Days after bringing in Shane Greene from Yankees as part of a three team deal, the Detroit Tigers acquired another starting pitcher, Alfredo Simon, from the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds brought in SS Eugenio Suarez and RHP Jonathon Crawford in exchange for one year of control of Simon. Though Suarez exhausted his rookie eligibility last season, he's still just 23 years old and requires a deeper look, as does the only prospect in the deal, Jonathon Crawford.
Photo courtesy of Doug Gray
The Tigers used their first round selection in the 2013 draft to select Jonathon Crawford 20th overall out of the University of Florida, signing him with a $2,001,700 bonus. The Tigers decided to send Crawford to short season Connecticut of the New York-Penn League after the draft, getting him in eight games but limiting his innings after a long college season. He only threw 19 innings with a 1.89 ERA, 2.46 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP with 21 strike outs (25.3%), nine walks (10.8%), and 15 hits allowed. In the short sample he had a .289 BABIP and 80% strand rate. He didn't show any platoon splits, and generated a 53.8% ground ball rate and 2.70 GO:AO ratio.
He made his full season debut in 2014 in his age 22 season, going to West Michigan in the Midwest League. Crawford made 23 starts, only missing his turn through the rotation once in early May, throwing a total of 123 innings with a 2.85 ERA, a 3.88 FIP, and 1.16 WHIP. He only struck out 85 (17.2%) with 50 walks (10.1%) and 93 hits allowed with a .260 BABIP and 75.3% strand rate. The 6'2, 190 pound right hander only surrendered three home runs and limited the opposition to a .220/.314/.280 line over 494 plate appearances without showing a noticeable platoon advantage either (vs LHB - .584 OPS, vs RHB - .599 OPS). Once again his batted ball profile shows serious ground ball tendencies, putting the ball on the ground 52.3% of the time (8.5% better than league avg) with a 1.36 GO:AO ratio.
On the bump, Crawford works with a three pitch mix, headlined by his low to mid 90's fastball with excellent sink that can scrape the high 90's in short bursts. His go-to breaking ball is a slider in the mid 80's that can be lethal, but he has issues with consistency and it can look like a cement mixer every once in awhile. A below-average change up that is rarely used rounds out the repertoire. The delivery has some short arm action to it, but he throws strikes for the most part despite occasionally failing to repeat his motion. Heading into his age 23 season, the Reds should send him out to Daytona in the Florida State League with a good shot at finishing the year in AA Pensacola. If Crawford maxes out his potential he can be a back end starter with a pair of plus pitches and fringy third offering. More than likely though, he's going to be a monster in the back end of the bullpen with the sinker/slider combo ticking up in shorter bursts.
2014 Low A stats
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Photo courtesy of Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports
Eugenio Suarez was signed back in 2008 as an international free agent out of Venezuela for an undisclosed amount by the Tigers. The right handed short stop spent three years in short season or rookie ball, making his full season debut in his age 20 season back in 2012. The following year was split between a bried stay in A+ Lakeland and AA Erie. At Lakeland, Suarez hit .311/.410/.437 in 25 games and 122 plate appearances with a 147 wRC+, a .394 wOBA, and an unsustainable .397 BABIP. After his stellar April, Detroit bumped him up to AA Erie for the remainder of the year, where he was three and a half years younger than league average. Through his final 496 PA's over 111 games, he put up a .253/.332/.387 line with 24 doubles, nine home runs, 46 walks (9.3%) to 98 strike outs (19.8%), and a 102 wRC+ with a .331 wOBA and .307 BABIP. In Erie his batted ball profile shows he was hitting line drives at a 20.5% clip along with fly ball and ground ball rates lower than Eastern League average. For the entire 2013 season, he knocked 30 doubles, 10 home runs, six triples, and he also stole 11 bases with a .264/.347/.396 line, 111 wRC+, a .344 wOBA, and .324 BABIP. Batting against southpaws across the entire year, Suarez hit .280/.351/.408 over 175 plate appearances with a .258/.346/.392 line against right handers in 443 PA's. He did end up making 36 errors at short, good for a .947 fielding percentage with the best range factor (RF) in the Eastern League for a starting short stop at 4.53.
The Tigers booked Suarez on a return trip to Erie after Spring Training in 2014. He spent 42 games with Detroit's AA affiliate, where he hit .284/.347/.503 over 170 plate appearances with 14 doubles, six home runs, seven stolen bases, and 15 walks (8.8%) to 38 punch outs (22.4%) for a 135 wRC+, a .377 wOBA, and .342 BABIP. In mid May he was promoted to AAA Toledo for a very brief 12 game stint where he went 13-43 for a .302/.404/.535 triple slash line. He got The Call to join Detroit in early June and stuck there to finish out the year where he made 277 trips to the dish, slashing .242/.316/.336 as a 22 year old with an 85 wRC+, an 82 OPS+, a .295 wOBA, a .316 BABIP, and was worth 0.7 fWAR. Suarez hit four homers with nine doubles, three steals, and 22 walks (7.9%) to 67 strike outs (24.2%). Despite the relatively low bar set offensively for short stops, most of Suarez's value came from his defense where he was league average according to UZR and worth -5 runs when looking at DRS. In the minors he committed nine errors in 234 chances for a .962 fielding percentage and a 4.12 RF. He made 10 more errors for Detroit giving him a .968 fielding percentage and 3.73 RF. For the entire 2014 season that adds up to 19 errors, a .965 fielding percentage and a 3.90 RF. Offensively he mauled lefties to a .313/.380/.556 line with eight of his 12 home runs and 15 walks to 33 strike outs while he struggled to a .234/.311/.333 line against right handers between AA, AAA, and the MLB. His batted ball profile shows a pretty extreme fly ball hitter with 21.7% of balls hit being line drives and just 29.6% being hit on the ground in the minors while hitting fly balls over 10% more often than league average MLB hitter in Detroit.
As was mentioned earlier, Suarez is a glove man first with the bat lagging a bit behind the leather. At the plate he's got a swing geared for line drives with a compact, flat swing path and a good ability to put the barrel on the ball. His gap-to-gap approach has led to a career .278 average in the minor leagues and he should be able to post batting averages in the .250-.260 range as a big leaguer. His power is a below average, as is his speed, and he also needs work on his plate discipline, taking too many pitches inside the zone at times. In the dirt he shows good feet with a quick release, good hands, and an excellent arm despite sub-par range. He can lose focus and muff the easiest plays then turn around and make a play that will have you picking your jaw up off the floor. At this point that's more from lack of maturity and experience than a fatal flaw in his profile. With his arm and hands, Suarez can man any spot on the infield, but profiles best as a near league average short stop offensively with solid D or a slightly above average second baseman. If the Reds decide Zack Cozart's black hole of a bat outweighs his defense, Suarez is a very capable replacement there or if Cincy can move Brandon Phillips and his contract from the keystone. Worst case scenario he's back in AAA waiting for an opening, which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for a player who was almost five years younger than the International League average last year.
Detroit didn't really have a use for Eugenio Suarez anymore with Jose Iglesias and his defensive witchcraft set to return to short stop in 2015 and Ian Kinsler entrenched at second base. Flipping him with Crawford, who looks to be a future reliever, for a starting pitcher on a one year deal works for what Detroit is doing right now as they are aiming for a shot at the World Series. Neither of the three players involved are super stars, but each can help his ball club in their own way. If I'm picking a winner for this trade though, I'll go with Cincinnati and the 11 years of team control on two players who can be pieces on the Reds next playoff team.