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Cincinnati Reds

Eugenio Suarez’s improbable MVP candidacy

Jacob Rude

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Three weeks ago, this article seemed too far-fetched. The sample size wasn’t big enough. The stats could still be written off and most would say it was a stretch.

Two weeks ago, it still felt like a reach. Sure, the stats were there, but other players had similar hot starts.

One week ago, it became increasingly clear – this was no longer simply a hot start.

This week, with the All-Star game and de facto midway point of the season nearly upon us, it’s time to acknowledge Eugenio Suarez for what he is – an MVP candidate.

Despite missing nearly three weeks due to injury, Suarez is sixth in the National League in WAR at 3.2. If you gave him the 15 games he missed at the current rate he’s playing at, he’d be tied with Colorado’s Nolan Arenado with a 3.8 WAR.

Despite having fewer plate appearances than all but one player in the top eight, Suarez’s 69 RBIs lead the NL. At 334 plate appearances, only Jesus Aguilar, who is in second, has fewer than Suarez at 296.

Suarez trails only Aguilar in wRC+ at 159 and has consistently hovered around the top five in the league for the near entirety of the season, excluding his brief stint on the DL.

Suarez represents what the Reds have gotten right in the rebuild and the reason for optimism moving forward. Acquired in return for an aging Alfredo Simon, Suarez stumbled through a learning curve with a position change during the Reds’ down years, but has shined bright this season, a year in which the Reds finally seem to be turning the corner.

Now, locked up long-term, the Reds’ $66 million extension is already looking more and more like a bargain.

Suarez’s evolution as a hitter has culminated in his finest season yet in 2018. As a rookie with the Tigers, Suarez struck out 67 times to just 22 walks in 85 games.

Since that 2014 season, his walk rates have steadily increased, his strikeout rates have steadily decreased and his ISO has improved at a rapid rate.

The 26-year old isn’t necessarily swinging less. His 25.6 percent swinging percentage at pitches outside of the zone is actually more than last season, but still good enough for the 17th-lowest percentage in the NL. His contact percentage on those pitches, though, stands at 60.8 percent, over two full percentage points higher than last season.

His 39 walks in 76 games have him on pace for the second-most in his career only to last season’s 84. It’s already the third-most he’s had in his short five-year career. The 64 strikeouts in the first half of the season, though, are a career low pace.

As it stands, Suarez sports a 19.2 percent strikeout percentage, more than three percent lower than last season, which stands as the best of his career so far. It it hasn’t come at the sacrifice of power. In fact, Suarez is mashing the ball at a career-high rate.

He’s swinging at a career-high percentage of balls in the strike zone, 71.6 percent, and connecting with a career-high amount of those pitches, 88.2 percent. Both those percentages rank him in the top 25 in the NL.

The staggering numbers, though, come in his power numbers. Through 285 plate appearances, Suarez his holding a 51.6 percent hard-hit percentage, highest in the NL. His 8.9 percent soft-hit percentage is second in the league to only Joey Votto.

Suarez’s average exit velocity of 91.9 miles per hour is fourth in the NL. His 109 hits of over 95 miles per hour are fourth. That’s over a five mile per hour jump in average exit velocity over last season. His 9.8 percent barrel percental is a nearly three percent jump in last year.

And for the non-analytic types, his counting stats are pretty good, too. He ranks sixth in homers, fourth in on-base percentage (fun fact: the Reds have three of the top five in OBP in Votto, Suarez and Winker), and third in OPS.

Reds fans are very familiar with the “good player on a bad team” argument that will inevitably come up should Suarez continue his torrid form. As it stands, Nolan Arenado, Lorenzo Cain and Freddie Freeman stand to be the biggest challengers of position players with Suarez and all three are apart of teams that figure to be in the playoff hunt come September. Max Scherzer will likely toss his hat into the mix as well.

This season will be different, yet the same, for Reds fans. We’ve become accustomed to seeing incredible individual seasons end without an MVP award, no matter how worthy the Redleg may be.

Unlike years past, it likely won’t be Votto that fans watch end up on the short-end of award voting, and it may signal a passing of the torch.

But considering how unlikely this all felt days, weeks, even years ago, seeing Suarez amongst the best in the NL is a great sign for the future. And it’s a spot he’s worthy of.

Jacob is a journalist and lifelong sports fan across the board. From soccer to basketball to baseball, he enjoys watching his favorite team’s break his heart. After finishing up at Indiana University and majoring in journalism, Jacob is now a sports editor during the day and an online journalist at night.

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Cincinnati Reds

Reds Rule 5 Players and Predictions

We are coming up on the deadline for MLB teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Here are some players the Reds need to make some tough decisions on.

Clay Snowden

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MLB teams have until November 20th to make their decision on the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. They must decide to “protect” (add to the 40 man roster) to avoid another team selecting a player in the draft. I want to go over the list and make predictions on if the player will be protected or not.

Riley O’Brien RHP

O’Brien was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Cody Reed trade. A late bloomer of sorts, the 6’4” righty has a nice fastball. Being 25, he’s ready to battle for a spot in the pen right now. There isn’t great bullpen depth on the 40 man roster right now, so I can see O’Brien replacing a spot that players such as Romano/Alaniz/De Leon held in 2020. Prediction: Protected

Vladimir Gutierrez RHP

The former top 10 organizational prospect has been trending in the wrong direction. The beginning of 2019 was tough in AAA for Vlad but he finished the year strong. A suspension plus the lack of a 2020 minor league season makes it difficult to see how he is doing. However, he has enough raw talent to keep him on the roster. Prediction: Protected

Jacob Heatherly LHP

Checking in at #18 on the Reds prospect list, Heatherly is the only lefty on the list. We know the Reds will likely bring in lefty competition for the LHP bullpen spot next to Amir. Coming off an injury, I would bet he would not get drafted. Prediction: Not Protected

Alfredo Rodriguez SS

It feels like Alfredo has been in the Reds system forever. A 2016 pricey Cuban SS, Rodriguez was brought in due to his glove in hopes that the bat would come around. Long story short, it hasn’t. He’s now 26 and a change of scenery might be the best for him. I doubt he will get picked, though. Prediction: Not Protected

TJ Friedl OF

Friedl was exposed last year in the draft and not selected. He is a plus fielder and runner, but most other parts of his game are underwhelming. Prediction: Not Protected

Joel Kuhnel RHP

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what Kuhnel is. He has a fastball that is VERY good. I have always liked Kuhnel and wanted to see him get a longer look. There were plenty of opportunities for him to get a shot and more often than not he was overlooked. This one is hard for me, but I think him not getting more chances shows what the Reds think of him. Prediction: Not Protected

Mariel Bautista OF

Bautista has been with the Reds since 2014. I really do not think he is anything too special in terms of a prospect. He also doesn’t do any one thing so well that a team would select him off of that one skill. Prediction: Not Protected

Jared Solomon RHP

To be honest, I do not know much about Solomon. So I reached out to someone much smarter than me, our #RedsTwitter friend @RedsFan_Brandon . He predicted him to be protected. Boddy has been high on him and his fastball has improved. So I will stick with that. Prediction: Protected

None of these players are top 15 Reds prospects by most list. So losing any of them shouldn’t be the end of the world. Last year the Reds selected Mark Payton. Conor Joe was selected the year before.

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Cincinnati Reds

Non-Tender Candidates

Should the Reds look to be active in the free agent market they’re most likely going to have to cut payroll, first. Let’s start with some player who could get non-tendered before the December 2nd deadline.

Jeff

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This offseason…stop me if you’ve heard this…is going to be weird. Budgets will be unpredictable, although most believe spending will be at a minimum, and the Reds already have a lot of contracts that are set. Further additions and movement in the free agent market most likely will be preceded by some surprise cuts.

Based on the players leaving and the estimated totals of arbitration contracts, spotrac.com has the Reds at just over $126 million in payroll for 2021. They totaled out at a smidge over $144 million last year (if the season was to be as normal) with all of the transactions considered. The Reds could try to get back to that number, but the most likely scenario is that they hover around the $125-$130 million mark.

With the idea of making one or two moves to improve one of the worst lineups in baseball, let’s look at three candidates for being non-tendered. 

(Just an FYI, only non-tender candidates are capable of being cut and their salary taken off the books. All other MLB contracts are guaranteed.)

Brian Goodwin

As a fan, this one would hurt. He was a guy I watched with the Angels thinking if he were given everyday playing time, he would flourish. If I’m being objectively honest (and if I want the Reds to run similarly to the Rays) non-tendering him would make sense. He’s an athletically gifted outfielder who has a little bit of pop in his bat. In fact, he’s pretty much Phillip Ervin. The problem is, he figures to be a rotational outfield player, assuming everyone is healthy.

According to Spotrac, he will make around $3.2 million next year, or possibly the sixth highest dollar amount of Reds position players. That’s more than Jesse Winker’s possible $2.7 million and I think we can all agree that Jesse needs to be in the everyday lineup. Ik now he just got here from LA, but the dude was bit by whatever bug bit the Reds bats and slashed .163/.236/.327 in 20 games as a Red. Small sample size, sure, but am I counting on him to be light years better than that in what may not figure to be much more playing time? No.

Archie Bradley

This one I am less sure of being a good idea, but I am rolling with this whole “be more like Tampa” idea. The Rays, per Spotrac, aren’t estimated to give ANY of their relievers more than $2.5 million next year. The Reds are slated to give three relievers over $4 million.

I am not advocating a non-tender for Michael Lorenzen because of his versatility and potential for being the fifth starter in 2021. Barring a trade, the Reds are paying $9.125 million to Raisel Iglesias to get the last out of a game. They’re really going to pay Archie Bradley, who it felt as though David Bell didn’t trust as much as Nate Jones at times, $5 million to be a setup man? 

Robert Stephenson

Okay, this one really isn’t that surprising. It is time. We once regarded him as the Reds top prospect. We once regarded him as a future ace. We once proclaimed he reborn as a shutdown reliever. We now have no clue what to expect from him and it just does not make sense to continue to trot him out there expecting the complete career turnaround that we’ve all been hoping for since the “rebuild” began.

It won’t really save the Reds a ton of money, but freeing up BobSteve’s roster spot will open up an opportunity for one of the up-and-coming prospects or another Derek Johnson reclamation project. Frankly, I’d rather see any of those than BobSteve coming out of the Reds bullpen in 2021.

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Cincinnati Reds

Mailbag: Senzel, Winker, Votto, and More

Time for an offseason mailbag to get your focus on what the Reds need to do th be better for 2021

Clay Snowden

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It’s been a while and we have all had a chance to process that Reds playoff performance. Yuck. However, it is time for offseason talk. Let’s get into the mailbag.

 

What are the Reds going to do at catcher? The Reds and pitchers seem to like Casali and Barnhart behind plate..

The Reds once again went with the duo of Casali and Tucker behind the plate in 2020. The results were underwhelming, but not miserable. Tucker is a finalist for a gold glove while hitting .204/.291/.388 and an OPS+ of 77. Casali hit .224/.366/.500 with an OPS+ of 126. However, we all want to see the exciting prospect, Tyler Stephenson, take his reign of the position. I expect exactly that next season. Having a veteran backing him up is important so I’d imagine Tucker plays that role as he is under contract while Casali will enter arbitration.

In terms of how the pitchers like Casali and Tucker, I think that just comes with time. I am sure once the pitchers get to work with Stephenson more, they will learn to pitch well to him.

 

If there is a DH in 2021, shouldn’t #19 fill that role and let Da Wink and (place RH bat here) platoon at 1st?

The only thing the Reds have now is time (between now, and next season). So, what is their excuse for not putting Senzel at 2B, and give him regular ABs? (This makes Votto the DH, and Moose 1B)

What’s the odds of moving Senzel to 2nd, Moose to 1st and Votto to DH.

Well this is my intake everybody has one with the Outfield I guess we’re not going to have a DH going forward so Jesse Winker needs to be traded along with Nick Senzel I definitely keep Shogo, and hopefully we can keep Castellanos and let’s go try to get a productive outfielder

 

I want to clump all these together because it’s pretty much all the same gist.  So, let’s breakdown what it could look like with and then without the DH.

WITH: Votto to DH, Moose to first, Senzel STAYS in center, second is open to add speed/OBP.

Explanation: Votto’s defense is terrible. His contract isn’t going anywhere, so put him at DH. He still has something left with the bat. When Moose signed he wasn’t signing on to play second for the duration of that contract. No way. Move him to first and the defense at first likely improves. Keep Senzel in Center. Injuries and swing changes have stunted the development of Senzel enough. Asking him to change back to second after 2 years of focusing on becoming a CF just feels like something they will not do. He hasn’t done any work (that we know of ) at second since he moved to CF.

Now for 2B. Bringing back the same team that barely sneaked into an expanded playoff (while maybe losing Bauer) seems like a bad idea. Changes have to be made. The Reds added plenty of HR power last offseason, now add a 2B that might be a better OBP guy. Speed and better baserunning would be welcomed as well. In theory, this could increase the defensive ability at second as well.

WITHOUT: Votto at first (with plenty of days off), Moose at 2B, Senzel in CF, Winker traded.

Explanation: Votto really doesn’t have anywhere else to go besides the bench. There is not an option at this point, when they play him he will be at first. Which leaves Moose at second. Again, not a thrilling defensive side of the infield, but Moose held his own at second but as he gets older his range will continue to drop. Senzel in CF for the same reason’s I listed above. Winker is traded. In this scenario, I am still looking to shake up the team from 2020. ( I am also assuming Castellanos is returning) An OF with Winker and Castellanos fielding would be far less than ideal. I really like Winker, but Shogo could be ready for a bigger role. Winker has trade value and could strengthen the team in other areas by moving him. If the Reds make a big trade like many fans are hoping for, they will have to move MLB talent. They do not have enough top-end prospects to trade. If they do move the top prospects, they will deplete their farm system because it lacks depth. Remember, to acquire top-end talent you have to trade high value. Prospects out of the top 5 usually aren’t considered too high by many other organizations. 

 

Goldstar or Skyline and Cut or Twirl

I have never even had Goldstar. No need to. Skyline fills my needs. Twirl

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