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Tigers report card: Eugenio Suarez filled a void

Although he didn't come up to the big leagues till the beginning of June, Eugenio Suarez put together a solid rookie campaign.

Duane Burleson

When Jose Iglesias went down in Spring Training, the most intriguing name of possible replacements was prospect Eugenio Suarez. Suarez, who at the time was only 22 years old, was considered a long shot since he had never played a game above Double-A, but that did not stop the organization from giving him a look in March. After hitting only .212 in a mere 33 Spring Training at bats, Suarez was sent back to Erie where he would begin the season with the SeaWolves.

Suarez played 42 games at Erie before getting called up to Triple A Toledo. There, he got off to a hot start hitting .302/.404/.535 with 2 home runs in 12 games. Apparently two weeks in Triple A was enough for the kid, as he was called up on June 4, and immediately anointed the starting shortstop for the Detroit Tigers.

AA 170 6 29 .284 .347 .503 .377 135 8.8% 22.4% - - -
AAA 52 2 7 .302 .404 .535 .416 159 11.5% 17.3% - - -
MLB 277 4 23 .242 .316 .336 .295 85 7.9% 24.2% -0.1 -5 0.7

The Venezuelan born Suarez impressed right out of the gate by knocking 3 home runs in his first 8 games. In the month of June he slashed a line of .279/.364/.489, and was good for a .374 wOBA and 140 wRC+.

However, as the season went on, big league pitchers made adjustments against Suarez. In July, Eugenio's walk percentage dropped from 11.3 percent to 6.9 percent, while his wOBA dropped to .265. As pitchers adjusted to his hitting zone, Suarez stopped driving the ball all around the field and started hitting more lazy flay balls to right. As his ability to hit line drives to the opposite field went, so did his offensive production. After getting the bulk of the playing time since his call up, Suarez was relegated to the bench for almost the entire months of September and October in exchange for the defensive savvy Andrew Romine.

Overall, Eugenio Suarez finished the year with a line of .242/.316/.336, 4 home runs, 23 RBI, 22 BB, a .316 BABIP, a .295 wOBA, and 85 wRC+ in 277 plate appearances. While much of the power numbers (or lack of) are due to his hot start, Suarez had a respectable rookie season at the plate. The Tigers were desperate for production out of the shortstop spot, and Suarez gave them more than any other option.

On defense he was worth -5 DRS and -0.1 UZR in 622 1/3 innings at shortstop. Suarez, who projects more as a utility player in the future, made a few blatant errors right after his call up, but settled in as the season went on. Sadly, as the season came to a close, he reverted back to his old ways of making erratic throws to first base. With the season winding down and the pennant race tightening up, that was not going to fly considering a one legged Miguel Cabrera was on the receiving end of those throws.

Grade: B-

Eugenio Suarez was added to the 40 man roster following the 2013 season, but was generally an after thought for a 2014 roster spot with the Tigers expecting to have Jose Iglesias at shortstop. When Iglesias was diagnosed with stress fractures in both of his legs, the Tigers were forced into adjusting their roster on the fly. They started by trading Jose Alvarez to the Angels for Andrew Romine, and then traded Steve Lombardozzi to the Orioles for the aging Alex Gonzalez. Neither produced at the level the Tigers expected, so they decided to bite the bullet and rush Suarez to the majors.

For a guy that should have spent the bulk of the season in Triple A Toledo, Eugenio Suarez was a solid fill in at shortstop. He had no real expectations other than to make routine plays in the field and not be a black hole in the lineup. All and all, he lived up to that. Among the forty-five major league shortstops with 200+ plate appearances, Suarez was twenty-ninth in Wins Above Replacement with 0.7. That's worth noting because Stephen Drew, a free agent that many fans were clamoring for, was dead last with -1.1 WAR. Drew also "earned" about $9.5 million more than Suarez did in 2014.

Quality major league shortstops are hard to come by. While Suarez was nothing special in 2014, he filled a void for the Detroit Tigers. In the end, he was worth more WAR than Andrew Romine, but a combination of Romine's slick defense and Suarez's offensive regression lost him the starting job down the stretch. It's tough to predict what role Suarez will have with the big club in 2015, but he could almost certainly use more seasoning in the minors. However, Eugenio Suarez came up in 2014 and did his job admirably.