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Yoshi Tsutsugo is ready to break out

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Yoshi Tsutsugo, Mike Trout, and Mookie Betts all have something in common...

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

To the laymen reading the traditional boxscore, Yoshi Tsutsugo has not been very good.

One of the Rays most exciting free agent acquisitions in recent memory, Tsutsugo arrived with tremendous fanfare and kicked off his Major League career with a bang as he homered in his first game with the Rays. A tremendous power hitter during his time in Japan, people were unsure if his slugging numbers would translate stateside.

Since his debut, Tsutsugo has struggled, collecting just six hits in 47 trips to the plate and went through a brutal week long stretch in which he didn’t accrue a single hit. Overall, he has the one home run and has hit .159/.288/.250 over 52 plate appearances, registering a 66 wRC+ and performed below replacement level.

However, the eye test tells us that Tsutsugo may be on the verge of breaking out and the underlying numbers may confirm it.

By the eye test, every time the Japanese slugger steps to the plate, he makes it a challenge for the opposing pitcher. He takes healthy hacks at opposing pitches and rarely seems to leave the zone. And when he hits one, he has the strength to hit it far.

Although Tsutsugo has a 25.0 K% heading into play on Tuesday, August 11th, he has one of the lowest chase rates in all of baseball. Tsutsugo has only offered at pitches out of the zone 16.9% of the time, which is the 5th lowest mark in the Major Leagues (min. 50 PA).

Entering play prior to play on Tuesday, there were a total of 21 players in the league that had a chase percentage below 20% with at least 50 plate appearances. Meanwhile, there were 58 total players with a hard hit percentage above 45%.

Looking at the spectrum of either of these statistics and you’ll find several quality Major Leaugers; however, if you look at the players that meet both criteria, you’re looking at the pinnacle performers of the game.

A total of 12 players fall into this category with several former MVP’s in Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Giancarlo Stanton, as well a some of the top offensive players the game has to offer. Overall those 12 hitters have combined to hit .227/.350/.443 with 39 homeruns and have registered a 125 wRC+.

That may seem a bit lackluster, but if you remove one player from those calculations, the offensive output improves to .232/.355/.458 with 38 homeruns and a 130 wRC+.

When Tsutsugo is able to put a ball into play, he has an average exit velocity of 90.4 mph which is the highest among any Rays player with at least 50 plate appearances. His hard hit percentage places him among the top 14% of the league. Meanwhile, Yoshi’s .200 BABIP is among the lowest in all of baseball, placing him in the 16th percentile.

The .200 BABIP Tsutsugo has posted is likely to change, and indicates how unlucky he has been thus far as the ball he hits well usually find a glove and the flares and bloops that occasionally fall in for others, have not fared so well for Yoshi.

On Baseball Savant, Tsutsugo’s metrics are trending in the right direction as he ranks in the 59th percentile in exit velocity, 72nd percentile in hard hit percentage, 61st percentile in xwOBA, and the 72nd percentile in barrel %.

Tsutsugo obviously possesses power, evidenced by some of the monstrous shots that he blasted while in Japan and then his first big league homerun was to a spot that left-handed hitters seldom visit at Tropicana Field.

At this point, it’s more a case of him finding a way to tap into that power on the regular and pulling the ball with more authority. As of now, most of Tsutsugo strongest hits have gone to the left side of dead center field.

So while Tsutsugo’s output up to this point has seemed pretty lackluster, there are underlying signs pointing to a potential breakout.

* Data was recorded prior to the start of play on Tuesday, August 11th, 2020