All Systems Tsutsugo
45 HR, .322/.432/.684, 111 RBI, 90 R. That’s the line then 24-year-old Yokohama Bay Stars slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo posted in 135 games. Since, Tsutsugo persisted with excellent plate discipline and strong power numbers in Japan including a .388 OBP and 29 HR in his 2019 age 27 season (Baseball Reference). Tsutsugo was posted last fall and signed with MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays for two years, 12 million in December.
Tsutsugo, 28, deservedly joins the ranks of those who have made the trip across the pacific.
While Tsutsugo is slashing .207/.319/.397 through his first 69 MLB PA, there are some extremely unique indicators demonstrating the best is yet to come.
Right off the bat it’s notable a rookie power hitter not only K’s 23.2% of the time, but also BB’s 13% of the time. Second, when did a MLB rookie last boast a meager 7.5 swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) upon arrival? It’s notable that mark that has potential to drop as he learns the league. In 2019, players who posted a SwStr% in the 7.0%-7.8% range included Justin Turner, Joey Votto, Tommy Pham, Albert Pujols, Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor, and Ketel Marte. Pretty good, disciplined, company. Diving deeper into his 2020 sample, while Tsutsugo struck out looking in his first AB vs. NYY SP Gerrit Cole, he subsequently worked a 12 pitch BB including 5 consecutive foul balls.
Here’s the full condensed AB:
Rookies don’t work 12 pitch walks vs. Gerrit Cole, it’s apparent Tsutsugo has a great feel for the strike zone.
Don’t just let one, albeit extraordinary, at-bat do the talking, he owns an other worldly 16.8% outside (the strike zone) swing percentage (O-Swing%). While his sample is small, here’s a complete list of players who posted a better rate in the past 10 years (***) and those who were within 3% points.
McCutchen 19.4% ‘18
Nimmo 19.7% ‘18
C. Santana 19.8%
Abreu and Kinsler 19.4%
D. Barton 15.2%***
B. Abreu 17.7%
Honorable mention hitters who just barely missed the 3% cut: Rendon, Mauer, Bautista, Zobrist, Crisp, and Youkilis.
It’s elite distinction for a rookie to be in the company of Trout, Betts, Votto, Carpenter, Bregman, McCutchen, Pham, Santana, and Abreu, and what separates the Rays outfielder from the aforementioned contact hitters is his impressive power track record. When you combine these elements, you have the potential for a devastating disciplined power hitter.
Equally remarkable to the company he holds, Tsutsugo’s O-Swing% is trending lower in 2020.
While the former is clearly the strongest indicator of why Tsutsugo belongs on your fantasy team (both now and going forward), it’s also positive to see he’s not pull happy like many power hitters (39.5% pull, 39.5% center, 20.9% oppo). Factor in his Bay Stars stats and lagging slash and you assume his .225 BABIP will rise. His increasing Hard% and decreasing SwStr% are also reassuring.
Lastly, with a minimum of 20 instances of line drives and fly balls, Tsutsugo ranks 12th in average exit velocity, and is in extremely elite company.
Given Tsutsugo’s track record and elite company it’s hard to estimate his ceiling, especially at 28 with modern medicine and modern baseball advances, but if you have the opportunity to buy low from a fatigued owner looking to cut bait from Tsutsugo’s slow start, promptly take full advantage.
For more baseball analysis, follow author Zach Simon on Twitter @_ZachSimon and read BTBNL.com.