A Look at Chinooks in the Minor Leagues
Jerrick Suiter – Pittsburgh Pirates – Bristol Pirates (Rookie)
Easily one of the most versatile players to play for the Chinooks, Jerrick Suiter was a jack of all trades when he signed a temporary contract with the team for the 2013 Northwoods League season. As a decorated three-sport athlete from Valparaiso, IN where he lettered in baseball, basketball, and football, Suiter had split time at TCU with the Horned Frog football and baseball teams, but had recently made a decision to concentrate on baseball. The question when he got to Lakeshore, though, was what position would he play? And as Suiter begins his professional career, that same question is being asked.
The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Suiter after his senior year of high school in the 35th round. Suiter was tempted, but opted for TCU after making visits to several schools in the south. “I felt like I needed to go to college and get some experience,” says Suiter, “And I still feel like I’m a raw player.” With a strong arm, Suiter pitched ten innings as a freshman, but also started 38 games in the outfield and was used as a designated hitter, batting .310. By his sophomore year, though, the question of what position Jerrick would play came to the forefront. He didn’t pitch that year, but bounced between the outfield, first base, and even catcher for the Horned Frogs. His offense suffered and by the time he caught on with the Chinooks, he was an enigma in the game.
Suiter is big and fast with a powerful arm and natural tools, but needed to find a position. With the TCU staff still thinking he could be effective on the mound, Eddy Morgan called his number to pitch on five occasions, striking out 11 batters in 5.1 innings of work, but also used him as a DH, catcher, and in the outfield. Suiter responded at the plate with a burst of power, hitting seven home runs in 30 games and wowing the Chinook crowd with several deep foul balls. That would be it for the power, though. After ending his summer in late July, Suiter returned to TCU for his junior season, still without a solid position. While he hit .273 and was named the 2013 Big Twelve Tournament Most Outstanding Player, the powerfully built Suiter did not hit a home run during his college career, but caught the eye of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who selected him in the 26th round of the 2014 MLB draft.
Suiter at bat for the Bristol Pirates.
Finding a position to play was the focus of Suiter’s first season with the Class A Bristol Pirates of the Appalachian League. Playing both right field and first base, Suiter hit .279 and led the entire Pirates’ organization with a .403 on-base percentage, leading the league in walks. Suiter says his experience of playing every day and travelling by bus in the NWL prepared him for life in the minors saying, “My first season in the App League was a lot like the Northwoods with few days off, but a lot of fun with teammates.” Learning to keep the game fun was an important aspect of playing with the Chinooks for Suiter who also says “We had an awesome group of guys who got along really well. Those bus rides were fun and the antics and conversations in the dugout teach you how to deal with the ups and downs.” And now Suiter will deal with another position as he was switched to third base by the Pirates in their fall instructional league. “I like the infield a lot, but I just want to play. Third base was different, but I started to get the hang of it and I think it may be the place for me.”
Eddy Morgan is not surprised about the search to find Suiter a position, saying “He’s such a physically gifted athlete. I know the Pirates are going to do whatever they can to find a position that’s right for Jerrick. You can’t dismiss those physical tools!” Much of that will be determined in the offseason as Suiter recovers from a hernia surgery and prepares for an important spring training in Bradenton, Flordia, where hopefully he will establish a permanent home at third base.