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Player Spotlight: Eugenio Suarez

The Beginning for the Venezuelan Prospect

On October 8, 2008, then 17-year old Eugenio Suarez inked a deal with the Detroit Tigers, the beginning of his Major League career. After signing as a free agent, the Venezuelan shortstop played his first two seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League. After excelling in his first two seasons, he was moved to Class A ball, where he continued to prove to be an up and coming star. Despite his success, he was only making small strides in moving up the division.

He finished the 2013 season ranked as high as fifth in the Tigers minor league system. He began 2014 in AA with the Erie SeaWolves, but was promoted to AAA with the Toledo Mud Hens after just one month. The following month, Suarez would be making his professional debut as a pinch-hitter on June 4. Three days later Suarez earned his first hit in a manner fitting for the slugger, a solo home run. Suarez’s rookie season was not as glorious as the club had hoped, slashing .242/.316/.333.

(Photo Courtesy: Dutch’s Sports Oven)

The Trade

Two months after getting swept in the 2014 American League Division Series, the Tigers decided they needed to bolster their rotation. This decision resulted in an absolutely terrible trade for the Tigers. Alfredo Simon had been a below average reliever with the Baltimore Orioles, with a few starts mixed in. In his first two seasons in Cincinnati, he was one of the better relievers on two playoff teams. In 2014, he was a formidable starter for the Reds, with a 3.44 ERA in 32 starts.

Although Simon would be a one-year rental, the Tigers believed he was their man. On December 11, the Reds committed highway robbery, sending Simon to the Tigers and receiving Jonathon Crawford and Suarez in return. Simon had a forgettable year and the Tigers finished in dead last in the AL Central. Simon has not pitched in the majors since 2016, while Suarez is playing at an elite level for the Reds. It is safe to say who won that trade.

Suarez’s Shot in Cincinnati

Suarez did not start regularly at the beginning of the 2015 season. The Reds left-side of the infield had no openings with Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier holding down shortstop and third base. Cozart suffered a season-ending injury on June 11, which opened the door for Suarez to get regular starts. The Reds then traded Frazier to the White Sox, allowing for Suarez to become the starting third baseman for Cincinnati when Cozart was healthy again.

The transition from shortstop to third took a toll on Suarez at the beginning, both at the plate and in the field. He only managed to hit .248/.317/.411, in addition to 23 errors at the hot corner. He did manage to find his power though, sending 21 balls into the seats. While 2016 was not his best season, the star potential was there. Whether Suarez reached that potential or not, the Reds got him for Simon, so it was already an upgrade. Ironically, Simon was back in Cincinnati for the 2016 season.

A Star is Born

Suarez began to really take form in 2017. He slashed .260/.367/.461 in 534 at-bats. One of the most encouraging stats was his patience at the plate, paired with his power when he would swing. He had 84 walks, 33 more than the previous season. His defense drastically improved, committing only nine errors throughout the season. His WAR jumped up over two whole points to 3.7. On top of him becoming a rising star on the field, he also was becoming a fan favorite off the field. Suarez won the 2017 Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award, given to a player who is respected the most by the team, reporters and fans, and who exemplifies that caring qualities Nuxhall had throughout his career in Cincinnati.

(Photo Courtesy: The Athletic)

For most of the 2018 season, Suarez’s name was brought up in the MVP conversation. While it was clear he would not win it, he will receive some votes for his performance, minus September. Suarez set career highs in nearly every category. He slashed .283/.366/.526, all career highs except his on-base percentage which fell one point shy. He finished in the top 10 in home runs with 34, RBIs with 104, OPS at .892 and slugging at .526, all career highs as well. Suarez also got his first nod to the Midsummer Classic, an honor he will sure to see again in the future.

The Contract and the Future

Before the start of the 2018 season, the Reds locked up Suarez to a seven-year $66 million contract, which turned out to be an absolute steal. Had the Reds waited until after 2018, that number would certainly be much higher. The Suarez that the Reds saw throughout the season will be the Suarez Reds Country will get the pleasure to watch for the next six years. The energy and positive attitude Suarez brings to the clubhouse every day makes him impossible to dislike.

Although the season has been over for a while in Cincinnati, the Reds and baseball fans will be lucky enough to watch him play six more games. Suarez was selected to play for the USA All-Star team in the 2018 MLB Japan All-Star Series, a six-game series between the USA team and Samurai Japan, as well as the Nippon Professional Baseball’s Yomiuri Giants and Chinese Taipei.

Suarez will look to continue his All-Star level status of play, and at just 27-years old, he will just be entering his prime. Expect to see Suarez and Joey Votto leading the team into October baseball for years to come.

 

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