Player: Andrew Suarez
Drafted by: Washington Nationals
DOB: 9/11/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6'1", 205 pounds
Previously Drafted: 2011, Ninth round by Blue Jays
Usually when a pitcher gets drafted in the early rounds out of high school, the advice is to sign right away to get into professional baseball, learn the craft and get the best care possible if or when an injury occurs.
Andrew Suarez bucked that trend, as have many others, by forgoing an MLB career in 2011 when Toronto made him a ninth-round pick. He opted to attend college, hoping to improve his draft stock.
Things didn't start well for the Miami left-hander, as he missed most of his freshman year due to shoulder surgery, but the stuff returned in 2013, and now Suarez is going to be taken significantly higher than he was three years ago.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
Suarez is an undersized pitcher at 6'1", 205 pounds; combine that with the injury, teams are going to be concerned about his future potential; calm, quiet delivery stays very straight to the plate and gets deception with his body turn and high three-quarters arm slot; he gets too stiff and mechanical at times in the windup, but it rarely impacts his ability to throw strikes.
Suarez has added velocity to the fastball since he was drafted by the Blue Jays, regularly sitting 90-92 mph and touching a tick or two higher when he reaches back; pitch plays up thanks to his ability to hide the ball deep in his hand, as well as some arm-side run; good feel for the heater and throws it for strikes with ease.
The better of Suarez's two breaking balls, the slider has good velocity in the low 80s; often has good shape with some tilt but tends to break like a swooping curveball; good feel for the slider, and the arm angle helps it play better than the hook; is confident throwing the pitch in any situation and will use it as his out pitch.
Even though he throws a curveball, he would be better served either making it his fourth pitch or just ditching it altogether; has three other average or better pitches, plenty for a left-handed starter, and the curveball is so similar to the slider in its break but comes in about 5 mph slower that hitters will get their bat head out front to drive it; not a crisp offering, more of a show-me pitch.
Changeup is the biggest question mark when it comes to deciding his future role; pitch has good separation from the fastball (usually 82-85 mph), and the deception in the arm angle and delivery give it average projection; feel for it is underwhelming; often leaves it up in the zone and catches a lot of barrels; comes in like a straight, slower version of the fastball.
Even with the problems around the changeup and curveball, Suarez understands how to pitch off the fastball and mixes in a quality slider enough that he can get outs; has to keep the fastball down in the zone, which isn't easy, given his size and coming from the side with his arm, in order to reach his ceiling; struggles to spot the changeup in the zone.
The ability to throw the fastball for strikes is there, but locating everything within the zone is problematic; pitches get left over the fat part of the plate too often, which leads to high contact rates in college; deception helps everything play better than it is, but advanced hitters will not be fooled so easily.
MLB Player Comparison: C.J. Wilson
C.J. Wilson has carved out a long career for himself—first as a reliever, then as a starter—despite having fringe-average command, because of his ability to deceive hitters with a four-pitch mix.
Suarez has a similar frame as Wilson, mixes three quality pitches well and will attack hitters in the strike zone. He's not going to miss bats at the same rate as Wilson, which lowers his ceiling, but the body and stuff are similar.
Projection: No. 4 starter in first-division rotation
MLB ETA: 2016
Chances of Signing: 95 percent
Given Suarez's injury history, the fact that he has jumped up draft boards significantly in just two full years of college baseball speaks volumes about his work ethic. He has too much at stake this time around to forgo the allure of professional baseball.