2017 Reds

The Forgotten Man: Eugenio Suarez

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 Statcast™ 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 Statcast™, 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.

 


 

43 thoughts on “The Forgotten Man: Eugenio Suarez

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    • 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. A floor of 3.0 WAR? Seems optimistic. I wouldn’t even say Votto has a floor of 3.0 WAR.

  6. 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.

  7. 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).

    • 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.

      • I believe that seat in LF is reserved for Jesse Winker.
        If that happens and Suarez takes over 2B, that makes Duvall and Herrera a bit expendable. A trade package of Duvall, Herrera and Robert Stephenson could net the Reds what in return?

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

  8. Suarez is secure at 3B for this season. He really progressed well last year at the position, and should do so some more this year. Whenever Senzel is ready to take over 3B, is the time a decision will have to be made about 2B. BP will be out of the 2B picture by then. Does Suarez move over to 2B to learn another new position? Or maybe move to the OF as a new position instead of 2B? Does Herrera win the 2B job outright? If Suarez takes over 2B, does Herrera get moved to a super-sub, move to the OF, or traded?
    I would keep Suarez in the INF mix at 2B and trade Herrera, if he isn’t moved CF.
    This time next year the 3B and 2B talk will be percolating. Two INF positions in flux. That is why it is uber important to get Peraza established at SS early on this year. The Reds don’t need 3 of the 4 INF positions in flux at the same time next winter going into 2018. That is also why it is important to establish the C position this year too. Hopefully Mez comes back and can play an adequate C.

    • I have seen you mention Herrera moving to CF before. Is there any evidence he can play CF?

      • He is athletic enough for an OF position, be it in CF or LF. Look to those upstate Cleveland Indians. They had Jose Ramirez play LF in 48 games in 2016. He had no ML OF experience before 2016. In 2014, in the minors he had only 3 ‘s in CF and 1 in LF, an in ’15 had 2 G’s in LF. The Indians came out pretty good In that position move. Most of Ramirez’s experience was at 2B, SS and 3B. Very similar situations.

        • To be fair, Ramirez is not a comparable situation to Herrera. Ramirez came up as SS (was considered to be average defensively for the position) but he was noted as having speed, range and having reasonable arm strength. Those tools allowed him to be moved to LF and 3B, clearly less demanding positions than either SS or CF.

          Herrera on the other hand has never been noted for having anything better than average speed (though some scouts thought he less than average speed), range and arm….for a 2B. So why do you think he can then make the jump to CF?

        • The Indians wanted to get Ramirez’s bat in the lineup and found a spot when he didn’t play 3B. The Reds could try the same with Herrera even if he plays some 2B.
          My thoughts are that if Herrera isn’t playing 2B, then finding another spot for him to play some is better than him sitting on the bench more often while BP plays 2B. I don’t know that he can make the move to CF, but I’m saying give him some practice time and tutoring before spring training and then in spring training give him more practice time and some playing time to see if he can make the move. There really is no backup for CF other than possibly Alcantara, and also I am not so sure who the 4th OF and 5th OF are. So having another option there to play CF and LF, and some 2B, would be a prudent thing to do.
          As long as BP is on the 25 man roster for 2017, might as well try to find some spots where you can get Herrera some extra playing time. I think it is worth a look in spring training to see if Herrera can handle the outfield. If he can, then bingo, get his bat and OBP in the lineup more. If he looks like Yonder Alonso in the outfield then cancel the experiment.
          Until that sticky BP situation is resolved, what does it hurt to try him? If you can make Herrera a more versatile player, why not try it?

        • Even if he could play outfield you have a similar situation there. Duvall and Hamilton have proved they can play the position. Schebler showed some promise at the end of the year and you have Winker who needs somewhere to play. Throwing Herrera in that mix just creates the same situation that existed in the infield. At some point someone is traded or becomes a bench piece

        • 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?

      • None that I’ve read about Bill. The scouting reports and info we get from the web do not highlight his defensive abilities or speed/range. And there is nothing so far that remotely suggests that Herrera could be moved to CF nor that the Reds would even consider doing that.

        • That is what my impression was. If anyone moved to CF from that group I would expect it to be Perraza, but I think the outfield is full at the moment

    • 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.

        • 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.

  9. Do we actually think Senzel will debut in 2017? I thought a call up sometime in 2018 was the more likely scenario if he continues to hit in the minors. That gives at least another full year to sort out the infield questions. Having four major league starter caliber players to fill three spots is a good position to be in, if Herrara, Peraza, and Senzel all prove to belong

    • 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.

  10. Just to think that we got this guy for one year of Alfredo Simon . . .
    And that doesn’t even include that Crawford pitcher that’s been hurt since we got him.

    I’m optimistic about this year. Just to put it in writing, I guess the Reds finish above .500 even if just 1-2 games.

  11. 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.

    • I could get on board with Suarez being used at 2B for this year only because I think he would be more valuable at that position given his fielding skills and his bat. But, if that comes at the expense of not playing Herrera enough, I’m not sure it’s worth it. Afterall, the Reds don’t have another 3B for sure in 2017 and who knows when (if?) Senzel would be ready to take over?

      • 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?

  12. 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!

  13. I really like Suarez as a player. I just don’t love him as an everyday third baseman. I don’t think he is going to hit enough to justify a corner spot. And I don’t really think his hands are good enough to be an everyday middle infielder.

    The role that I think would be perfect for him though is a utility guy who can hit a little. Start him 80-90 games between third, short, and second. Play him almost everyday vs lefties and 1 or 2 times per week vs righties. Use him as a bench bat on the other days and you could get 300-400 pa of solid production outta him.

    I think that is how you could get the most value out of Eugenio, but the question is how does that fit in with the rest of the team. You would have to have a guy at third who hits better than Suarez and I don’t think they have that yet.

    • I think the bat is going to play anywhere aside from perhaps 1B. He was a below average hitter last year but that was with a horrible stretch where he struggled at the plate and in the field. As he matures over the next couple years, I see an above average hitter. Not that I’m disagreeing with your super-sub idea and 300-400 PA. If the Reds end up having 2 players better than him at 2B/3B, that’s probably a good problem to have!

  14. Senzel is great but still has to navigate high A and AA….I think the Reds will be patient and let him find sustained success at A+ and then AA before pushing him up the rung in 2017. Suarez at times was a very good hitter but struggled at times as well like all young hitters. I am optimistic though….He hits the ball hard gap to gap.

    • 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. Breaking news that comes out from nowhere: Passan and Rosenthal are reporting Reds and Marlins are nearing deal for Straily. Reds get #5 and #9 (I think those are the numbers, 2 top ten in marlins system) plus one other. The two are RHPs and the headliner is Luis Gostilla and Brice.

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