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. 

Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.

Join the conversation! 56 Comments

  1. 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.

    • 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. Personally, I’d give Suarez another look at SS. He has still played more innings at SS for his career, and Senzel has played exclusively at 3rd. If Suarez’s bat plays at 3B, imagine him at SS.

    The Reds should ask Suarez if he’s interested in switching back, and see if the defensive lesson he’s learned at 3B translate to SS. If this works out, then Senzel wouldn’t have to worry about learning an entirely new position (thus potentially delaying his arrival in Cincinnati).

    The rub is, though, if Suarez is asked to move back to SS before Senzel is ready, who plays 3B in the meantime? Duvall? It’s a bit of a Catch 22, the Reds need to see if Suarez can still play SS before Senzel arrives, but Suarez can’t play SS UNITL Senzel arrives (barring some other placeholder at 3B).

    But yeah, I think the ideal situation would be to trade Cozart, move Saurez back and hope his newfound defensive prowess translates, and don’t yank Senzel around.

    • 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.

      • True, but he was also really bad at 3B as well. All I’m saying is, he seems to have figured something out defensively, why not see if it translates to SS, a position he has experience with, instead of asking Senzel to learn an entirely new position?

      • 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?

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

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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?

    • O-Swing% gives an incomplete view of the picture Nick is trying to paint here. It’s a good starting point, but walk rates are also have a relationship to contact rates, both in and out of the zone.

      While the O-Swing% delta itself looks rather small, there is likely another factor in play helping to lead Eugenio to more walks.

  4. 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.

    • My recollection is that Suarez’s problem at short wasn’t his range or his arm: He just botched too many plays. He had the same problem initially at 3rd, but has corrected it in grand fashion. Maybe he would take that newfound concentration back to short with him. Since there seem to be far more potential second basemen in the pipline than shortstops, it is worth considering.

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

    • 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.

      • How old was he when he amassed those MLB SS numbers? 22-23 There’s a lot a room to grow there.

        • 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.

      • That’s also after only 1/2 season of AAA.

      • But…but… he was only -13 in UZR!! 😉 haha!

    • What specifically was Suarez’s main problem supposed to be at SS? I know he was bad, but why? If not his range or arm, was it lack of focus, footwork, etc.? It would be nice to know what aspect of fielding at SS Suarez had trouble with. If it was something like focus or lack of concentration or even bad footwork, that could be something of fielding in general that he may have improved on – rather than an aspect of specifically playing short that he struggled with.

      The important question is if his problems at short had to do with his struggles of fielding in general or shortstop in particular.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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.

  7. He hasn’t always played 3B. He played SS and 2B in college. In fact, I don’t think it was until his last year at Tennessee that he played 3B primarily. He’s a solid defensive 3B, but I’m not sure he’s better than Suarez. It’s hard to get a read on minor league defensive stats, but Fangraphs shows he has 14 errors at 3rd this season. The Reds are looking for the best way to get the best bats in the game without sacrificing too much on defense. If Suarez can hit well enough for the position and is excellent defensively, why move him to a place where we don’t know how he’ll play? Suarez last played 2B in 2013 for exactly 1 game. Senzel was a 2B more recently (2015) and should be the easier, more logical move.

    • 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.

      • OK, who plays SS?

        • That’s a good question. Outside of Peraza, who will hopefully figure out some sort of plate discipline eventually, there’s really not anyone until you get to rookie ball that I believe will hit enough and field the position well enough to make a go of it everyday. It’s probably a position the Reds should look to strengthen by trade over the offseason, as Peraza makes a good option for a super utility guy off the bench. It’s almost enough to want to bring back Cozart if he would be agreeable to a super hometown discount. Something in the 3 years/24million range with the 3rd year an option would probably be enough for me to like a deal.

    • I was able to hunt down the following:

      “One of the big questions facing Senzel has been what position he will play at the professional level. He was a designated hitter as a freshman, second baseman as a sophomore and a third baseman for much of his junior year, but also played shortstop while starter Max Bartlett was out with a wrist injury. There has been speculation that he could also play a corner outfield position.

      “I’ve played everywhere on the infield,” Senzel said. “It’s just a matter of where they put me. … Wherever they want me, I’ll play.””

      Sounds like that in college Senzel played a tad more 2B than 3B and was versatile enough to fill in at SS when needed.

      With Peraza being a bit of a disappointment this season at SS and at the plate, I’m inclined to return Suarez to SS which was his primary position as a professional up to the beginning of last season. Suarez bat will play big at SS and I believe he will be an average defender there once he get familiarized there again and applies the effort he did to become so good at 3B. I then keep Senzel at 3B to shorten his time to majors and also becuase we have 3 legit 2B prospects close to the majors in Herrera, Blandino, and Long. Gennett/Peraza can hold down the fort until one of them takes over the position. The Reds first have to get the sorting ball rolling and make some tough decisions one way or another. Now is the time to begin, what they need to not do is fumble around until the middle of next year to get a course planned.

      • 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.

        • 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. I agree with you Nick. Suarez has done everything asked of him and its been fun to watch him develop into a very good baseball player.
    The Reds have a very good defensive team right now and preserving that needs to be a focus for the future.
    The corner infield of Votto and Suarez is outstanding.
    I really like Winker and Duvall as Corner outfielders.
    Hamilton and Barnhart give you superb defense up the middle with Mesoraco as an expensive 1 year backup for a season.. Gennett is a solid lefty bat who could be a trade candidate next year manning the position until Senzel is ready, or just a great bench piece who plays a lot. Herrera and Peraza and Schebler are bench depth. Senzel could elevate the offensive productivity of the 2b position to very high levels.

    What to do about shortstop and starting pitching?

  13. 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?

    • Great summary.
      Hard to imagine Peraza loses his starting position at 2b on a last place team but wins the spot at SS… not sure that’s ever happened in the history of baseball at any level.
      That’s a poll question- who starts shortstop opening day 2018.

      A. Re-sign cozart for whatever it takes
      B. Move Suarez
      C. Peraza….he needs more time
      D. Next man up from the minors.

      • B. please

      • E. None of the above.

        A trade with the LA Angels for SS Andrelton Simmons is on the horizon this off-season.

        • 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.

          • Semien would also be nice But I had read that A’s GM Billy Beane viewed Semien as a big building block now that Beane has taken on a different philosophy of now not having the A’s be the AAAA team for the other MLB teams. They are going for a new stadium in Oakland and want to show that they are building a team. Anything is possible with Beane though.
            With a trade with the Angels or the A’s for that matter, you could send a package of RHP RStephenson or Garrett, OF/DH Scott Schebler, and SS/2B Jose Peraza plus one other to LAA if they are looking for MLB ready players to plug in now around Trout and Pujols. Schebler would make for a nice OF of Trout, Calhoun and Schebler. Peraza could take over LA’s SS or 2B spot. And they get a SP or two.
            The Reds could also go the prospect route with their depth, especially if Oakland would be in play.

        • 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.

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

  14. 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

    • Any solution that sees Schebler getting the majority of playing time in CF probably isn’t going to work from a defensive standpoint, even at GABP for half the games. Schebler might be a bit better out there than Choo was but Choo was elite at getting on base. Schebler has some tools, particularly a good amount of power but he isn’t elite at anything offensively. He’s a LF ideally as his arm probably isn’t best suited for RF. His arm plays a bit better in CF but his range isn’t quite adequate and his routes in CF need a lot of work.

  15. 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. 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.

    • 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.

    • Asking him, with very little pressure “How would you feel about moving back to SS?” probably wouldn’t be a bad thing. I personally wouldn’t move him off 3B but if you would like to see him go to SS, that is the way to go about it. He’s earned the right, through his play and willingness to move to 3B in the first place, to decide if he’d like to move back to SS. “We’re moving you back to SS” probably won’t sit too well unless he really, really wants to play there.

  17. 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. 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.

  19. If the Reds were looking to play Senzel at 2B, why have they only played him at 3B?

    March 2016 Fangraph article revealed he doesn’t have the requisite skill set to play 2B.

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About Nick Kirby

Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.


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