Longtime Reds beat writer John Fay will break down nine key questions about the Reds. A story addressing each question will run each day between now and Opening Day.
Question 1: Can Eugenio Suarez fill the void at third base?
CINCINNATI — When the Reds traded away Todd Frazier, Eugenio Suarez was not the obvious choice to replace him.
Consider: a) Suarez had barely ever played third; b) at 5’ 11”, 207 pounds, Suarez hardly profiles as a third baseman; and c) the biggest question about Suarez in his first year with the Reds was his defense.
But with the club in a rebuilding mode and no one in the minor league system even remotely ready to take over at third, the Reds basically gave Suarez the job going into spring training.
So far, so good.
Worked Hard in Training
Suarez has only made one error in spring training, but, more importantly, he has really taken to new role enthusiastically. He’s religiously done early work with infield coach Freddie Benavides since there start of spring training.
“He’s bought in,” Benavides said. “He’s the one who tells me: 8 in the morning, we’re out there every day. I have to slow him down sometimes.”
Suarez, 24, probably will not be as good as Frazier was defensively. Frazier was Gold Glove caliber. Suarez showed flashes at shortstop last year, but he struggled at times with routine plays and sometimes his throws were shaky.
But if Suarez can hit enough, the Reds can live with a drop in defense.
Suarez, obtained in the Alfredo Simon trade from Detroit last offseason, did show he could hit last year. He hit .280 with the 19 doubles, 13 home runs and 48 RBI in 372 at-bats after taking over at shortstop for the injured Zack Cozart. Frazier hit .255 with 43 doubles, 35 homers and 89 RBI last year.
Suarez did have a higher on-base percentage than Frazier -- .315 to .309. Getting on base was not a strong suit for the Reds last year. Suarez could solve the problem in the No. 2 spot in the order.
Must Produce For Full Year
If Suarez can maintain what he did over the 97 games last year for the full year, he’d hit .280 with 31 doubles, 21 home runs and 80 RBI.
Suarez did hit 21 home runs between Louisville and the Reds last year. That was by far his high as a professional. He added about five pounds of muscle this offseason.
He’s still developing as a hitter. Where he ends up in the field long-term is hard to say. The Reds only control Cozart through 2017. The same is true with Brandon Phillips.
Suarez could end up at short or second. His time at third this year is something of an experiment, a way to get his bat in the lineup.
Again, so far, so good.
Suarez has had a terrific spring at the plate. He was hitting .357/.438/.571 going into the weekend.
Suarez was a bubble of enthusiasm from the time he arrived in camp. Why?
“I think I’m going to have a great year.” he said.