During the 2022 postseason, Ranger Suárez shined for the Philadelphia Phillies as the left-handed pitcher logged a 1.23 ERA, 13 strikeouts, a 1.023 WHIP, and a 2-0 record across three starts and 14.2 innings. The Venezuelan native had just 44 major league starts entering the 2022 postseason, and his ability to shine on the biggest stage of his career gave the Phillies and their fans high hopes for the 2023 season and beyond.
However, Suárez did not get off to the start in 2023 that everyone hoped for. His first appearance in 2023 came on May 13th due to a left forearm injury. When he returned, Suárez did not play his best baseball, having an ERA of 7.13, a WHIP of 2.400, and a record of 0-2 in four starts during May. Suárez may have needed a few games to shake off the rust, but his recent performances suggest that he may have yet to reach his full potential in a Phillies uniform.
Despite a slow start to 2023, Ranger Suárez deserves to be regarded as the Phillies' ace of the future
Since the beginning of June, Ranger Suárez has done a phenomenal job of turning his season around. After failing to post a single-game ERA lower than 6.75 in May, Suárez hasn't had a single-game ERA higher than 5.47 and hasn't had a game with an ERA above 4.00 since June 9. Suárez has also been doing his part to keep the Phillies' bullpen fresh. Since May 30th, the 27-year-old has pitched into the sixth inning or later in each of his 12 starts and has had one earned run or less in six of those starts.
Ranger sits behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler on the pitching depth, and Taijuan Walker has been impressive after having a slow start of his own in 2023. Still, he comes with a similar upside at a fraction of the cost. Nola is set to hit Free Agency following this season, and it remains unclear if the Phillies intend on retaining their longtime ace, who is set to earn well above $20 million annually on his next contract, according to Spotrac.com.
Wheeler has also been phenomenal for the Phillies since joining the club in 2020. With an ERA of 3.04, a WHIP of 1.060, and 618 strikeouts across 574.1 innings in a Phillies uniform, Wheeler has been an ace for the Phillies alongside Nola for the past few seasons. However, Wheeler is set to hit Free Agency himself following the 2024 season and turn 35 years old in May of the 2025 season. While he could play into his late 30s, he will also likely command a salary upwards of $20 million.
Suárez, on the other hand, is currently in his first season of arbitration and making a salary of $2.95 million in 2023. Suárez still has two more seasons of arbitration before hitting Free Agency in 2024, and the Phillies could opt to offer him a contract similar to the one that Aaron Nola received in 2019 that allowed the club to keep their ace on a discount two years after Nola would have reached unrestricted Free Agency.
Suárez also has a unique six-pitch arsenal that does a great job of not relying too much on his fastball. According to baseballsavant.com, Suárez throws the following pitches (with the percentage he throws it): Sinker (28%), curveball (21%), 4-seam fastball (20.7%), changeup (17.5%), cutter (12.4%), and a slider (0.5%). While Suárez's slider may be a work in progress, his repertoire displays his ability to change both his pitch speed and movement and his even distribution of pitches that keep opposing batters guessing.
Since making his major league debut in 2018, Suárez has built quite the resume with the Phillies. He threw a complete-game shutout in 2021 in fewer than 100 pitches and under 30 batters faced. He also earned a win and a save in his two appearances in the 2022 World Series and has a career ERA lower than Nola, Wheeler, and Walker. With his best baseball likely still ahead of him, it may be time to view Ranger Suárez as the Philadelphia Phillies' ace of the future.