Cincinnati Reds 2015 Grades: Eugenio Suarez

By Sean Couch

I’m willing to bet there weren’t too many people predicting that Eugenio Suarez would have started more games this year as a shortstop than Zack Cozart, but that’s exactly what happened in Suarez’s debut season with the Cincinnati Reds.

Not much was expected from Suarez when he came over to the Reds from the Detroit Tigers as part of the Alfredo Simon trade. Suarez had hit just .242 with the Tigers in 2014, and wasn’t expected to challenge Cozart for the starting shortstop position.

But following a nice outing in spring training this year, some media members questioned whether the Reds were considering starting Suarez. Reds manager Bryan Price said that despite Suarez’s offense, he wasn’t considering a switch.

Price said of the shortstop situation, “I like Zack Cozart as our shortstop. I do. What we did with Eugenio is we went out and got the two best players (Suarez and Jonathon Crawford) we would be able to get in the Simon trade. We look at him as an outstanding defensive player, which is the primary concern with a shortstop, the defensive aspect of the position. And we felt that he had a lot of room to grow as an offensive player.”

It was only natural for some to wonder if Suarez could challenge Cozart as the everyday shortstop. After all, Cozart’s numbers in 2014 didn’t exactly conjure up comparisons to Barry Larkin. In 2014, Cozart hit just .221/.268/.300, but his sluggish offense was overlooked because of his great defensive skills. So although Suarez had a nice spring training, the Reds had no interest in starting him at shortstop, and instead sent him down to Triple-A Louisville.

But when Cozart unfortunately suffered a season ending injury to his knee while running to first base, Suarez was brought up and given the opportunity to be the everyday shortstop for the Reds. Suarez took full advantage of the opportunity, batting .280 for the year, with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs. He certainly wasn’t the defensively gifted shortstop that Cozart was, making 19 errors in 97 games (the most Cozart has ever made in an entire season is 14), but batting .280 as a shortstop certainly was impressive.

And while it’s more than likely the Reds will keep Cozart as their full time shortstop in 2016, Suarez’s offensive production is something the Reds will desperately need in their lineup moving forward. With left field now open, the Reds may consider moving Suarez to the outfield to keep him as an everyday player. He may not be the best defensive shortstop, but Suarez stepped up in a big way for the Reds this year, and will hopefully be somewhere in their lineup in 2016.

Grade: B+

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