It’s been a couple of weeks now since the Reds called up Ay-you-Hey-nee-oh Swa-rez, and he’s given us Reds fans a lot to think about. This is going to be a quick post to talk about what we can expect from Suarez going forward based on minor league numbers and scouting his current performance, and what impact that could have on the Reds’ future plans. I really liked the trade the Reds made to get Suarez when they made it, and I’ve only liked it more since seeing him in spring training and after his call up. From my (albeit unprofessional) scouting eye, he has a really solid, level, line-drive swing, and shows the ability to stay back on pitches really well. His swing and patience allowed him to achieve the almighty combo of hitting for power and taking walks in the minor leagues, where he had a career .276/.361/.417 line, for a .778 OPS. In today’s run scoring environment, if he could put up anything close to that in the majors while playing good defense at short, he’d be in the all-star discussion for a decade. So far we haven’t seen as much of that combo in the majors. He only has 3 extra base hits and 3 walks so far in 57 plate appearances, and has maintained a .288/.339/.385 line largely on the back of a .350 BABIP. He’s also been striking out in 19.3% of his plate appearances, so there’s some reason to worry. But, with the caveats of small sample size and the craziness that he must have gone through to go from not knowing if he was going to make the bigs this year at all to being the everyday starting shortstop overnight, I’m willing to give him some rope. He’s always been a guy who struck out a lot (18% career rate in the minors), and so my prediction would be that going forward, as he gets more comfortable, his walks and power will go up and that that will offset his BABIP as it goes down. He’ll probably end up in the range of a .750+ OPS. For perspective, Cozart was putting up a .769 OPS in what was undeniably his best offensive season in the majors at age 29, while Suarez is just about to turn 24. But any comparison to Zack obviously has to include defense because Cozart started out as good in the field, but over the last few years has improved his game to elite. If Suarez has really given fans any reason to be worried it has been his defense, and specifically his arm. In the minors he was scouted as an average to slightly above average defender at short, and certainly someone who could stay at the position a bat-first type of player. Since he’s been up with the Reds, I’ve actually been impressed with his range and instincts, but his throwing accuracy and strength have left a lot to be desired. Maybe it’s just “the yips” and he’ll do better as he settles in, but I remember hoping that was the case with Edwin Encarnacion for about 5 years. So where this leads me to is a bit of a conundrum for the Reds. If Cozart can come back healthy next year and come close to his offensive production from the first half of this year (both big ifs), then I don’t see how you move him off of short because his D is likely to be so much better than Suarez’s. But, with Suarez’s bat, I don’t see how you keep him out of the lineup, which has to at least make you think about Phillips. The shorter throw from second base might be just what Suarez needs to get his defense in line with his bat and take him to that all-star level, and there’s no way Phillips is going to out-hit him without some miraculous medical breakthrough. We also know that Phillips has full no-trade protection and a contract that might make him tough to trade anyway. So what do you think Nation? Are you sold on Suarez yet? Who do you want to see up the middle for the Redlegs next year and who do you think you will see?

39 Responses

  1. jschroeder011

    With Phillips and Cozy both over the age of 30, I don’t see why you can’t use Suarez as the platoon for both positions next year.

    • jdx19

      Assuming Cozart recovers well from surgery, I think this is likely what will happen next year.

      • oklared

        Agree with this and believe it would be plus for the bench. If he could see semi regular days at 2nd I believe it would help BP’s performance and allow him to ease into lineup depending on his progress.

  2. i71_Exile

    I’m with you on Suarez’s defense and EE comparison—let’s hope that he just needs to settle in. I hate errors more than sacrifice bunts. 🙂

    My biggest concern is Cozart and what will happen to his lateral movement post-surgery. I’m afraid that he won’t return “elite” in the field and might turn into Jeff Keppinger without the OBP.

  3. Nick Carrington

    Before Cozart went down, I thought the Reds would have been wise to either sell high on Cozart or find a suitor for Phillips. Cozart’s injury doomed that. But Suarez could very well play himself into a starting role next year, and if so, the Reds need to make sure he has a spot.

    I’m a little worried about Cozart coming back from a serious knee injury to play shortstop. If he isn’t an elite defender, he is probably a backup. The Suarez, Cozart, Phillip triangle is another question the Reds need to answer.

  4. WVRedlegs

    Corey Seager.
    Cueto and Suarez to LAD for Seager.

    • wizeman

      that will happen when a monkey flies out my butt… lands on your shoulder and sings “Take me out to the Ballgame”

      • lwblogger2

        I wish I could say you’re wrong but I think I have a better chance of winning the lottery than the Dodgers do of giving up Seager for Cueto & Suarez

      • WVRedlegs

        Breaking News:
        Cincinnati sports reporter Les Nessman is reporting that monkeys flew out of the rear end of a Cincinnati man this afternoon at the corner of Fifth & Vine. Nessman reported that the monkeys then started passing out peanuts and cracker jacks to bystanders. No reports of any singing monkeys.

      • Bred

        The singing monkeys are out looking for the flying turkeys. Unfortuneately, those turkeys work in the Reds front office.

      • lwblogger2

        If Nessman is reporting it, then it must be true. He did win all those Buckeye Newshawk Awards. Now if he reports of them singing then we can look for news of that trade soon too!

      • greenmtred

        Replying to BRED: I had to point this out once before, a few years ago: Turkeys DO fly. Wild turkeys (the ones with feathers as opposed to the ones in glass bottles), certainly, and some of the domestic breeds, as well. They don’t fly as well as eagles, of course, but they do fly better than singing monkeys do.

      • Redfanjake

        Newsman and Suarez both think “Don’t hit it to me!” as violin music plays

      • WVRedlegs

        Hey, you all know how to spoil a good dream with a big dose of reality. Jocketty is going to screw up this re-build with a big ole FUBAR!

      • doctor

        Well, Fubar was rookie of the year with Cards about 10 years ago. So I see why Jocketty would go that route. LOL

  5. MikeZ

    The title of the article was who plays short for the next playoff Reds team. I’m guessing it’s Blandino if he can stick at short.

    Z

    • lwblogger2

      I hope Blandino can but I’m thinking he’s going to 2B or 3B in the Majors.

    • RedsFaninPitt

      Blandino is likely only going to start for an MLB team at 2B. Suarez is likely a solid middle infield backup. The Reds have the rare opportunity to be in the driver seat to fill holes in their system with the trades of their pitching assets(Cueto, Chapman and Leake). They should focus on middle infield and LH starting pitching prospects as well as a top bat at 1B. The following playoff contender prospects should be pursued:

      SS – Corey Seager (LAD); Trea Turner (WAS); Gavin Cecchini (NYM); Willy Adames (TBR); Jorge Polanco (MIN)

      2B – Austin Barnes (LAD); Tony Kemp (HOU); Rob Refsnyder (NYY); Darnell Sweeney (LAD)

      CF- Dalton Pompey (TOR); Brett Phillips (HOU)

      1B Bat – Kyle Schwarber (CHC); Greg Bird (NYY)

      LHP- Daniel Norris (TOR); Lance Mccullers (HOU)

      I doubt Seager and Schwarber can happen, but all the others are possibilities.

      • redmountain

        I am sorry, but I like Hamilton in CF and the Reds have guys who can play there in the minors. Seager and Turner are both in line to succeed guys who will be retiring soon(Rollins) or FAs that will need to be replaced. Most of the other teams are not going to be available either. Why would a team that needs pitching trade their best pitching prospects on a rental.

        Blandino and Daal are both SS/2b prospects. I understand that Dayton has a good one as well..I am surprised that no one is figuring in who can also play 2b/SS and who hits, and fields better.

      • RedsFaninPitt

        To answer your first question – If you are Houston or Toronto, Cueto can get you to the WS in 2015, but Mccullers and Norris can’t, and they may never approach Cueto’s dominance currently. That’s why teams trade valuable pieces for rentals.

        Blandino is very likely just a 2B player. I doubt Daal ever becomes anything better than Negron. His bat isn’t anything special at the his current low minors level and his defense is not elite.

      • DHud

        You have Votto signed likely through his entire career and no team is going to take on his contract via trade so what’s the rationale for targeting a 1B?

      • RedsFaninPitt

        DHUD:

        First, the Reds need to decide whether they want to totally rebuild or not. If they do, then everyone should be on the table for trade discussion between now and over the upcoming offseason – including Votto. Votto’s season has helped to rebuild some value and that will hopefully continue through the end of the season. It makes no sense for the Reds to retain him when he still has some value to others if you know it will be at least 2-3 seasons until you are going to be really competitive again. By then, Votto will be 33-35 and his productive is probably really going to be dropping off, and he will have no value to others at all. I think whether they should do a total rebuild or not could be answered by what they get in return for these trades at mid-season and how these prospects perform over the rest of this season and next year.

        Second, Schwarber – in particular – but I think Bird’s bats as well appear to be good enough to build a team’s offense around. They have shown very good plate discipline and good power so far in their minor league careers.

      • PDunc

        I’d look to trade Cueto, Leake, Chapman, Byrd, Parra and Pena. I’d also trade Phillips if possible, but with his injuries and contract I don’t see it happening. Mostly guys that are free agents at the end of this season. I know Chapman has a year remaining but I think he is going to earn too much money for the Reds to pay to any reliever. I’m looking for prospects in return that can help the big-league club within the next year.

        I’m going to assume that Seager is untouchable from the Dodgers. From LA I’d target LHP Julio Urias (although he may be untouchable as well) Barnes and Sweeney. LHP Chris Reed also sounds like he could be a good lefty out of the bullpen.

        I think the Reds best trade partner is Toronto. They need pitching help desperately. With how good their offense is, if they fix their pitching issues they should run away with the AL East and be serious World Series contenders. I’d target LHP Norris and OF Pompey.

        Next years roster could be something like:

        OF: Pompey, Winker, Hamilton, Bruce
        Middle Infield: Suarez, Phillips, Cozart
        3B: Frazier
        1B: Votto
        C: Mesoraco, Barnhardt
        Util: De Jesus, ??

        Starting Pitchers: Bailey (once off DL), Desclafani, Lorenzen, Norris, Stephenson

        Bullpen: Hoover, Cingrani, Iglesias, ??, ??, ??, ??

        With the money saved from the veterans traded away a better job should be able to be done in rounding out the bench and bullpen.

      • RedsFaninPitt

        PDUNC:

        I absolutely agree that Toronto would be extremely interested in a Reds pitching trade combination of Cueto and Chapman. However, I think the Reds should insist on a sizable return for providing that combination together even if Cueto is just a 1/2 year rental. I would hope that we could get some combination of Norris, Pompey, Hoffman and Pentecost. Or, Norris, Pompey, Hoffman and Devon Travis and include Brandon Phillips in the deal. That last one is probably a stretch. Also, Pentecost has had repeated injury issues that might eliminate him from any trade discussions, but otherwise he looked like a very promising catching prospect.

        The team that to me would be the most advantageous trade partner for the Reds is the Dodgers since they have position players that could help the Reds in the very short-term future (like 2016 or 2017). I doubt that a Cueto trade alone would get Seager or Urias, but maybe a combination of Cueto/Chapman for Seager or Cueto /Leake could bring Urias?

      • PDunc

        Redsfaninpitt

        I like a trade with Toronto more than the Dodgers for a few reasons:
        1) I think Toronto is more desperate for the pitching help and therefore more likely to give up their top prospects.
        2) I like the look of the potential roster with Pompey, Winker, Hamilton, Bruce, Suarez, Cozart, Phillips better than I do the alternative with Seager.
        3) The Reds are less likely to have to face Cueto and Chapman in Toronto than they are in LA.

  6. oklared

    three errors in a game is red flag

    • lwblogger2

      I don’t know about that. Pokey Reese was an excellent defensive SS and made 3 errors on Opening Day one season if I recall. Other good defensive SS have made 3 errors in a game. It doesn’t generally bode well but almost everybody has a crap day every so often.

    • jdx19

      Don’t think he had 3 in a game, did he? Only 6 on the season and I thought he had 4 going into yesterday.

      At any rate, in his major league career, he’s got -8 DRS in 96 games at SS and a UZR/150 of -2.1. So, the DRS number if it were all this year would put him in the conversation for the worse defensive SS in baseball with guys like Danny Santana, Ian Desmond, and Alexei Ramirez. The UZR/150 number is slightly more kind, putting him around the bottom 1/3.

      I’m hoping the ‘yips’ end up going away.

      • oklared

        I am hoping it is maturity issue and he can settle in. Was parroting three errors from telecast so could be only two. My bigger concern is that several of the errors he was in position and then just missed fielding cleanly. Hope it is nerves and not a mind set or habit.

  7. sezwhom

    So what do you think Nation?

    What I think is that its time to move BP. 34 years old now plus starting to breakdown a bit. Move him while he still has value. Yankees need a 2B. Hate to see him go but at 34, the “skillz” and body start to decline.

    • Jeremy Conley

      That’s sort of my take too. I would say leave Cozart at short, trade Phillips, and move Suarez to second. If Blandino works out, he can take over for Cozart in a few years.

    • jessecuster44

      If the Reds could have moved BP, they would have done it already.

    • Vicferrari

      I thought they tried to move him at the end of 2013 and there were no takers

  8. GreatRedLegsFan

    What I think is that the Philies has just hired a heavy weight-top executive in Andy McPhail to correct the organization’s course. Reds are still little by little with the current roster, it’s time for a similar change, they’re going nowhere with Jocketty.

  9. Seadog

    It is obvious….Phillips/Cozart/Suarez and maybe Blandino will be our ss/2nb combo for the near future. Injuries….trades etc. will effect this. Who will be the ss/2nb combo when we win the next World Series…None of these. The Reds are just to far away.

  10. proudpapa75

    he has a good major league approach at the plate. He has some power but also handles the bat well enough to bunt on demand, which for some reason the team has struggled with for years. He is 24 and his D should improve. Cozart’s D has spoiled some Reds fans. The offense has desperately needed improvement and consistency. I love the way Cozy plays the game but not sure which bat swinger will show up next time. I think it’s time to go with younger guy with the bigger upside from the plate.

  11. IndyRedMan

    He’s in 7th grade right now so its hard to say?