The Detroit Tigers don’t have the deepest farm system in baseball — far from it, actually — but that doesn’t mean they’re completely devoid on interesting names. One of those interesting names is middle infielder Eugenio Suarez, who was ranked eighth in the system by Baseball Prospectus and ninth by Baseball America.
Suarez doesn’t have offense numbers that will jump off the page — he posted a .744 OPS across the Advanced-A and AA levels in 2013 and a .789 OPS at the A level in 2012 — but he’s been above average with the bat (a wRC+ above 100) at every step along the way since coming to the United States in 2010, despite always being a year or two younger than the average player at each level. Suarez’s numbers would be acceptable (though unspectacular) for an outfield prospect, but the fact that he’s posted those numbers while handling the shortstop position (mostly) increases his value as a prospect.
It’s probably more interesting than informative, but, statistically speaking, Suarez’s trip from West Michigan to Erie (2012-2013) was strikingly similar to that of Nick Castellanos (2011-2012). Each player spent a full season with the West Michigan Whitecaps before splitting the following year between Lakeland and Erie. Here are their respective numbers during that two-year stretch:
Age is a not-insignificant factor in play here — Suarez was 20 months older than Castellanos was at each level — but that might be offset in part by the fact that Suarez traded 120 Advanced-A plate appearances for 120 AA plate appearances.
I cherry picked which numbers I reported somewhat — Castellanos hit for a higher BABIP and therefore a higher average and a “better” slugging percentage — but Suarez walked more, struck out less, and ended up with nearly identical on-base percentages and isolated power numbers.
Suarez shouldn’t be projected to carry the same hitting potential that Castellanos does (as I said, this was more interesting than informative), but it’s certainly not discouraging that the franchise’s top middle infield prospect has very recently hit at a similar level to the top corner infield/outfield prospect (and not because the top guy failed at all).
Unlike Castellanos, Suarez still has to prove that he can maintain his above-average hitting trend as he advances in the upper minors. Fortunately for him the bar is lower for middle infielders than it is for corner infielders.
Eugenio may eventually end up at second base in the major leagues (especially if Jose Iglesias is pinning down the shortstop position in Detroit), but I don’t think the Tigers are in any hurry to move him down the defensive spectrum (especially with Hernan Perez and Devon Travis poised to take the majority of the second base playing time in the upper minors). Expect Suarez to begin the 2014 season as the starting shortstop for the AA Erie SeaWolves. It’s unlikely that we’ll see him in Detroit this season, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility altogether, especially if he puts up impressive numbers in his second year (first full year) in AA.