25 April 2012
20 year-old shortstop prospect and Venezuelan native Eugenio (I believe itâ€™s pronounced ay-oo-HEY-nee-oh) Suarez wasnâ€™t considered a top-tier prospect coming into the year by most, only finding himself ranked by those who dug deeper into the system, but he did end up with a #16 ranking by Motor City Bengals and a #39 spot by TigsTown($) (earning Paul Weznerâ€™s nod for breakout minor leaguer of the year).
But Suarez has acquitted himself well so far in his first year in a full-season league. Heâ€™s split the shortstop and second base duties with Brandon Loy (with Suarez getting the majority of the starts at shortstop), and is one of only two players that have played in all 19 Whitecaps games this season (Aaron Westlake being the other).
ÂThe reports on Suarez heading into the year were that he brings a relatively steady glove to one of the most difficult positions on the diamond, but his potential to also swing a big bat at the same time made him an interesting name to follow. And his bat hasnâ€™t disappointed in the early going. Through 19 games (85 plate appearances), Suarez has hit for a slash line of .338/.412/.486. Thatâ€™s good for a .898 OPS, which places him second on the team behind only Midwest League repeat, and fellow 20 year-old, Steven Moya (.928).
Of course, itâ€™s probably unreasonable to expect Suarez to continue at his .898 OPS pace for an extended period of time, a glance at his .426 BABIP tells us that heâ€™s probably benefitting from some good luck on balls in play, but all signs currently point to him continuing his above league-average production. Even if we adjusted his sky-high BABIP down to his previous minor league average of .339 (including his two seasons in the Venezuelan League), he would still be sporting a .357 OBP and a .407 slugging average. That â€˜adjustedâ€™ .766 OPS would still compare favorably to both his .780 career OPS mark and the approximate Midwest League average OPS of .702. Not too shabby for a player whoâ€™s still two years younger than the median age of the league.
The one concern I have for Suarez at the plate right now is his 21% strikeout rate. Thatâ€™s not alarmingly high for a player whoâ€™s also flashing pretty good power (two home runs and five doubles) and walk numbers (itâ€™s really only a touch above average which is close to 20% for the MWL), but it looks to be the only area in which heâ€™s not excelling right now.
West Michigan is obviously a long way from Detroit (in baseball terms that is, the two stadiums are only 160 miles apart), but itâ€™s always great so see players perform above expectations in a league thatâ€™s advanced for their age. Keep an eye out, because Suarez is in the process proving himself to be a key player to follow as he climbs the minor league ladder.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.