Suarez Already in Exclusive Company Among Reds Greats

As I predicted a few weeks ago, three Cincinnati Reds have earned trips to this year’s All-Star Game. Joey Votto is going for the sixth time, while Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez will make their first appearances on a National League roster at this year’s Midsummer Classic. Many thousands of words have been written about Votto and Scooter, and rightfully so. But I want to talk about Suarez for a moment, and here’s why: Eugenio Suarez is one of the best third basemen in the history of the Cincinnati Reds. And he’s still getting better.

Some of you are nodding your head right now. Some of you think I’m out of my mind. But is the statement above any crazier than that time I said It’s Garry Shandling’s Show is one of the top three television comedies of all time? I was right about that, too.

Hear me out. Last season, at age 25, Suarez posted 4.0 Wins Above Replacement. That is one of the top 25 individual seasons for a third baseman in Reds history. It was a very good season, but not quite enough to put him in elite territory. Yet.

This season, despite missing 16 games with an early-season injury, Suarez has already collected 3.2 fWAR. The ZiPS projection system (conservatively) predicts he’ll finish the season with 5.1 fWAR. Only five third basemen in the history of the Reds have produced a 5+ WAR season: Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Heinie Groh, Hans Lobert, and Chris Sabo.

Now we’re starting to get into some rarified air, at least in terms of this club’s history. But those numbers still don’t come close to giving the full picture of how incredible Suarez’s 2018 season has been to this point.

You probably already know that Suarez is leading the National League in RBI. (Again, the fact that he’s leading while having missed 16 games is just astounding to me, and a credit to the Vottos and Scooters who have been on base for Suarez to drive in.) He’s also second in the league in slugging percentage, third in on-base percentage, fifth in home runs, and sixth in batting average. The advanced metrics love what he’s doing, as well. He leads all hitters in the NL in both wOBA (.416) and wRC+ (162).

Needless to say, Suarez’s offensive production this season rivals any third baseman in franchise history. His current .590 slugging percentage is the best individual season SLG for any third baseman who has ever played for the Redlegs. His wRC+ is tied for the highest mark among 3Bs in club history, along with Perez’s brilliant 1970 campaign. Suarez’s current OBP of .405 is barely behind Rose’s .406 mark from 1975. His wOBA is second only to Perez’s .427 in 1970. Suarez’s current batting average (.315) would be the sixth-best season mark in franchise history.

Certainly, Suarez may not keep up this pace all season long, but we are 320+ plate appearances into the season. This isn’t a fluke. He’s really good!

Look at it this way: Presuming health—and that’s a big presumption for sure—by the end of 2019 it’s likely that Suarez will be fourth in career WAR among Reds’ third basemen, behind only Perez, Groh, and Sabo; it’s also possible that Suarez could surpass Sabo as soon as next year. Only Perez and Groh would then be better in Reds history—one of those guys is in the Hall of Fame, and both are in the Reds Hall of Fame (as is Sabo).

Eugenio Suarez: A Latter-Day Heinie Groh! Can we put that into a fancy hashtag?

Suarez is 26 years old, in the prime of his baseball-playing life, and putting up one of the best seasons of any third baseman in the entire history of baseball’s oldest franchise. And the best part? During the off-season, he signed a contract that will keep him on the Cincinnati hot corner through the 2025 season.

If you’re like me, you will really enjoy seeing the smile on Suarez’s face as he is introduced next week at Nationals Park as a member of the National League All-Star team. I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t be the last time Suarez—who was acquired in a memorable trade with Detroit in exchange for the bloated corpse of Alfredo Simon—plays in the All-Star Game.

Chad Dotson is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, and the founder of Redleg Nation. His first book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds, is available now in bookstores and online.

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