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Rays 2017 Season Preview: Jesus Sucre

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MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On February 8th the Tampa Bay Rays acquired another player from the Seattle Mariners. They traded a player to be named later or cash considerations for catcher Jesus Sucre.

Jesus Sucre is a super two eligible player who was designated for assignment on February 1 after agreeing to a $630,000 deal with the Mariners. In just under three years of major league service time over four seasons he played in 90 games (for 678.1 innings) with the Mariners, so he remains a bit of an unknown.

A broken fibula suffered in the Venezuela Winter League the previous season forced Sucre to miss about half of 2016.

Jesus Sucre is competing for one of the two catching jobs until Wilson Ramos is ready to spend time behind the plate.

Defense First

Ever since signing Jose Molina as a free agent the Rays have been focused on catcher defense, especially pitch framing. Sucre fits that mold. Indeed, Chris Archer has compared him to Jose Molina behind the plate.

In his 678.1 innings he has put up +4 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved can be found at Fangraphs.com) and +7.6 FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average via Baseball Prospectus).

FRAA breaks down his defensive contributions to +5.6 framing runs, +1.4 blocking runs, and +0.6 throwing runs.

He has been above average in the traditional catching defensive categories while being very good in pitch framing, albeit in a very small sample.

Offense Last

Sucre says he doesn’t care about his offense and puts all his focus on his defense. His offensive results back up this contention.

In 264 plate appearances he has put up a .209/.246/.276 line and 44 wRC+. Just for comparison, Rays catchers put up a .202/.265/.349 line and 66 wRC+ last year.

Offensively there isn’t a lot to like about Sucre’s game. He doesn’t walk, with a 3.8% walk rate, and he doesn’t hit for power, with .067 ISO. At least he doesn’t strike out much, just 16.7% of the time. He just doesn’t do enough with the balls he does put in play. He’s a ground ball hitter who doesn’t hit the ball hard. He has a 48.2% groundball rate and 16.8% hard hit rate.

Even in the minor leagues he hasn’t done much offensively as over four years in AAA he has put up a .279/.312/.341 line over 406 plate appearances in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, with wRC+s of 86, 66, 72, and 69.

For those who can derive optimism from super small samples he did hit .480/.552/.680 and put up a 244 wRC+ over 29 plate appearances last season.

Expectations

ZiPS projects a .236/.263/.292 line and 51 wRC+ for Sucre. PECOTA’s 50th percentile projection has Sucre hitting .241/.277/.339 and .218 TAv.

Sucre’s .218 TAv is roughly equivalent to the .215 TAv Luke Maile put up last season. Sucre, however, probably has an edge in providing truly elite defense.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Sucre has started spring training on fire offensively hitting .417/.500/.917 with two homers through 12 plate appearances, which matches his career home run totals (two in 264 plate appearances). Odds are he won’t keep this up.

He’s not currently on the 40 man roster, which means he will probably start the year in Durham as depth. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the Rays chose to add him to the roster at some point in their effort to improve team defense.