Eugenio Suarez is off to a blistering start in 2017, slashing 23R/7HR/22RBI/2SB in just 36 games this season. Suarez is fairly young, as he’s 25 with three years’ experience in the majors. However, he only started receiving consistent playing time beginning last season, and has been producing with his daily starts in 2017.
A consistent starter in Cincinnati, Suarez has been one of the top options at third base. While the hot streak will not continue indefinitely, he has the ability to consistently produce stats for the remainder of the 2017 season. In this article, I’ll show the reasons why I believe Suarez will continue his high contact rate and power surge.
The example I’ll provide will be using his last four years of stats, beginning with his 2014 rookie year in Detroit. This will allow us to see the progression of his stats, along with the growth of his contact rates.
Common Stats – Past Four Years
Suarez only began receiving regular playing time in 2016, having a part-time role in 2015 with the Reds. He produced some good power at third base, along with double digit steals. Suarez moved to third base after Todd Frazier was dealt, but he struggled in the field. He committed 23 errors in 2016, the second most behind Jonathon Villar’s 29 errors. The biggest worry with Suarez heading into 2017 was his inability to generate consistent contact. However, advanced stats show that he may be trending in a positive direction.
Advanced Stats – Past Four Years
Analysis Format: Sabermetric Stat (2016 League Average)
BB% – Walk Percentage (8.20%)
K%- Strikeout Percentage (21.1%):
Suarez has done a great job at improving his walk percentage. Similarly, his K% is down by an impressive amount as well. While these are some drastic changes, we can see that there is some underlying data that leads to promising projections. By examining his plate discipline stats, we can see the following trends:
O-swing % (Percentage of pitches swung outside strike zone):
Suarez has adjusted his plate mechanics to swing less at pitches outside the strike zone. He appears to being more patient and reading pitches more, waiting for an ideal pitch.
Swing% (Total % of pitches a batter swings at):
Again, this leads to increased patience for Suarez. He has reduced the total number of pitches he will swing at, instead waiting out pitches.
O-contact % (Percentage of times a batter makes contact with pitches outside strike zone):
Suarez has increased his ability to generate contact outside the strike zone immensely. This is a bit counter-intuitive to the two previous plate discipline stats. He has been swinging less overall while waiting for strike zone pitches, but he has been patient enough to choose when he wants to swing out outside zone pitches. Furthermore, he has been generating contact when choosing to do so.
Contact % (Total % of pitches a batter contacts, when swinging)
Overall, he has improved his plate discipline by approximately 5 percentage points. He may regress to his lifetime 77.5% contact %, but he has been making adjustments to his approach that lead me to believe he has improved his contact ability.
ISO – Isolated Power (.162):
Suarez has amazingly doubled his ISO swinging percentage, which is certainly not sustainable. However, an interesting trend is his batted ball contact power percentages, which leads me to believe that the increased power isn’t entirely unwarranted.
Suarez has trending up with his Hard% contact rates each year, while conversely lowering Med%. His Soft% stat has been varying a bit, but that may be the result of increased contact, with the extra hits generated going to Soft%. I believe that his power is real, as demonstrated by his 21 homers last year. The power wasn’t the concern with Suarez; rather, it was the average and contact ability. I don’t expect Suarez to generate 30+ home runs, but I do think he will definitely get 20+. With five homeruns through 18 games, I think that Suarez will fall in the range of 25-28 HR by the end of the year.
BABIP – Batting Average on Balls in Play (.300)
OBP – On Base Percentage (.322)
wOBA – Weighted On Base Average (.318):
Again, Suarez is far exceeding expectations on all three of these statistics. The good news is that he has always been at least around the league averages for all three stats, which leads me to believe this is his floor. His current BABIP/OBP/wOBA are propped up by his exceedingly impressive contact percentage thus far, as his season average is 0.295. Based on the changes in his plate approach, I believe that Suarez can still exceed the league averages for these three stats. It won’t be as remarkable as his April, but I believe that Suarez will keep his numbers above the league averages. I would look for him to settle at a 0.350 BABIP, 0.330 OBP, and 0.380 wOBA, if he can keep up his plate discipline. I think Suarez will exceed all three stat averages.
wRC+ – Weighted Runs Created Plus (97):
Well, this is certainly unsustainable. What I’m more concerned with is Suarez’s past wRC+, which typically hovers around the league average of 100. This means that, on average, Suarez should generate as many runs as a league average. His current wRC+ is propped up by the insane wOBA, which leads to me believe it’ll naturally regress towards his lifetime average. That being said, I am betting that Suarez has a wOBA better than the league average this year. With an estimated 0.400 wOBA, that would give Suarez around a 120 wRC+. While this is certainly lofty, I think that Suarez keeps both his contact rate and power percentages up throughout the year, enough to exceed the league average wRC+.
Suarez is classified as a 3B in most leagues, with ESPN giving him 3B/SS. However, he has started all his games at 3B in 2017, and started a total of 3 games at SS in 2016. Thus, I don’t think he will be obtaining the SS designation in other leagues anytime soon.
Due to this blistering pace, it’ll be tough to pry Suarez away from their current owner. However, what I can recommend is targeting him in a trade. Given his relatively league average success in the past, current owners may be wary of his impending cool down. I would take this apprehensiveness and try to target him in a trade, with the expectation of some regression to lifetime averages. However, I think this is the year that Suarez develops as a hitter and improves his contact rates across the board, while providing power at the 3B position.
You can follow Andrew on Twitter, @TFA_Andrew, if you like hearing about sports, fantasies, and fantasy sports.