The Tampa Bay Rays signed Yoshitomo Tsutsugo on Friday, but how does he fit into their lineup?
In theory, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo is the type of slugger that every team would love to have in the lineup. There is no question about his power potential, and his tape measure home runs in Japan were the stuff of legend. When the Tampa Bay Rays inked the slugger on Friday, signing Tsutsugo for a two year deal worth $12 million, it seemed to be a steal.
The issue is – does he fit with the Rays? Tsutsugo certainly has some traits that the organization wants from an offensive standpoint in that he can get on base and can hit home runs. And, he can theoretically play multiple positions on defense, as he has experience at first, third, and both corner outfield positions.
Yet, even with those traits, there are still question marks. Tsutsugo had displayed a solid batting eye and contact skills in Japan, but he does have holes in his swing that could render him a Three True Outcome hitter. Right now, the comparison bandied about is that Tsutsugo could be Kyle Schwarber, but that impression is unfair to the player Schwarber has become.
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While Tsutsugo has experience at four different positions defensively, he is not exactly considered to be brilliant with the leather. At best, he is expected to be a first baseman, provided his footwork around the bag improves. Otherwise, he will be relegated to a designated hitter role, which may be for the best. However, the Rays typically do not like to have one player locked into that spot in the lineup.
Then there is the lineup question. Tsutsugo gives Tampa Bay yet another lefty bat, joining Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, Nate Lowe, Ji-Man Choi, and Joey Wendle on the roster. Tampa Bay would have quite the heavily left handed lineup.
Given the Rays history, this signing would seemingly indicate that other moves are coming. A trade or two could give the lineup more balance, and could add some depth if Tsutsugo is not what the franchise hopes he can be. However, they are still, at least for their financial model, placing a not insignificant bet that he can be another middle of the order power source as they look to remain in postseason contention.
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Yoshitomo Tsutsugo does have aspects to his game that fit the Tampa Bay Rays model. However, the question of whether or not he is a good fit for the lineup will remain unanswered until the 2020 season begins.