Eugenio Suarez was born on July 18, 1991 in a town called Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela. He’s a right-handed hitter and thrower, and spent the vast majority of last season playing third base for your Cincinnati Reds. He stands 5-foot-11 and weights in at 205 pounds.
Suarez was signed as an international free agent by the Detroit Tigers in 2008 when he was just a 17-year-old, but he rose quickly through their minor league system. He debuted in June 2014 at the age of 22, and played in 85 games for the Tigers before he was traded with left-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford to the Reds for former honest-to-god major league pitcher Alfredo Simon on Dec. 11, 2014.
Pre-Arb Eligible. Will be arbitration eligible after the 2017 season. He will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.
When he was coming up through the Tigers’ system, Suarez was known as a guy with above-average power for a middle infielder and a nice glove to go with an inconsistent plate approach. Now entering his fourth season of big league experience already, some parts of that have proven to be more true than others. The power is definitely the real deal, with 21 homers and a .163 isolated power figure coming in his first full season in 2016. The snappy glove, however, hasn’t lived up to expectations, and was worth -0.8 dWAR over just 97 games in 2015, all but two of which were at shortstop.
His plate approach, meanwhile, seems to hover somewhere in between the two. His strikeout rates in his first two seasons with the Reds have been higher than what one would want to see out of someone even with 20-homer power, finishing with a career-worst 24.7% mark last year. His walk rate, however, nearly doubled from a year ago, jumping from 4.3% to 8.1% – enough of a difference to make his OBP raise two points despite his batting average falling 32 points. His arm and speed both rate a little below average.
Suarez is susceptible to pitches up in the zone, but punishes pitches between the mid-thigh and his knees. He’s long had a poor contact rate outside the zone, but that seemed to improve in 2016, if I’m reading the zone chart correctly.
The 2017 season could go a long way in deciding Suarez’s future with the Reds – but as these reports roll out, you’ll notice that’s a pattern with the majority of this roster. With so many young moving pieces, the competition for playing time is tough, and for Suarez, that’s only likely to get tougher. As was mentioned up top, Suarez spent most of 2016 at third base, which just happens to be the position played by Nick Senzel, the consensus top prospect in the organization who could be ready to take over the everyday job by April 2018. With veteran Zack Cozart still occupying shortstop, Suarez’s natural position, and even younger infielders with big league experience in Jose Peraza, Dilson Herrera and Arismendy Alcantara all vying for regular playing time, the 25-year-old will need to continue improving his bat to prove that he warrants an everyday starting spot in the lineup.
Does he have what it takes to do that? I wouldn’t count him out. Suarez has had an impressive track record as a professional of making little adjustments here and there to sharpen his game. In addition to his improved walk rate, he also worked hard to show a better glove at third after a dreadful start to the year, enough to where he actually was worth a full 1.1 dWAR more in 2016. It’s not a stretch, in my opinion, to see a couple of seasons in Suarez’s future in which he smacks 30 homers while getting on base 33% of the time. That still might not warrant hogging the hot corner from Senzel, but if he’s doing it at second, and playing passable defense too? Now we’re talking.
The 2017 roster will be loaded with lots of unproven guys with serious potential to go with a few proven quantities. The most exciting part about Suarez? He’s a little bit of both.