6'2/205, L/L, Junior, 21.74 on Draft Day
Suarez was a guy scouts saw a lot of in high school, from Hurricane pipeline Christopher Columbus HS in Miami (former Hurricane and current Cardinals OF Jon Jay is the biggest success). He was drafted out of high school by the Blue Jays in the 9th round as a lefty that mostly sat in the upper 80's, but would hit 91 or 92 on good days with a three-pitch mix that was average-ish across the board.
Suarez missed almost his entire freshman year with shoulder surgery and when I first saw him last season, I knew he was a name to follow, but I was underwhelmed. He sat 87-90 mph with a fringy curveball, slider and changeup and looked to me like a guy that would go in rounds 7-10 after his senior year (video). Other scouts confirmed he looked like this all of last season, but said his velo could still get better once he settled in after surgery: he had thrown harder in the past and had a clean arm/delivery.
Word started circulating this fall that Suarez (along with some other Hurricane pitchers) had a velo bump, sitting 90-93 and getting as high as 95 mph. I was told he sat 91-94 and hit 95 mph as the Sunday starter on opening weekend, so I made a trip down to Miami to see him match up with a deep Florida club.
Fastball: 60/60, Slider/Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50
The most impressive thing about Suarez's plus fastball was that, roughly a year off of shoulder surgery, he held his 91-94 mph velocity into the 7th inning, peppering in 95's throughout the game. His heater had solid average life, mostly sink to his arm side but also occasional cut to his glove side. Suarez gave up 11 hits and 6 runs (4 earned) with most of the damage coming in the first two innings, when he was falling behind in counts and elevating his fastball. The Gators lineup has struggled this year, but they're good enough to hit consistently up-in-the-zone fastballs.
After Suarez settled down, he was cruising. He threw both a slider (82-84 mph) and curveball (79-82 mph) that were both above average at times and had similar 11-to-5 tilt. The pitches were consistently at least average but started to run together. Like in most situations like this, the harder of two similar breaking balls is a little better, so Suarez is probably better off making the curveball a little slower and his fourth pitch.
Suarez didn't rely on his 82-86 mph changeup much until the later innings, mainly because it was even easier to hit in the early going than a flat fastball. When he kept the pitch down, it was solid-average and may be an above average pitch in time with more sink than run.
I like Suarez's simple, online delivery. He hides the ball behind his body well and gets to a high 3/4 slot without tilting his torso so much that it impacts his feel. His front side could be a little firmer and Suarez locks his knee more often than I'd like to see, but it generally has been working for him this year (17 IP, 4 BB, 20 K) and I think average command is a reasonable expectations going forward.
Having shoulder surgery in the recent past is a little scary for clubs, but Suarez has all the elements to be a 3rd/4th starter. I made the argument that FAU lefty Austin Gomber (scouting report) has to have a little time to work out his command and consistency give his size, age and new velocity. Only one of those things relates to Suarez, but he's made 3 starts and has been pretty successful, so it could still get a little better--speaking specifically about his changeup and command--in the coming months.
Scouts are convinced Gomber won't get out of the third round and he's still got plenty of stuff to work on and no projected plus pitch. Suarez has a consistent now plus fastball along with at least three years of track record with south Florida scouts, so he's got to be comfortably in the 2nd round right now. I'll put a 2nd round grade on Suarez, but will be interested to see him in a few weeks versus another strong lineup (North Carolina State) and to hear what clubs think about his shoulder surgery come time for draft medical evaluations.
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