CAN EUGENIO SUAREZ BREAK OUT?
Eugenio Suarez’s overall numbers were fairly consistent from year one with the Cincinnati Reds to year two. In a November Fangraphs article titled ‘Eugenio Suarez Is Who He Is’ (https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/eugenio-suarez-is-who-he-is/), Josh Shepardson pointed out that many of Suarez’s plate discipline and batted ball numbers were very, very consistent from 2015 to 2016.
In fact, there was no change greater than two percent in line drive, ground ball, or fly ball percentages or pull, center, or opposite field percentages.
Shepardson did point out Suarez improved his walk percentage from 4.3% in 2015 to 8.1% in 2016, which was more in line with his minor league career.
In terms of defense, Suarez led the majors in errors in 2016 with 23. Nick Vorhort of Blog Red Machine (https://blogredmachine.com/2016/11/25/cincinnati-reds-eugenio-suarez-future/) said he has played an “awful third and a subpar short his first two years in town.”
On the surface, Suarez does seem to be a very similar player to the one he was in 2015. But digging deeper, has he made adjustments both at the plate and in the field? His progress throughout the year seems to suggest so.
Suarez’s 2016 started with a bang after he hit four home runs to go along with just one strikeout in his first six games. He hit just one more home run but struck out a reasonable fifteen times in the remaining seventeen games in the month of April. It is possible, however, that Eugenio fell in love with the allure of long ball.
His May was dreadful. He struck out 37 times in 27 games (35.2 K%). He had 5 HR and a 51 wRC+ in the month. His K% in June wasn’t much better (31.7%), but he started to hit again (111 wRC+).
As the season went on, homers were replaced by doubles. He hit four doubles in the fifteen games in July after the All Star break after having just five in the 86 games prior. He hit twenty doubles after the break with just six homers. Prior to the All Star break, he had hit 15 HR.
When comparing his second half to his first, Suarez’s K% improved from 26.3 to 22.8. His wRC+ improved by 20 points (84 to 104). So what changed with his offensive approach? Was it just a BABIP correction (.271 in the first half to .341 in the second)? Maybe, but the increased doubles and decreased power point to something else.
Suarez seemed to make adjustments after his abysmal May. Up until May, Suarez’s IFFB% (infield fly ball percentage), a sign of overswinging, was 11.8%. He also pulled the ball too much (45.5%). His hard hit percentage during that time was 30.6%.
Over the course of the rest of the season, his IFFB% was just 5.7%, his Pull% was 36.6%, and his Hard% was 36.9%. His walk percentage increased by three points too. While he hit far fewer homers, he was a more well-rounded hitter and made solid contact more often.
Suarez did indeed lead the league in errors (23) in 2016 but his range improved as the year went on and, after having six errors in April, did not have another month of more than four errors.
If he maintains a good approach at the plate, the good things will happen. He can still get to 20 HR but not at the expense of getting on base. With more familiarity at 3B, I expect the errors to stay down and the defensive metrics to bump up a little. I think 55-60 XBH, a .340 OBP, 10 steals, and above average third base defense is very much within reach for Suarez in 2017.