We continue Red Reporter's player by player look at the 2015 Cincinnati Reds. We'll profile every player who got time for the Reds this year, and will imagine their tenure with the Reds going forward.
By The Numbers
398 PA, .280/.315/.446, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 106 OPS+
In 2014, Eugenio Suarez started the year in the minor league organizations of the Detroit Tigers. Having never played a game over Double-A, Suarez was never intended to make the big league club. When Jose Iglesias went down in Spring Training, Suarez got a look-see but eventually ended up starting the season in the minors. After a hot start there (and the woeful performances by the other fill in shortstops), Suarez got the call up before the dog days of summer and received the most PAs of any shortstop for the 2014 Detroit Tigers.
In the offseason, as we are all aware, the Reds and Tigers agreed to swap Alfredo Simon for Eugenio Suarez and pitcher Jonathon Crawford.
In 2015, Eugenio Suarez started the year in the minor league organizations of the Cincinnati Reds. Suarez was never intended to make the big league club, but when Zack Cozart went down in June, Suarez got much more than a look-see. For the second straight season, before the dog days of summer were upon us, Eugenio Suarez was the starting shortstop for a major league club, this time our Cincinnati Reds.
How'd He Do?
In a word? Good. Suarez was a bit of a revelation for the Reds as, while I'm sure they were excited about his potential, I don't think they anticipated him being an competent regular quite this soon. It took Eugenio no time to endear himself to Reds fans who otherwise might have seen him as an unkown; he hit his first home run for the club in his third game, and recorded a scorching hot .845 OPS through the end of June.
However, unlike his previous hot start with Detroit, Eugenio kept up the good play, OPSing nothing lower than .731 over any other calendar month. While the June .369 OBP failed to be sustained (and dropped precipitously to .288 in August), the power proved to be real and spectacular. For the year, out of shortstops who received at least 350 PAs, Eugenio ranked 3rd in the National League in wRC+ (105), behind only breakout Pirates rookie Jung Ho Kang and Giants starter Brandon Crawford. Incidentally, Eugenio's offensive numbers compare favorably (but don't quite match) 351 PAs that Troy Tulowitzki recorded before his trade to the American League this trade deadline.
Unfortunately, you're not going to be able to find a defensive metric that likes the young Venezuelan, and all of the numbers are down significantly from the year before. To wit: UZR from 2014: -0.1. UZR from 2015: -12.9. Frangraphs show his defensive value above average at -8.5, after posting a positive value in 2014. That aforementioned list of NL shortstops? -8.5 defensive value ranks dead last by a significant measure (next closest is also the aforementioned Troy Tulowitzki at -1.6).
Suarez lacked the fundamentals at times during his stint in Detroit, but he rated no where near this bad. He seemed to have cleaned it up a bit during the latter stages of the year (based soley on my eye test, admittedly). It would be miraculous for the Reds for Suarez's bat to stick at that position, but they're going to have to work extensively this offseason on the defense.
A lot of what the Reds choose to do with Suarez will hinge on the decisions made about Zack Cozart's future with the Reds and/or how Cozart's horrendous knee injury affects his play going forward. But one thing is certain; barring a sharp regression in Suarez's play at the plate, his bat needs to be in the lineup nearly everyday. That bat is certainly its most useful at the shortstop position, but if Cozart returns wielding his otherworldly defense and halfway competent offense, the Reds may be forced to scramble the puzzle.
I won't act like the Reds don't have options here. First and foremost, there's a giant gaping hole in left field (assuming it's not filled by their once prodigal son catcher) that Suarez could easily slot into with a little practice. Couple that with the fact that Brandon Phillips keeps aging and the minor injuries keep mounting, and he could certainly slot into the keystone while giving BP some much needed rest throughout the season. It's far from certain that they will have the only everyday right fielder the team has known since 2008, as the trade rumors continue to swirl around Jay Bruce. Add it all up, and you've got something of a role that a player like Ben Zobrist has been filling for years.
It's not that easy, of course, as there will still be defensive concerns at every stop. Plus, if Mesoraco can't catch and has to play left field, the odds that Suarez's bat trumps his is slim, which would eliminate that scenario with any regularity. Jay Bruce has just as much of a chance to still be around for Opening Day as not, so it's tough to imagine the Reds sitting Bruce to start Suarez out of position with any consistency. And if Cozart brings the defense and a bat that resembles anything like 2015, it'll be hard to make the defensive downgrade for Suarez to get meaningful time there.
The future for Suarez is bright if not a bit confusing and we've got a long way to go until that glorious day in February when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. And if the Reds, sporting a shiny, newly promoted general manager, decide to burn the whole thing down, it is a certainty that Suarez will be a part of the new core looking toward the future.
Chance of making the 2016 Reds roster: 99%