After climbing ladder in organization, Suero was solid as rookie

As our offseason coverage kicks into high gear, we’re going to review each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Wander Suero, who made his major league debut this year.

PLAYER REVIEW: WANDER SUERO

Age on opening day 2019: 27

How acquired: Signed as international free agent, February 2010

MLB service time: 121 days

2018 salary: $545,000

Contract status: Under club control in 2019, arbitration-eligible in 2022, free agent in 2025

2018 stats: 4-1, 3.59 ERA, 40 G, 0 SV, 47 2/3 IP, 43 H, 20 R, 19 ER, 4 HR, 15 BB, 47 SO, 4 HBP, 1.217 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR, 0.8 bWAR

Quotable: “We felt that Suero has earned the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. He’s shown us flashes of brilliance up here. We think he’s a guy for us in the long term for the future.” - Mike Rizzo

2018 analysis: The Nationals had been watching Suero for years and long expected him to reach the big leagues as a reliever. The time finally came this season, over several stretches when the right-hander shuttled back and forth between D.C. and Triple-A Syracuse.

Suero-in-Rain-Red-sidebar.jpgSuero made his debut on May 1, and it wasn’t until his sixth appearance before he finally surrendered his first run. He saw most of his action in lower-leverage situations for a while, but the transformation of the Nationals bullpen late in the summer along with his own emergence opened the door for late-inning opportunities down the stretch.

Suero was at his best in September, though the numbers (3.48 ERA, 1.452 WHIP) don’t necessary show that at first glance. Throw out one disastrous game against the Mets in which he allowed four runs on six hits and took his only loss of the season, and Suero’s September numbers would have been a 0.00 ERA and 0.889 WHIP.

2019 outlook: The Nationals saw enough of Suero this season to want him to figure into the mix somehow next season, but he still has plenty to prove and likely will have to leapfrog some other arms to make it into the opening day bullpen.

Suero relies mostly on his sharp-bending cutter, throwing that pitch 75 percent of the time, sprinkling in curveballs 15 percent of the time and rarely using his fastball or changeup. That cutter, though, can be refined and perfected. Though it produced 33 of his 47 strikeouts, opponents did hit .250 with a .708 OPS against that pitch. They also hit .280 off his curveball.

Perhaps Suero would benefit from developing more confidence in his changeup, because that actually was his most effective pitch this season. Though he threw it only 35 times, opponents went 1-for-11 against it, making it a potentially dangerous weapon, especially against lefties.

Suero seems to have the ability to develop into a late-inning reliever in the big leagues, but with Sean Doolittle, Trevor Rosenthal, Kyle Barraclough and Koda Glover ahead of him on the depth chart, his role heading into 2019 might well be as a middle man, one who can pitch multiple innings.

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