Suarez has big shoes to fill in move to 3B

With Frazier traded to White Sox, former shortstop could be up for challenge

January 11th, 2016

CINCINNATI -- There's no doubt that Todd Frazier left his mark at third base during his tenure with the Reds. Besides being a popular and personable player, he even more importantly developed into an All-Star because of his work on both sides of the game.

With Frazier traded to the White Sox last month, it appears that the Reds will open camp with Eugenio Suarez as their third baseman. It's a move filled with uncertainty because Suarez has primarily been a shortstop in the Major Leagues.

Hot Stove Tracker

On the plus side, the 24-year-old Suarez will get to remain in the lineup this season with Zack Cozart returning to shortstop after an injury derailed his 2015. After Cozart suffered a season-ending right knee injury on June 10, Suarez was called up from Triple-A Louisville and was one of the nice surprises from an otherwise tough year for the Reds.

Back in September, with the anticipation of Cozart's return in 2016, Suarez was open to a new spot.

"If they need me at another position, I would try to play there," Suarez said. "For me, the important thing is to play in the big leagues."

At the plate, Suarez batted .280/.315/.446 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs over only 97 games for Cincinnati. He had eight more homers over his 57 games for Louisville. When the Reds acquired Suarez in December 2014 in the trade that sent pitcher Alfredo Simon to the Tigers, they were not anticipating this level of offense and power.

It could be difficult for Suarez to match the production of Frazier. Sure, Frazier faded sharply in the second half, but he still slugged a career-high 35 homers last season. On the other hand, only four regular National League third basemen hit more than 17 homers in 2015, so Suarez would at least be representing satisfactorily if he could produce 20 homers over a full season.

Suarez struck out 94 times in 398 plate appearances, or once in every 4.2 plate appearances. Frazier had 137 strikeouts in 678 plate appearances, or once in every 4.9 times at the plate. Frazier was valued at 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, while Suarez was at 0.8. Suarez did have a .341 batting average on balls in play, while Frazier had a BABIP of .271.

Except for three games at third base, Suarez has never played a position besides shortstop in the Major Leagues. He's logged 48 Minor League games at third base but no significant time since 2009, his first year as a pro player in the Tigers' system.

Suarez made some dazzling defensive plays at shortstop last season, but he was also error prone with 19 errors. He was tied for fourth most among Major League shortstops with at least 800 innings played. In advanced metrics according to Fangraphs, his minus-12.9 Ultimate Zone Rating and minus-12 Defensive Runs Saved were ranked 27th out of 27 shortstops with at least 800 innings.

During his brief time with the Reds, Suarez has shown a dedication to working on his craft, improving and listening to veteran teammates. There certainly will be a learning curve at third base, but he could be up for the challenge.

Pending other moves between now and camp opening next month, the Reds don't have a lot of other options at third base. Left-field candidate Adam Duvall played 417 games at third base in the Minors but just once in his brief big league career. Ivan De Jesus Jr. is a utility option that has played competently at third base in the big leagues as well.

Further down the road, prospect Eric Jagielo -- one of the acquisitions from the Yankees in last month's trade for closer Aroldis Chapman and the Reds' No. 9 prospect according to -- could be a future option. Jagielo, a left-handed hitter who projects to some as a future first baseman, is likely to begin 2016 in either Double- or Triple-A.