In the midst of a rebuild, the Cincinnati Reds have a budding fantasy star manning the hot corner.
With the departure of Todd Frazier, Eugenio Suarez took over the Reds vacancy at third base in 2016. He put up a respectable .248/.317/.411 slash line with 21 home runs and 11 steals. In fantasy terms, he did not have a bad year, but it was not enough to create major buzz. However, 2017 is a different story for Suarez.
Currently, he sports a .271/.380/.488 slash with 24 homers and only three steals. His counting stats signify a major step forward for the Reds third basemen, but how did he get there?
A Tale of Two Halves
Suarez took a step forward in the first half of 2017. He put up a slash of .254/.358/.437 with 12 home runs, but he has since taken another step forward in the second half. Currently, he’s putting up a slash line of .300/.413/.571 with 12 home runs in a 208 plate appearance sample size. A noticeable change in his swing has changed his batted ball profile, which has brought to the next level.
|Batted Ball Profile||GB%||LD%||FB%||HR/FB||Exit Velocity||wOBP on Fly Balls||Plate Appearances|
|1st half 2017|
|2nd half 2017|
As you can see, his success in the second half can be attributed to an increase in fly balls with a simultaneous decline in ground balls. The direct impact is shown through his wOBP, which has sky rocketed in the second half of 2017. His home run to fly ball ratio has crossed the border from good to elite as well. His exit velocity has reached a level of homeostasis since the swing change, but Suarez’ has been lifting balls at a higher launch angle in the second half of 2017.
To start the year, his average launch angle was at 10.8 degrees (far below his 2016 mark of 15.7 degrees), but since the All-Star break, Suarez launch angle has blossomed into a robust 19.8 degrees. Basically, Suarez was hitting too many ground balls in the first half, but since has honed his new swing and approach to get a more consistent loft. All the evidence points towards his continued growth in 2018, but how is he going to push into the upper tiers of fantasy third basemen? Well, he might have already done that.
|2017||Batting Average||On-Base %||Slugging %||Home Runs||Stolen Bases||ESPN ADP|
While their ADPs are bound to shift after 2017, owners who waited for Suarez found themselves with a player who’s producing at a similar clip as Alex Bregman for better value. Among qualified third baseman, Suarez is close to the top-tier in almost every counting statistic.
He’s 10th in home runs, 4th in runs scored, 10th in runs batted in, and 17th in stolen bases although if he stole 11 as he did in 2016 he would be 6th. Suarez also finds himself 6th in terms of wRC+ in 2017 (among qualified third basemen). His 127 wRC+ places him ahead of big names like Nolan Arrenado, Miguel Sano, and Jake Lamb among others.
The change in his swing and subsequent change in batted ball profile for Suarez in 2017 has pushed him into the fantasy baseball spotlight. Without an injury history, 2018 could be a huge year for the Red third basemen as should be able to replicate his second half statistics over a full season. You can bet he won’t be owned in just 74% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues like he is this season.