Not just HRs: Eugenio Suárez ‘far more’ than Mariners expected at 3B

Aug 28, 2022, 9:34 AM

Mariners Eugenio Suárez...

Mariners 3B Eugenio Suárez blows a bubble during a game against the Nationals on Aug. 23. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

In some ways, Eugenio Suárez has been exactly the player people thought he would be when the Mariners traded for him in spring training.

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He’s hit homers, leading Seattle with 24 this year, which comes as no surprise as his 153 homers since 2018 is the most in all of baseball over the past five seasons.

He’s also struck out, leading the majors with 170 this year, which again comes as no surprise as Suárez has more Ks than any other player since 2018 (739).

There’s one way that Suárez has been a different player than expected, however, and this is in a good way. His play defensively has been much better than advertised, and in fact it’s been downright great. His 5 defensive runs saved ranks fourth among all third baseman this season per Fangraphs, and is considerably better than the minus-3 DRS he had in 2021 with the Reds.

“Geno does a lot of things on the field, but his defense has been far more than we could have anticipated,” Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said Thursday on Seattle Sports, referring to Suárez by his nickname.

Why were expectations so low for Suárez’s defense coming into the season? Mainly because last year with the Reds, whose teams of the past few years shouldn’t be regarded for valuing defense all that much, Suárez began the season at shortstop, which is definitely not the best use of him in the field.

Though he ultimately played just 34 games at short in 2021, the fact that he had to prepare to be Cincinnati’s primary shortstop going into the year likely did him no favors when he was moved back to third after about a month into the campaign. Additionally, he was so out of his element at short that his numbers at the position served as a weight that held down his overall defensive statistics for the year.

“You know, Geno wasn’t a shortstop,” Dipoto said. “He may have been 10, 12 years ago in the minor leagues with the Tigers, but he’s played third base – and he’s played good third base – throughout his career. And I think the easy thing to do with a player who was entering his 30s who had a shaky year defensively transitioning to shortstop is to write him off as a good third baseman, but what we’ve seen is he’s just doing the things at third base that he’s always done.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been able to work with Mariners infield coach Perry Hill, who has a sterling reputation for helping infielders get the most out of their abilities.

“I know he came into spring training and very quickly, like so many of our infielders, embraced what Perry Hill does and how he does it, and as a result I think he took a step forward. His arm strength, the consistency of his hand and glove are real standouts.”

Dipoto is happy with the production Suárez has provided to the Mariners’ lineup, as well. He’s had a number of big hits throughout the season, owns a .228/.335/.446 slash line for a .780 OPS, and leads the team in RBIs (72) and doubles (22) in addition to homers. He also is second on Seattle’s leaderboard in walks (66) to only Jesse Winker (71).

“And I’ll say it, too – a smart baserunner,” Dipoto said. “He is a ‘three true outcomes‘ guy – he’ll punch out some, but he’s going to take his walks and he hits the ball out of the ballpark. He’s been a really key player for us throughout the year.”

You can hear the full edition of this week’s Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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Not just HRs: Eugenio Suárez ‘far more’ than Mariners expected at 3B