Minor League Prospect Report: Eugenio Suarez, SS, Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers shortstop prospect Eugenio Suarez has quietly had an excellent season in the Low-A Midwest League, performing well both offensively and defensively for the West Michigan Whitecaps. He seems to have received little attention outside of Detroit fandom, so let's change that.
Suarez was signed by the Tigers out of Venezuela in 2008. He spent '09 and '10 in the Venezuelan Summer League, then moved up to North America in '11, hitting .341/.408/.636 in 12 games for the GCL Tigers, then .250/.323/.426 in 58 games for Connecticut in the New York-Penn League.
I had him rated as a sleeper prospect entering 2012, noting progress last year on both offense and defense from a guy who didn't get a big bonus. His performance this season for West Michigan has been quite good: .292/.387/.416, with 34 doubles, 65 walks, 21-for-29 in steals in 486 at-bats.
His strikeout rate is a bit high for a guy without big home run power, with 111 whiffs, but overall he's performed very well with the bat, particularly against left-handed pitching (.336/.419/.534). He ranks 13th in the Midwest League in OPS, ranking second in OPS among regular shortstops in the circuit.
Suarez is a 6-0, 180 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born July 18, 1991. He isn't a big guy and his physical tools aren't superior, but they aren't bad either. He has a good throwing arm and soft hands, and he shows some quickness at shortstop. He's dramatically improved his reliability this year, moving his fielding percentage from .927 in 2011 to .977 this year. The combination of fewer errors with his arm strength and at least average range gives him a good chance to stick at the position at higher levels.
His swing is level and he's not going to be a home run hitter, but he's shown some punch to the gaps, with enough zip in his bat that pitchers can't just overpower him. I'd like to see fewer strikeouts, but he's patient and works the count well, keeping his walk rate and OBP at solid levels. He turned 21 last month, so his age/competition level in Low-A has been appropriate.
I rated Suarez as a C+ sleeper entering 2012, and am strongly considering an upgrade to B- for 2013. Keep an eye on him.