Suarez.SG

Doesn’t it seem like Eugenio Suarez is a forgotten man?

Suarez, of course, just finished a full season as Cincinnati’s starting third baseman. But the Reds’ top prospect — who may make his big league debut in 2017 — is Nick Senzel. Senzel is also a third baseman, and when he emerges onto the major league scene, it’s widely expected that he’ll immediately take over the duties at Cincinnati’s hot corner.

Over the last few months, we’ve spilled far too much digital ink about the logjam in the Reds middle infield. Most of that discussion has been about how the Reds need to get playing time for Jose Peraza at shortstop and Dilson Herrera at second base. Even though Suarez is a former middle infielder who may be without a position soon (see previous paragraph), his name is rarely mentioned in this conversation.

Meanwhile, quietly, Eugenio Suarez has done something that Senzel, Peraza, Herrera, and all of the other names in discussion for the Reds infield of the future (with the obvious exception of Joey Votto) have not been able to accomplish. Suarez has actually established himself as a legitimate major leaguer.

And that’s a big deal, as far as I’m concerned. Steve Mancuso has already discussed why this is a season for sorting, a season for figuring out what the Reds have and answering some questions about players about whom we have imperfect information (the young guys, mainly). Those questions have already been answered about Suarez. Many of them, anyway.

Look at Suarez’ 2016 season. The kid was just 24 years-old, and after a (very) rough start to the season, ended up as an above-average defender at third base (a position he had never played before). At the plate, Suarez hit .248/.317/.411 in 159 games, with 21 home runs and 70 RBI. Those numbers were somewhat below average (93 wRC+ and .316 wOBA), but there were some very encouraging signs.

For example, Suarez improved his walk rate substantially over his 2015 performance (8.1% in 2016 vs. 4.3% last year). He also swings at a fewer pitches outside the strike zone than the average major league hitter (his O-Swing % was 26.6; the big league average was 30.3%). There’s no reason not to think that these he won’t continue to improve as he ages — and as he watches Joey Votto be Joey Votto. (Joey can be a very good influence.)

Over at MLB.com, Mark Sheldon took a look at some other developments in Suarez’s performance in the batter’s box:

But in an encouraging sign for a young batter of 25 still learning his way, Suarez showed he can hit to all fields. And because of the tools offered via Statcastâ„¢ and baseballsavant.com, we might have an idea why.

Suarez showed he had good command of pitches that were low and away last season. According to Statcastâ„¢, his 94.7-mph exit velocity hitting pitches in the lower 1/9 of the strike zone was the highest among right-handed hitters in the Majors (minimum 50 results). In that part of the zone, he also batted .339 (12th) with a .597 slugging percentage (fourth).

Although the sample size is much lower, based on a minimum of 10 instances, Suarez’s 101.4-mph exit velocity hitting against left-handers over the lower ninth of the plate also led big league right-handed batters.

Mark digs down into the Statcast data a little more over there, so I encourage you to go read the whole thing.

Is Eugenio Suarez on the verge of becoming an All-Star? I don’t have any idea. What I do know is that he’s been a pretty good big leaguer through his age-24 season, and that usually bodes well for a player’s future. And for those of you who have been underwhelmed by what you’ve seen of Suarez thus far:

Frankly, the more I look at Suarez, the more I think he really should be a big part of the Reds’ long-term plans. If the Reds believe that Suarez is the third baseman of the future — and I’m more than happy to subscribe to that theory; Senzel appears to be the real deal — I’m really not sure why Suarez shouldn’t be considered the second baseman of the future. After watching him at SS and 3B these last two seasons, there’s no doubt in my mind that Suarez could handle second base defensively. And his bat will play better at 2B than it does at 3B.

Here at the Nation, Jason Linden wrote recently that he thinks Suarez will be the breakout Red of 2017. I know I’m more optimistic than the average Reds fan, but it’s not a stretch for me to subscribe to Jason’s theory:

Track Record
In the minors Suarez hit. He hit and hit and hit. And he took walks while doing it. In his first two partial major league seasons, the plate discipline wasn’t what you’d have hoped, but in 2016, we saw evidence that he was getting comfortable. This is especially true if we give him a bit of a pass on his horrible May, which was uncharacteristically terrible and came while struggling at third base (hard to imagine he wasn’t in his own head a bit). This is a player who was going to hit, and now he’s started to.

Expectations
Here’s what I think will happen:

  1. Good fielding at 3rd, all year. Good for 5-10 runs above average in the field.
  2. 20-25 HRs (we’ve already seen this).
  3. A walk rate around 10 percent, which probably puts his OBP in the .330-.350 range depending on his BA (it was .344 in the 2nd half).

The result: I think Suarez’ floor this year is about 3.0 WAR. His ceiling is probably around 5.0 WAR.

Yes, please.

Keep an eye on Eugenio Suarez this season. And keep him in your long-range plans for the Reds.*

*Last sentence directed specifically at Reds GM Dick Williams.

 


 

23 Responses

  1. gusnwally

    I am hoping you are right. Since Jay has departed, AS has become my fave. Very nice and respectful young man. I love when he gets interviewed. I see a solid hitter in the making.

  2. wkuchad

    I’ve always looked at Suarez as the Reds super sub or insurance policy for 2B, SS, and 3B. But he’ll have a full year in 2017 to solidify being a fulltime starter vs role player.

    However, I think the super-sub position is just as important as any other. A team will always have injuries, and would be nice to replace that injured player with a Suarez vs anyone from the Reds bench over the last two years.

  3. cfd3000

    I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget that Suarez was just 24 this year, but I keep doing that. In order to be a very productive hitter he doesn’t even need to get better – he just needs to continue his post-May play. I am optimistic about Suarez, and in turn what it says about the Reds offense for the near future. How nice is it to be saying “What are they going to do with all these good young players?” Five potential above average major leaguers for four infield spots (Votto, Suarez, Peraza, Herrera and Senzel), and four for three spots in the outfield (Hamilton, Duvall, Schebler and Winker). And that’s without talking about the surplus of pitching. Will they all pan out? Of course not. But is this a nice problem to have? Yes please. It was just about last week that the Reds hadn’t had a decent left fielder for a billion years. I’m looking forward to 2017 and beyond – count me optimistic.

  4. HawkeyeRedsFan

    Suarez is our 3B for the foreseeable future. Hope Senzel comes up some day and kills it. However as with all minor leaguers I’ll wait and see how Senzel handles major league pitching when the time comes. If Senzel doesn’t make it and Suarez continues his post May I feel good about 3B for the next few years.

    • Gaffer

      I agree Senzel is 2-3 years away. By then we will know who Suarez will be. If Suarez is a borderline AS at 3rd in 2019 then we can either trade him for a lot, move him to 2B or move Senzel.

  5. Yippee

    Totally agree, Chad…Suarez has sort of been forgotten when it comes to 2018. If Senzel takes over 3B on Opening Day 2018, where do you play Suarez? I personally would rather seem him at 2B in 2018 than Herrera, only because I believe Suarez is only going to get better (20+ HR’s at 2B, been a while since we’ve seen that). It’s a good problem to have and sometimes injuries and other factors have a way of sorting these issues out without having to make a tough decision.

  6. Markz

    I’ve been thinking the same about Suarez as our future 2nd basemen. I see Herrera coming up as a utility infielder, and A. Rodriguez as a defensive replacement late in games, and pinch runner (he’s fast).

    • wizeman

      I could be way off base here… but the current Reds fixture I most doubt moving forward is Adam Duvall. If Senzel doesn’t turn into Brandon Larson perhaps Suarez… or for that matter Senzel…. becomes a left fielder.

      • Gaffer

        I would say if 2 of the 3 between Senzel, Herrera and Suarez are solid started I would take that.

  7. Jason Linden

    The consensus has generally been that he’s expected to arrive sometime in 2018, but that a cup of coffee this year is not out of the question if he continues to show he’s advanced as many think he is.

  8. ohiojimw

    Not to put words into Chad’s mouth; but, when he talked about this being a season of sorting, I got the impression that instead of having Eugenio while away the year at 3B which he has shown he can play if need be, perhaps Chad was suggesting we should see in 2017 what Suarez could do do at 2B? I could certainly buy into this idea.

    I’m not suggesting that Suarez is another Chris Bryant; but, he may be as good or even better than any of those other guys the Cubbies have used as interchangeable parts in their rise to the top.

    • ohiojimw

      They’ve (potentially) got 3 corner OFs (Duvall/ Winker/Schebler) for 2 spots and one of them (Duvall) came up as a 3B. Maybe a little sorting there too?

  9. ohiojimw

    In the Reds situation, I don’t think it is time to talk about “secure” because that inherently leads to a thinking process which limits their options moving forward.

    Perhaps they should find out this year, before the logjam is pressing, if Suarez can play 2B.

    And in another vein, nobody, not even Votto let alone Suarez, Herrera, Peraza et al, should be so secure that they wouldn’t be moved for the “right” return.

    • ohiojimw

      I would be very careful though and very sure of the value of the return before I would let go of any of big 3 or 4 pitching prospects without seeing them more extensively at MLB.

  10. ScottyA

    Dilson Herrera has better minor league offensive statistics than Eugenio Suarez and has experience at second. We need to get him up asap to see what Herrera does in his age 23 season to assess the smartest path forward.

    All the more urgent that the right decision (for the reds) be made with Brandon Phillips.

    I could see us using either Suarez or Herrera as trade bait depending on how the sorting goes in 17 and how the development of Senzel progresses this year.

    I’m excited to see what Herrera can do and how good Eugenio is this year!

  11. JB WV

    I’m a little curious as to why Suarez would be the one moved from 3b. Senzel is supposedly a terrific athlete that could pay multiple positions, including ss. If, and I’m in the optimistic Suarez camp, he continues to improve his total game why would he even be considered to be moved or traded? Hell, Senzel hasn’t even had a full minor league season yet, much less a taste of the bigs. The Reds have made some bad trades over the years ignoring the old cliché “one in the hand is better than two in the bush”, or something like that. Excited to see this all play out.

  12. Streamer88

    I was about to assert that just because a player has a positive hit tool for 2nd base doesn’t mean it’s positive for LF, as you need more lumber there to generate WAR, but I’m not certain this is accurate. Does anyone know?

  13. TR

    Suarez hasn’t been forgotten by me. He’s the type of nitty-gritty ballplayer I like. Until something else develops, Suarez has a place on the next contending Reds team.

  14. big5ed

    I’m on board with Suarez being under-appreciated as a hitter. I expect him to have a break-out season.

    Assuming Senzel moves as expected, I would think either he or Suarez will be moved to right field, which assumes that Winker is the long-term solution in left field. The 3B-to-RF move is pretty common, because both require strong arms with adequate foot speed. Lonnie Chisenhall has recently made the move for the Indians. Jose Bautista played both positions. If Suarez becomes an elite defensive third baseman, which is possible but by no means probable, then he would likely stay there; if not, then Suarez could move to right.

  15. sixpacktwo

    Herrera has an option left and he will play at AAA this year, even if BP is traded..

  16. sixpacktwo

    So right, Senzel has the skills but needs to show success at AA and AAA before you give him a major league job. Suarez’s skills play well at 3nd and at 2nd if needed.