CLEVELAND — The new name causing the biggest stir in Cleveland these days belongs to Steven Kwan, a 24-year-old with a keen eye and knack for swinging and not missing.
He’s the surprise of the baseball season so far. An unexpected hit.
“He’s been above average,” Guardians manager Terry Francona joked of Kwan.
Few players in the game’s history have started their careers as strongly as Kwan, a fifth-round draft pick in 2018 from Oregon State who hit at a high level in the minors and won a roster spot with the Guardians this spring.
Kwan reached base 18 times in his first five games, the most for a player in that span since 1901.
The Fremont, Calif. native also went 116 pitches before he swung and missed, the most of any player to start a career since at least 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Kwan modeled his game as a youngster after Ichiro Suzuki, and his resemblance at the plate is uncanny.
Like the Japanese star,
Kwan keeps his feet close together in the batter’s box, holds his hands still and close to his chest and then delivers a high leg kick as the pitch approaches and he swings — just like Ichiro.
“I think it’s a coincidence it kind of ended up like that,” Kwan said humbly of the similarity.
“I’m just trying to be a pest, trying to be a good support of the other guys,” said Kwan, who grew up a San Francisco Giants fan. “It’s been pretty cool.”
Francona has been impressed with how Kwan has handled all the early attention. And while it would be impossible for Kwan to sustain this incredible start, Francona believes he’s here to stay.
“He’s really a grounded kid,” Francona said.