Dynasty owners are always looking for the next best thing. The player that fell through the cracks or has emerged out of nowhere that they can scoop up before the rest of their league gets wise. I am here to discuss with you one of those players. Meet Jose Suarez, a 20-year-old southpaw for the Los Angeles Angels.
Suarez came into 2018 ticketed for High-A with a major league ETA of 2020, after spending last season split between Rookie Ball and Low-A. He has not garnered a lot of recognition on prospects lists (#11 according to MLB) or hype due to the fact that he does not meet the prototypical standards that scouts looks for in a pitcher. For instance, Suarez is just 5’10’’ and lacks a dominating fastball which sits in the 89-93 range. However, what the lefty lacks in velocity he makes up for in pinpoint control and sound, repeatable mechanics. In 2017 Suarez showed the ability to rack up strikeouts due to his phenomenal change-up and ability to keep hitters off-balance. Most scouts assumed that his strikeouts would decline when promoted to the higher levels in the minor leagues, pegging him as a soft throwing ground ball lefty who pitches to contact. That has not been the case in 2018.
The “crafty” southpaw dominated High-A to begin the year, striking out 18 batters in just nine innings. Suarez forced opposing hitters into a 64.3% ground ball rate and he was quickly promoted to Double-A Mobile, as he clearly had nothing to learn from the low-minors. This is where scouts thought the wheels would come off and Suarez would get exposed.
Suarez continued what he started for the Class A Advanced Midland Inland Empire, overwhelming the competition. Through seven starts and 29 2⁄3 innings, the young lefty holds a 15.47 K/9 with a 3.03 ERA and a 0.86 FIP. Yes, zero-point-eight-six. If you can believe it, Suarez has actually pitched even better than his numbers indicate as the lefty has yet to allow a home run while being victimized by a .500 BABIP. The impressive performance at Double-A formed such a strong impression on the Angels from office that they decided to promote Suarez yet again to Triple-A on Tuesday. So much for his “2020 ETA” to reach the majors.
Before the promotion, Suarez led all of the minor leagues with 69 strikeouts over 38 2⁄3 innings, which is 42% of opposing batters and good for a 15.8 K/9. His mechanics are free and loose while he holds the poise and confidence of a veteran on the mound. Mobile manager Lou Marson has even touted Suarez’s ability to hold runners and control the running game, which is not typical of a young pitcher. The one knock on Suarez coming into this season was his questionable curveball, but the lefty has all but completely erased the skepticism in 2018, with many scouts now calling his hook a “plus-pitch” to go with his already major league ready change-up. The 20-year-old’s fastball velocity has also jumped to 94 mph, which has made his already plus change-up even more effective.
Suarez has clearly caught the attention of Angels general manger Billy Eppler, who has praised the young lefty’s “advanced” control and feel for pitching. He should also garner the attention of fantasy owners in dynasty leagues. Suarez is on the fast track to the major leagues and has the confidence of the front office behind him. Keep in mind that the 20-year-old Venezuelan has yet to toss over 75 innings in his young career, so expectations for 2018 should be kept in check. Suarez will likely spend most of the season with the Triple-A Bees, but if a need were to pop up in the Angels rotation or bullpen (like there is right now), the young lefty could force his way up if he continues to dominate minor league hitters. Fantasy owners should be prepared for Suarez to be a legitimate option sooner rather than later.