The Washington Nationals were surprised with how well Wander Suero pitched in the minors. Can he make the big club in 2018? A matter of when.
But, if you look at how along it has taken the reliever to develop and count him out, you are the one stuck on the side of the road.
Signed to the Nats Dominican Rookie League team in 2010, Suero made the jump to American minor league ball in 2013 at the age of 21. The hardest part of his odyssey is finding him the right role.
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In the Dominican, Suero pitched both as a starter and reliever. Washington used him the same way until 2016. At Double-A Harrisburg, he tried his hand closing games finding success. He converted four saves for the Senators while pitching 55.1 innings. With a healthy 2.60 ERA, he struck out 48.
Last season, Suero split his time between Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
As the big club struggled to close the gap in their bullpen during the first half, Suero earned his promotion to the Chiefs. With Harrisburg, he saved 10 games and finished four others. Over 23 innings, he whiffed 23 while scattering 18 hits and five walks.
Once promoted, he saved 10 more games for Syracuse while pitching several games over one inning. For the record, these were not multi-inning save attempts.
As Suero continued to find his footing, he baffled International League hitters. Over 42.1 frames, he struck out 42. His 1.110 WHIP is good, surrendering 33 hits and 14 walks. With the Chiefs, his 3-1 record and 1.70 ERA opened eyes.
Not listed in MLB.com’s Top 30 Nats prospects, Suero will get a long look this spring in the Grapefruit League. He pitched a few times last Spring Training and his great 2017 puts him into a position to sneak on the club.
Although he starts 2018 as a dark horse to make the 25-man roster, a solid spring will keep him in big-league camp until the end. Throw in an injury or two elsewhere and Suero has a plausible path to Washington before September.
If he continues to slam doors in Syracuse, Suero’s value will increase. Although not young at 26, he can give Mike Rizzo and company something to think about for the closer’s role come 2019 and beyond.
Remember, Suero has not pitched in the majors. When called up, Washington retains six years of team control. Dollars matter.
Projected again in Syracuse, Suero’s name is one to file away. If the injury bug hits hard again, he will be on a mound near you soon.