Though the Giants are still looking for Bruce Bochy’s successor, it’s never too early to dream about players who in all likelihood won’t seriously consider coming to San Francisco. There are two major players rumored to be coming from Japan’s NPB this offseason: the speedy, slappy Shogo Akiyama and the dinger crazed Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. Akiyama is considered to be the more complete player with a solid glove, playable game power, and pitch recognition, but Tsutsugo socks homers and draws walks, so each has something to offer.
In his age 27 season, Tsutsugo slashed .272/.388/.511 with 29 homers for a 138 wRC+. He ranked sixth in OPS, and his production was down somewhat. Tsutsugo is a career .285 hitter and in 10 seasons, he has hit 205 long balls. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the first four years of his career, he only appeared in 175 games. In his six most recent years, he has averaged 30 homers a year including 44 in 2016 and 38 in 2018. Remember, NPB doesn’t play with a juiced ball. Even if the higher drag postseason ball is here to stay, his power should play in MLB.
He’s not just a slugger either. Tsutsugo put up a 15.8 walk percentage in 2019 which ranked third among qualified hitters. Over his career, he has a 13.3 percent walk rate, and walk rates in NPB are comparable to MLB. He should continue to be an on-base machine when he comes over.
Tsutsugo can also hit the ball to all fields. In 2019, he pulled the ball 33 percent of the time and went to the opposite field 28.8 percent of the time. This led to three straight seasons where he hit .300 or better. Granted, that was three years ago, but the hit tool still works.
He doesn’t come without his drawbacks. There’s some swing and miss in his game. This season, he posted a career-worst 25.3 strikeout percentage, and that’s a number that would rise in MLB. He also doesn’t provide much value in the field or on the basepaths. He is best suited for the designated hitter role though he has played most of his career in left field. He could also move to first base where his glove could stay hidden. If he were to come to the Giants, Tsutsugo would likely stay in left though he could be a suitable replacement in the unlikely event that Brandon Belt be freed to a park that doesn’t kill his power.
Unlike Akiyama, Tsutsugo will be posted, which means that the team that signs him must pay additional money to Tsutsugo’s current team the Yokohama DeNa Baystars. As Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors explains:
Under the new posting system, which went into effect after Ohtani’s signing, the team that agrees to sign Tsutsugo will also need to pay a release fee that is determined by reference to the contract. Teams pay 20% of guaranteed money up to $25MM, 17.5% for promised cash between $25MM and $50MM, and then 15% of anything beyond.
Tsutsugo can be posted anytime between November 1 and December 5. Once he is, teams will have 30 days to negotiate a contract with him which means that Tsutsugo could sign before the Winter Meetings.
We probably won’t see Tsutsugo in a Giants uniform come Opening Day if only because it’s hard to convince sluggers to come play in the worst park for hitting home runs. Still, the Giants need more power, and they should explore every available option on the market especially a player as enticing as Tsutsugo.