Last evening, Eugenio Suarez made a huge defensive play in the 1st inning, and it was a play that you rarely see. Reds starter Luis Castillo allowed two baserunners to start the game. Suarez had a ground ball hit to him, and alertly tagged third base, and then threw to second for a double play. It was just another brilliant play during a brilliant season defensively for Suarez.

The defense for Suarez just continues to get better and better. He currently ranks 6th out of 21 qualifying MLB 3B in defensive runs saved. Suarez has only played a total of 261 games at third base in the MLB, and only played 38 games there in the minors. Conventional wisdom would tell you that he is only going to get better defensively.

Great defense however will only get you so far unless you play SS or CF. Third base is an offensive position, with the MLB average OPS currently sitting at .766 (for comparison, 2B is at .735). The good news for Suarez is that his offense also continues to improve. Suarez’ wRC+ is up from 93 in 2016, to 112 in 2017.

The most notable reason for Suarez’ increased offensive production is his plate discipline. Last night, Suarez walked for the 54th time in 2017. Just a year ago, Suarez walked a total of 51 times for the entire season. Look at his improvement in plate disciple over his three years in Cincinnati (Jason pointed this out in the latest edition of the Redleg Nation Radio podcast as well):

2015: 4.3 BB%
2016: 8.1 BB%
2017: 12.2 BB%

The main reason for this? It is pretty simple, Suarez is swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strikezone. Look at this O-Swing% over his time in Cincinnati:

2015: 26.7%
2016: 28.1%
2017: 26.2%

Swinging at fewer balls has allowed Suarez to see much deeper counts, which has drastically increased the walks. Suarez ranks 6th out of the 73 NL qualifiers with 4.21 pitcher per plate appearance. Suarez was at 4.14 in 2016, and 3.97 in 2015.

Suarez’ OBP has jumped from .317 in 2016 to .358 in 2017. Suarez has the highest OBP of any Red over the past decade not named Joey Votto or Shin-Soo Choo. Suarez also has the highest OBP of any Reds third-basemen since Ryan Freel posted a .375 OBP in 2004. Before that, it was Tony Fernandez’ .361 in 1994.

Going into this season, it seemed like Suarez was just a placeholder at the hot corner until Nick Senzel arrived. The thought was the Reds might move Suarez to another position if his bat provided enough value. Suarez has certainly made the Reds reconsider that. I believe that at this point there is no way the Reds could move him from 3B unless his bat dropped off. Why would you want to move an above average hitter from a spot defensively where he is really good? Suarez was really bad at shortstop too. In nearly 1,500 big league innings at SS, Suarez had negative 17 defensive runs saved. That is about as bad as it gets. I think the Reds will review all of these numbers, and we could see Senzel start spring training next season at 2B.

The Reds have found their third baseman for the foreseeable future.

 

All statistics include games played through 8/4/17, and are used courtesy of Fangraphs, ESPN Stats & Info, and Baseball-Reference. 

35 Responses

  1. james garrett

    We need more guys with pop or get on base.He does both and plays outstanding defense.No question he is a keeper.Would be a lot to ask for him to move back to short but he could do it and make room for Senzel.Need 3 or 4 more players just like him.

    • Vicferrari

      Is there any way to evaluate what is better assuming hitting is consistent
      Suarez at Third, Senzel at 2B vs
      Senzel at Third, Suarez at 2B assuming he is too awful to be at SS
      is there an alternative (IB/OF) can you even factor in Herrera or Peraza at this point?

  2. Brad

    What are the O-Swing% supposed to show us? I don’t see any significant change.

    • David

      O-Swing% shows the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone. You are correct that there is no significant change in Suarez’s, but some fluctuation.

      • Nick Kirby

        Suarez has swung at 1.9% less pitches outside of the strike zone. That end up being around 46 pitches over the course of a season (if you say 600 PA at 4 pitches per PA). That is pretty significant.

      • Gary Davis

        46 pitches over the course of the season is about one every three starts. That’s not that many. It could be a statistical blip.

      • Vicferrari

        Sounds significant to me if a good percentage of those 46 turns to outs, any body have a breakdown at what this might mean for a good/elite hitter over a course of a season? Could you expect a 10-20% chance of reaching base let alone making the pitcher work harder?

  3. Daytonian

    Very nice column, Nick. Suarez has earned third base and will stay there unless ousted by Senzel. If that happens, then maybe a move to 2B rather than to SS? I don’t; remember his defense being up to par at SS (although those who track the frequency of fly balls could care less about the fate of grounders to SS). May he can show his agility at 2B. Who knows?

    Again, a very nice column.

    • Jack

      You don’t waste a glove or power arm at 2nd.

    • Nick Kirby

      Thank you very much. Yes, Suarez was terrible at SS. He has -17 defensive runs saved in nearly 1,500 big league innings. I just don’t know why you would want to move someone from a position he is really great at.

      • Nick Kirby

        My thought is that he came up as a SS. I get that he could have room to grow there with MLB experience, but it isn’t like he didn’t have experience there when he came up like at 3B.

  4. cfd3000

    Given how the Reds offense struggles against lefties, I’d love to see an infield of Suarez, (healthy) Cozart, Senzel at 2B, and Votto, with Duvall, Hamilton and Winker in the outfield, with Schebler getting a fair number of starts to spell all three outfielders. Suarez needs to play on this team and his defense earns him third base. Surely Senzel can learn second, and would be better than Peraza, Herrera, or Gennett.

    • Jay King

      I am not finished giving Peraza a shot at 2b. I feel like he just needs some patience at the plate really. If Cozart goes though Peraza is the clear choice for SS.

      Also Gennett is relatively cheap cost and has really done a nice job for us.

      Herrara has shown nothing but being injured, even back in his Mets days.

      I would not have a major issue with Senzel at 2b but the guy would have to show he can play it better than the above options before I would be ok with that.

      What about Senzel in Right Field?? Remember Senzel has proven nothing at the majors yet. So I am not for moving Suarez at this point.

  5. TR

    When Senzel is ready I would leave him at third base, the position he’s always played. Trips on the shuttle for Senzel should be avoided. Suarez has experience at shortstop and he seems to be an adaptable guy who is coming into his own. He and Duvall provide the Reds with hitting power from the right side that they had a dearth of until the past few years.

  6. Jack

    Exactly. When Senzel makes 25 errors his 1st year all the arm chair managers in here will be screaming why they removed Suarez from 3rd. Senzel needs to go to 2nd. Scooter is not the answer. It’s been a nice story but history tells me he will come back down to where he should be. Right now he is 8 for his last 49 . And his defense is average.

  7. Nick Kirby

    Suarez was really bad at shortstop. In nearly 1,500 big league innings at SS, Suarez had negative 17 defensive runs saved. That is about as bad as it gets.

    • Vicferrari

      I think the argument is since he got so much better at 3B, can he get better at SS, what is the perception of Senzel D?, is 2B an option?, would he be a drop-off defensively at 3B?

  8. Nick Carrington

    Yes, great information. Senzel played SS for a few weeks when there was an injury. The coach likely did it to try and boost his draft stock. I have never read a scout that thought he could play SS in the Majors. It would be shocking to see the Reds try. 2B and 3B are really the options at this point.

    • Gary Davis

      Maybe left field. If they thought he could play second, I imagine they would have tried him there instead of third. How many players have been moved from third to second?

  9. sandman

    Thank you for this. IF…I was gonna have any more favorite players on the Reds, Saurez would be a candidate…but I’m not gonna have any more favorites. But I couldn’t help but think of Votto when I was reading how he swings at fewer pitches out of the zone. Think Votto might be rubbing off and that’s not a bad thing.

  10. TS

    Nick
    You make some valid points, but for the Reds to be in contention, starting pitching must be obtained. We have Senzel coming up at third, if you get a good offer for Suarez you have to take it.

  11. james garrett

    Saurez will get better and will someday hit 30 bombs for the Reds

  12. Still a Red

    Extend Cozart 2 or 3 years…move Senzel to 2nd…keep Suarez at 3rd…you’ve got Peraza at SS if needed, but Reds should bring up or go get another SS for the near future.

  13. Indy Red Man

    If they resign Cozart then problem most likely solved for 2 years…maybe 3? For the purposes of discussion, lets assume they don’t. The question is then this. Would moving Suarez to SS hurt the Reds so much defensively that it wouldn’t be worth the added offense otherwise? If the Reds looked at it logically, it would come down to Peraza vs a Scooter platoon (Blandino?) at 2B.

    Peraza with a .609 ops. He has 1 steal since May. The small outfield at GABP works against Peraza. His dunkers don’t fall in nearly as often (.207/.519 ops at gabp).

    Scooter .982 ops vs righties. From 2014-16 an average .751 ops vs righties. He has 62 atbats vs lefties (.194). If they had a platoon in place (besides Peraza) then the overall 2B could be pretty good?

    Defensively…Scooter at 2B vs Peraza SS? Both are mediocre at best but I would give Scooter a slight nod. I’ve seen about 4 line drives kick off Peraza’s glove this year….his attention wanders! His ceiling is much better defensively, but I doubt he is ever much of a hitter? Scooter played over his head earlier but he’d be fresher if he platooned…not exposed as much and he’s in his prime years! I think atleast an .800 ops vs righties could be expected for a few years atleast.

    The Reds play in a band box and they’re still only 10th in the NL in runs scored as it is! A SS in free agency? I don’t see much? Its either resign Cozart or move Suarez there. They can’t Peraza again if they want to compete?

    • IndyRedMan

      I would be shocked but you never know? The Angels do need to rebuild their farm system. Marcus Semien from Oakland could also turn into a pretty good offensive player as well. He’s increased his obp to .337 and hit 27 HRs last year.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      That would be great, but he’s under contract for three years after this one at a very attractive rate. It would take a ton to get the Angels to part with him. Reds aren’t looking to deal top prospects at this point in the rebuild process.

      • G L

        I think the Reds could deal the Stephenson, Garrett, Schebler, Peraza types. If that gets a deal done, so be it.

  14. james garrett

    Peraza is not ready offensively or at shortstop defensively.We know he can get better but he has close to 600 at bats so we have to go with what we know.Suarez has proven himself but Senzel has to play.I don’t think we would lose much defensively by moving Suarez back to short and sliding Senzel in at third.Bottom line is we need offense.As Indy said we play in GABP so we should be better then we are but we have played with 3 starters almost all year that have no power in Billy,Tucker and Peraza with two out of the three having an OBP under .300,Against lefties we are so bad that Jamie Moyer could get us out right now.Scooter and a right handed bat that can hit can handle second base.I also like Winker in the outfield but if it were me Billy gets shopped some this winter.Don’t see the Reds paying him 6 million to play defense and Schebler would be adequate in GABP and has power.We need guys that get on base or hit with power for this ball park or for any ball park for that matter

  15. big5ed

    They won’t really need to worry about infield defense if they pitch Homer Bailey next year every fifth day. They could play Joe Nuxhall’s widow out there and still get slaughtered.

  16. benkten

    If I were the Reds I would go up to Suarez and reassure him that he is the Reds third baseman for the foreseeable future if he so chooses. However he can increase his value and help the team if he thinks he can play shortstop. However that comes with substantial risk so I would offer him a Devin Mesoraco ranged extension that shoul add a few controllable years at an affordable price. The Reds should offer an extension while the still have some bargaining power.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      I tend to agree. He’s dazzling at third. Presuming Cozart’s departure, I’d like to take a look at a former shortstop turned Gold-Glove-caliber third baseman taking a try back at shortstop before defaulting to Peraza. That also makes a transition to the Reds easier for Senzel, presuming he can actually play defensive third base at a big-league level.

  17. Timmy RedLeg

    Just commenting here. It seems to me that Suarez still has stints where he loses focus. Remember Molina picking him off 3rd? 3rd base is a reaction position, at SS you have more time to think. I remember Suarez botching a lot of routine plays at SS. He could make the spectacular play. IMO his momentary lapse of focus is his biggest problem at SS.

  18. Michael

    Correct me if I am wrong but did Larkin make a boat load of errors his first couple of seasons with the reds? I personally think you keep Suarez at 3rd and when Senzel is ready you have him at second. No reason to weaken another position defensively (it would take a lot for Senzel to play defense at 3rd as well as Suarez) when you have a an above average bat at that position who plays elite defense.

    • diehard fan

      Barry threw them high and wide