There has been a lot of talk this season about where to play all the hot prospects coming through the system. Peraza has to play somewhere. So does Herrera. So does Senzel. Many people are ready to give Adam Duvall the LF job. Winker, of course, is also going to play eventually.
But one name is often forgotten in this discussion – Eugenio Suarez.
The reason, I think, is pretty simple, fans naturally put too much weight on how a player starts his season. When I tweet about Joey Votto, for instance, I get occasional complaints of how unacceptable his start to the season was. Never mind that his numbers are in line with his career norms now. He was bad at the beginning of the year and that is unacceptable. However, these same fans often ignore steep declines in production when a player starts out really hot (See: Frazier, Todd – 2015 edition). This happens, I assume, because when a slump comes later, it never really makes the numbers look bad. It just makes them look how we expect them to look.
So now, let’s do a little exercise here.
Player A: .274/.344/.443
Player B: .226/.296/.457
So which player do you want? It’s pretty easy, right? You take Player A every time. Player A, of course, is Suarez, Player B is Adam Duvall. Those are their numbers since June 1 (excluding yesterday’s game).
Now, to be clear, I am not saying we should pretend April and May didn’t happen; they did and they matter. The month of May is why, for the season, Adam Duvall’s numbers have been better than Eugenio Suarez’s numbers.
However, there are other things going on here. In May, Suarez was just going into his 2nd month playing 3rd at the major league level. A position he hadn’t played since he was 18. Adam Duvall was playing left, a much less demanding position which he had begun transitioning to the previous season. Duvall looked good in left and was hitting well. Suarez looked bad at third and was hitting poorly. There’s your narrative.
Except, well, the season progressed. And now Suarez is a good third baseman. Both the numbers and the eye test agree that he’s come a long way. Offensively, in recent months, he’s started to display the plate discipline he showed in the minors. Something that .344 OBP since June 1 illustrates. Also, he’s shown off 20+ HR power. Oh, and he just turned 25. You can do a lot worse.
The point of this post isn’t to say that other guys shouldn’t play. It’s to say that, of all of them, Suarez is the one who is both young AND has proven himself capable of contributing at the major league level. Given that, he should never be looked at as the odd man out.
Now, obviously, it is possible that any of the above mentioned players could fail to produce. If that’s the case, Suarez can be slotted in wherever there’s need. However, if all the players DO work out, the Reds need to realize what they have in Suarez. That is, they have a player who can be slotted in at SS, 2B, 3B, and likely LF or RF. Frankly, he’d probably be okay at CF or 1B in a pinch.
You don’t let that kind of player go. You let him play, even if it means turning him into the Reds’ version of Ben Zobrist. If I’m a member of the Reds management talking to Suarez, I tell him we appreciate everything he brings to the table. I tell him that we need to see how things shake out but that no matter what, he will play every day or nearly every day. And then, if the Reds are transplanted into a magical fantasy land where all prospects pan out, Suarez becomes a super-sub, playing all over the diamond giving other guys a rest and becoming the best fill-in you could ever hope for if someone gets hurt.
So don’t forget about Eugenio Suarez because, while he might not be the best of this new bunch of players, it’s unlikely he’ll be anywhere near the worst.