After one season in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), former SF Giants lefty Andrew Suarez is on the move again after signing a contract with the Yakult Swallows of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan.
SF Giants 2015 second round pick signs with Yakult Swallows of the NPB
The Giants sold the rights to Suarez to the LG Twins of the KBO last offseason and that proved to be a strong fit for both pitcher and team. The 29-year-old pitcher turned in an All-Star campaign with the LG Twins, registering a 2.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, and a 3.07 SO/W rato across 115.1 innings.
He anchored the rotation along with veteran starter Casey Kelly, who had a brief stint with the Giants in 2018, for a team that posted a 72-57 overall record. He will look to help a Swallows team that struggled to the tune of a 49-50 record last season.
The Giants originally drafted Suarez in the second round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Miami. At that point, it was the third time that the lefty had been drafted after being selected by the Toronto Blue Jays and the Washington Nationals in 2011 and 2014, respectively.
Given his draft pedigree, Suarez quickly emerged as one of the better pitching prospects in the Giants system as he displayed a polished feel for pitching. The southpaw flashed a four-pitch mix including a low 90's fastball that he pairs with a slider, changeup, and occasional curveball. He did not have a true out pitch, but he consistently hit his spots and did well to keep opposing hitters off-balance.
He posted a 3.62 ERA in five seasons in the minors before earning a promotion to the Giants in 2018. He produced encouraging results as he generated a 4.49 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, and a 2.89 SO/W ratio in 160.1 innings as a rookie.
The Giants thought that they might have a back-end rotation arm who was under team control for the next several seasons, but that 2018 season proved to be his best year in a Giants uniform. Suarez struggled to find a role on the 2019 roster as he was moved primarily to the bullpen while posting a 5.79 ERA in 32.2 sporadic innings. The 2020 season was more of the same with Suarez, allowing four earned runs in only 9.2 innings.
At that point, it became apparent that the lefty was on the roster bubble but a move overseas provided a unique opportunity. That journey will continue next year as the Swallows hope that Suarez can flash the dominance that he displayed in 2021.