on.
Good! I hate the Cubs!!!