Seiya Suzuki, the Cubs’ right fielder, is out with an oblique injury. Fortunately, he’s begun light baseball activity:
Seiya Suzuki (left oblique) is hitting front flips in the cage today, Ross says.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) March 19, 2023
He’s still a ways away from batting practice or playing in games, but the hope is still that Suzuki will be able to return to the Cubs by around the end of April or beginning of May. That would have him miss between 25-30 games.
So for that many games, the Cubs will need a temporary replacement.
Many have touted Mike Tauchman, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee. Tauchman has 667 MLB plate appearances over parts of five seasons from 2017-21 with the Rockies, Yankees and Giants, with a .231/.326/.378 line (.704 OPS) and 17 home runs. Most of his offensive production came in 2019 with the Yankees, when he hit .277/.361/.504 with 13 home runs in 87 games. Apart from that his MLB time has been pretty mediocre. Last year Tauchman played for Hanwha in Korea’s KBO, where he hit .289/.366/.430 with 12 home runs in 144 games. That’s decent production, but remember that KBO is somewhere around Double-A/Triple-A quality of competition.
Tauchman is 32 years old and a Chicago-area native (Fremd High School) and I suppose that would be a good story, hometown guy and Cubs fan growing up playing for his favorite team.
He has hit .226/.333/.387 (7-for-31) this spring with a home run, three stolen bases, five walks and seven strikeouts.
Nelson Velázquez was the Cubs’ fifth-round pick in 2017. Last year, in his first MLB time, he batted .205/.286/.373 (38-for-185) with six home runs in 77 games. That came after a performance of .385/.480/.712 (40-for-104) with nine home runs in the 2021 Arizona Fall League, for which he won the AFL MVP award.
Velázquez is 24. He’s 3-for-15 this spring with two home runs and also went 1-for-5 with a walk for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
More importantly, Velázquez is already on the 40-man roster and has options remaining. If the Cubs choose Tauchman, someone would have to be put off the 40-man and I don’t see many candidates for that, especially with possibly needing to add a relief pitcher who’s not on the 40-man.
Further, the Cubs already have several lefthanded hitters who will be in the everyday lineup, including Cody Bellinger, Eric Hosmer, the switch-hitting Ian Happ and on days he plays, Tucker Barnhart, as well as Zach McKinstry if the Cubs decide to keep him.
If the Cubs choose Velázquez, he can simply be optioned to Triple-A Iowa when Suzuki returns.
I’d choose the younger guy. Velázquez has talent and it’s time for the Cubs to give guys like this a chance. It’s for four or five weeks. Trey Mancini can also play right field if needed.
What do you think?
Who should replace Seiya Suzuki in right field until he returns from his oblique injury?
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Someone else (leave in comments)