Eugenio Suarez Is Who He Is

Eugenio Suarez served as the shortstop for the Reds for 96 games in 2015, but an off-season trade of Todd Frazier resulted in Suarez sliding over to the hot corner this year. He earned an awful defensive grade at shortstop, but he was an asset with his glove at the less demanding defensive position. Moving to a corner put greater pressure on his bat, but he did enough — coupled with his positive defensive contributions — to play in 159 games and serve as an everyday player for the duration of the year. The volume (627 plate appearances) helped push Suarez to a double-double (21 homers and 11 steals) with useful run production contributions (78 runs and 70 RBI). In a little over 250 games played with the Reds, the 25-year-old has been remarkably consistent in many ways.

The plate discipline numbers for Suarez in 2015 and 2016 were incredibly consistent. His O-Swing% rose by just 0.1%, Z-Swing% dropped by 1.5%, O-Contact% dropped by 1.2%, Z-Contact% improved by 2.4%, Contact% increased by 0.4% and his SwStr% decreased by 0.6%. Plate discipline numbers weren’t the only ones that remained steady from ’15 to ’16. His 2015 LD%, GB%, FB% and HR/FB% were 20.8%, 40.9%, 38.4% and 12.1%, respectively. In 2016, they were 21.6%, 40.5%, 37.9% and 13.5%, respectively. But wait, there’s more! His Pull%, Cent% and Oppo% in ’15 were 40.5%/33.1%/26.4% and this year were 39.5%/35.1%/25.4%. Suarez improved his Hard% from 28.9% to 34.9%, but he also had more soft hit balls with a 17.2% Soft% this year compared to 10.9% in 2015. Interestingly, despite improving his contact rate, Suarez’s strikeout rate ticked up from 23.6% to 24.7%. On the positive side of the ledger, he improved his walk rate substantially from 4.3% to 8.1%. Even though he didn’t make any big changes to his swing rates, the walk rate improvement looks legit. Suarez’s walk rate is nearly identical to the league average in 2016 of 8.2%, and he sported a lower O-Swing% than the 2016 league average of 30.3%. His numbers are more befitting of his 2016 8.1% walk rate than his 2015 4.3% walk rate.

But what about the standard fantasy league numbers? Well, if he cracks the 600 plate appearance threshold again this year, 20 homers are well within reach since he’s averaged a homer in every 30.1 plate appearances as a member of the Reds. Suarez owns a .260 batting average in 1,025 plate appearances the last two years. He hit .280 in 2015 and hit just .248 this year. The biggest difference between the two years is found in his batted ball luck. In 2015, he was lucky on balls in play with a .341 BABIP. This year, his BABIP was a more reasonable .304. He’s not a .280 true-talent hitter, and flirting with .250 average again is a far more likely outcome in 2017. The 25-year-old’s run production numbers in 2017 will be dependent on his lineup slot, and this early in the offseason, it’s a fool’s errand projecting where he’ll hit — especially after bouncing all over the lineup this year. Suarez stole four bases in five attempts in 97 games played in 2015, and he stole 11 in 16 attempts in 159 games this year. He was an inefficient base stealer in the upper minors, so double-digit steals might be hard to duplicate, but more than a handful are an attainable number.

Digging into Suarez’s splits will be helpful for daily gamers. In 509 plate appearances at home since 2015, Suarez has been an above average offensive player with a 105 wRC+. On the road in 516 plate appearances, he’s been a below average offensive player with a 91 wRC+. Surprisingly, Suarez has hit more homers on the road than at home (20 compared to 14) and tallied a higher ISO (.155 compared to .173). The bigger gap in Suarez’s splits is found between facing lefties and righties. In same-handed matchups facing righties, he’s hit only .254/.307/.400 with a .146 ISO and 89 wRC+ in 791 plate appearances. He rakes against southpaws, though, hitting .281/.348/.510 with a .229 ISO and 128 wRC+ in 234 plate appearances.

Suarez finished 2016 ranked 19th at third base, according to our end of season rankings. Brad Johnson tackled third base rankings for 2017 already in the “Way Too Early Rankings” series, and he ranked Suarez 20th. Perhaps as he ages into the second half of his 20s, he’ll add a little extra thump, thus, giving him some untapped upside. That said, Brad’s ranking looks good, and drafting Suarez with a repeat of 2016 in mind is unlikely to result in disappointment.

You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.

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