In just under half a full season's worth of at-bats, Kurt Suzuki set a career high in homers. The surge was largely a result of him crushing southpaws, smacking seven of his 19 homers versus southpaws in only 58 at-bats. For the year, Suzuki slashed .345/.415/.776 with a lefty on the hill. The scary part is it could have been better considering Suzuki shared playing time with Tyler Flowers plus the Braves faced left-handers the fourth fewest times in MLB. Entering 2018, both Suzuki and Flowers will be back, meaning Suzuki will likely again play a little less than half the time, more than the usual reserve but not as much as the starters. More importantly, Suzuki's power output will likely fall precipitously as his home-run spike was spurred by a 17.1 percent HR/FB, nearly three times his career mark. In addition, Suzuki's average is also ripe for a fall with the loss in power. Suzuki is worth drafting in all two-catcher formats, but don't pay for 2017's renaissance campaign.
Suzuki went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI in Sunday's Grapefruit League game against the Astros. The veteran catcher slugged a career-high 19 home runs in only 81 games last season, and Suzuki is set to share duties behind the plate with Tyler Flowers once again in 2018. He has yet to go yard this spring, but a 10-for-21 performance at the plate with three doubles indicates Suzuki's ready to try and duplicate last year's surprising breakout.
Manager Brian Snitker said he expects Suzuki and Tyler Flowers (wrist) to split duties similarly in 2018, David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The timeshare between Suzuki and Flowers proved effective in 2017, so the Braves will continue to utilize their catching tandem similarly in 2018. With Suzuki appearing in 81 games and Flowers in 99, the two finished the season as one of the most productive catching duos in the league. The 34-year-old Suzuki will look to replicate his success from last season, when he launched a career-high 19 homers while hitting a respectable .283 in 309 plate appearances.
Suzuki agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Braves on Saturday, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports. Suzuki received just $1.5 million from the Braves on a one-year deal for 2017, but he earned himself a healthy raise with a season that will see him finish with career bests in both home runs and OPS despite playing in only half of the available games. Suzuki and Tyler Flowers proved to be a quality pairing behind the plate in 2017, and they figure to share the catching duties again in some fashion next year.
Suzuki is out of the lineup Sunday against the Cubs. Suzuki has been behind the plate for the first three games of the series, but the 33-year-old will sit the series finale in favor of David Freitas. Both should see a reduction in playing time when Tyler Flowers (hand) eventually returns, though a concrete timetable has yet to be determined.
Suzuki is out of the lineup for Game 2 of Wednesday's doubleheader against Philadelphia. Suzuki will get the second contest of the twin bill off after going 0-for-4 and catching R.A. Dickey during Game 1. In his place, David Freitas makes his major-league debut, batting eighth in the order.