The Tampa Bay Rays are adding a much-needed power bat to their lineup. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are finalizing a two-year, $12 million with Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who had quite the decorated 10-year career in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
In the last four years the 28-year old has hit at least 25 home runs, including 44 bombs in 2016 and 38 more in 2018. He was a career .284 hitter in Japan. Tsutsugo also posted a career .382 on-base percentage.
After trading Tommy Pham to the San Diego Padres earlier this month, Tsutsugo provides the Rays with a lot of versatility, just as Pham did. The Japanese utility man can play both corner outfield positions and third base. If need be, Tsutsugo can also serve as a designed hitter, giving manager Kevin Cash multiple ways he can use the phenom.
His production in Japan never faltered, posting consistent numbers each and every season. He hit 205 home runs over 10 seasons in Japan, but 139 of those long balls came over the last four seasons, which attracted the attention of big-league clubs. Although he did his fair share of striking out, Tsutsugo showed the ability to draw a healthy amount of base on balls, posting a 15 percent walk rate over the last four seasons.
Another Lefty Bat in Tampa Bay’s Lineup
Tsutsugo has a typical left-handed approach from hitters that derive from Japan. His hands start high with a slightly open stance. He has very quick hands and tends to get a lot of lift on his home runs with a natural uppercut to his swing. The former Yokohama Baystars standout can also hit for power to all fields, making it difficult for pitchers to attack him.
The transition from Japan to Major League Baseball is going to be a challenge for Tsutsugo. MLB pitchers are much more advanced than those in Japan, meaning he’s definitely going to strike out his fair share. But his power should still play well in the big leagues, as he gets more accustomed to the better pitchers he’ll face on a day-to-day basis.
This is a great signing for the Rays because it adds yet another left-handed bat to their lineup. Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows, Ji-Man Choi, Joey Wendle, and Kevin Kiermaier all swing from the left side as well, meaning the Rays will be a haul for right-handed pitching next season.
Tsutsugo should add a spark to the middle of the Rays lineup in 2020.