Saturday, February 25, 2012

OTF Top 30: No. 6, Andrew Susac, C

No. 6, Andrew Susac, catcher

Age: 21
Drafted: Second round (86th overall) in the 2011 MLB Draft
College: Oregon State
2011 Regular Season Numbers (at Oregon State): .313 average, .444 OBP, .552 slugging, .996 OPS, .239 ISO, 42.9 extra base hit percentage, 0.84 BB/K ratio, 31 runs scored, 5 home runs 32 RBI (Sophomore season)
2010 Cape Cod League Numbers: .290 average, .393 OBP, .500 slugging, .893 OPS, .210 ISO, 0.52 BB/K ratio, 17 runs scored, 5 home runs, 15 RBI (Falmouth Commodores)

Why you should know about Susac in 2012:

Right now, the debate over who could be the successor to Buster Posey behind the plate should Posey move positions is between Tommy Joseph (No. 3 on the list) and Andrew Susac. Originally projected as a high to mid first round pick, Susac dropped to the second round and the Giants swapped him up in their slot. Though he didn't play professionally last year (he signed too late), Susac was one of the best offense and defensive catchers in the 2011 draft. If he can build upon his solid sophomore season at Oregon State in 2012, Susac could be a Top-5 prospect in 2013.

What are Susac's strengths as a prospect?

Susac just overall is very impressive and it's hard to find much faults with him after his stellar season at OSU in 2011. As a Beaver, he hit five home runs, drove in 32 runs and posted a slash of .313/.444/.552. The fact that he did it in the Pac-12, against some of the best college competition in the nation (he hit against pitchers like Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Tyler Anderson, who all went in the first round) makes his numbers all more impressive.

Susac has a good strong swing and he has showed an impeccable approach at the plate as well as power for a catcher. Perfect noted he was showing improving offensive tools at the plate and making great strides until a a broken bone in his hand somewhat stalled his 2011 season. Here's what they said:

"Until his untimely injury, sustained while swinging a bat, Susac was enjoying a breakout campaign at the plate for the Beavers, hitting a team-high .364 in 26 games. Even as he missed his next 16 games, he still stood among team leaders in homers (4), RBIs (25) and walks (21) in early May. Susac had made significant strides in all areas of his game this spring, but his improvement at the plate was especially noteworthy, and west-coast cross-checkers had quickly identified he and Utah’s C.J. Cron as the best college bats in that part of the country for this year’s draft."

While his offense has been lauded, scouts and experts also rated Susac as a solid defensive catcher. noted that he has very good arm strength and soft hands behind the plate. Rob Ozga of the Baseball Draft Report did note inconsistencies behind the plate at times, but also noted that he improved his polish and arm strength over the course of the season (a good sign that he can continue to improve as he receives professional instruction). At six-foot one inch and a 190 pounds, Susac has good athleticism for a catcher and has ample experience behind the plate (he played the position for four years in high school and two years in college).  Unlike Joseph and Posey, there isn't any doubts about Susac staying behind the plate as a professional, as there aren't many concerns or gripes with his defensive abilities.

In addition to raking in college as a sophomore, he has proven that he can hit with wood bats as well. In 2010, Susac put up excellent numbers in the Cape Cod with a slash of .290/.393/.500 in 100 at-bats. Hence, Susac appears to have good discipline at the plate, and the power Susac has displayed as an amateur seems to be for real and isn't just a product of metal college bats.

What might Susac struggle in 2012?

Because of signability issues (remember, he was projected as first round pick on talent alone), Susac didn't get a chance to play in 2011. It would have been nice to see him get some professional at-bats in the Northwest League like Joe Panik, but unfortunately that didn't happen. So, while Susac didn't expose himself as a prospect, he is going to have to produce right away as a prospect since he didn't get that valuable half-season of professional play. Granted, not playing after signing isn't the end of the world, but there certainly is a little bit more pressure on him, especially since he's a prospect drafted out of college.

The biggest concern with Susac may be the injury issues. While scouts and experts noted that the broken hamate bone in his hand shouldn't be a big worry (especially since he sat the remainder of 2011 out after being drafted), it did cost him some games at Oregon State in 2011. Furthermore, Susac did show some struggles as a freshman, as he only hit .260 and posted a .725 OPS in his first year of college play. His defense was also very inconsistent his freshman year, as he eventually had to split the job his frosh year due to defensive issues. Considering he was rated as a solid defensive prospect out of high school (he was drafted in the 16th round by the Phillies in 2009), the less-than-stellar defensive showings was a bit of a concern (though as noted before, he made a lot of improvements by his sophomore season).

As good as Susac's power and plate patience is, his ability to make contact is a bit of a question mark. His contact rates were only 76 percent both years at OSU, which isn't exactly impressive (the Baseball Cube rated his contact ability as a 37 out of 100). While he did face some good pitching in college, the contact rates will be something to watch out for when he makes his debut as a professional. 76 percent isn't bad, but if it regresses, that could be a huge red flag for his development as a hitter, especially as he moves up the system.

Grades on Susac's tools:

Hitting for Average/Contact ability: 15/20 (Yes, he hit .313 as a sophomore, but he was sub-.300 as a frosh and in 2010 in the Cape Cod. Add that with mediocre contact rates and I am unsure if Susac will ever be able to hit for high average as a professional. He certainly has the capability to be a .270-.290 hitter, but to imagine him as a .300-plus hitter in the mold of Buster Posey to me is a bit of a stretch.)
Plate approach: 19/20 (One of the strongest aspects of his offensive game. He has posted excellent BB/K ratios in college and the Cape Cod, and he has showed an impeccable ability to get on base. Furthermore, for a catcher, he has good speed (Rob Gordon rated his speed as a 3-plus out of 5 in the MiLBA), so he will have the ability to score a lot of runs on the basepaths. Even if the contact ability doesn't translate as well as a professional, I do believe Susac's plate approach will, which will be a huge plus in his favor.)
Power: 18/20 (Susac displayed excellent power from the Cape Cod to his Sophomore year, posting over .200 ISOs in those two campaigns. Furthermore, his 43 percent extra base hit percentage was also very impressive with the Beavers, especially considering most college hitters went through a power regression with the introduction of the new metal bats. With a solid plate approach and good power, Susac has a chance to post excellent ISO and OPS numbers as a professional.)
Speed: 15/20 (Susac isn't going to steal a lot, if any, bags (he stole zero in college). However, he isn't a base clogger and he can stretch out hits from time to time, which is a plus for a catcher. He has good frame and solid athleticism, so if he can continue to get on base, he certainly will be a candidate to score a lot of runs for a catching prospect.)
Defense: 17/20 (The improvement he showed from his freshman to his sophomore year has been noted by scouts and experts, and he has good arm strength and skills behind the plate. Furthermore, he has experience as a catcher which is something you can't really say for Joseph and even Posey (Joseph didn't start catching until his senior year of high school and Posey didn't start until college). Of course, he hasn't really caught as a professional, which means he doesn't have much experience calling his own games (something most colleges don't do), so whether or not he'll be an A-prospect defensively will hinge on his ability to call games. That being said, he has the tools and the ability to be a very good defensive catcher at the professional level.)
Health/Makeup/Intangibles: 16/20 (The broken hamate bone and signing late hurt him in 2011 and I want to wait and see before he's completely healthy. Furthermore, his disappointing frosh season also hurt him in this category, especially since he was deemed a draft-ready prospect as a high school senior. He has showed improvement in his amateur career, and he's definitely trending upward as a player, but until I know for sure he's fully healthy, then I have to be conservative in this grade.)

Overall Grade: B
Projection: Starting Major League catcher; Upside: could be an All-Star caliber catcher. Downside: Could be a career backup.

Summary: Susac is going to be a Major-League bound player. From what I've read, he has the defensive ability to be at the very least a backup catcher at the Major League level. I mean, if Eli Whiteside can have a Major League career, than certainly Susac can as well. The only issue now is whether or not he'll make enough contact as a professional, and if his health will hold up as he plays more games. Right now, there is a lot to like about Susac: he has a good plate approach, solid power and very impressive tools behind the plate. That being said, Susac will have to prove himself  in the Minors before Giants fans can jump on the bandwagon completely just yet.


  1. Excellent article, great research, as usual. I concur with your assessment of what he might become.

    I must note, however, that a 76% contact rate is pretty bad, per Shandlers research, which I assume you are familiar with since you quoted Gordon, of MiLBA. And that actually jibes better with your overall assessment that his hit tool is his biggest question mark.

    I would also note that not a lot of catchers have the hit tool, and he counters that by taking a lot of walks and good HR potential. That plus good defense, as you astutely notes, could result in an all star catcher, backup at worse.

  2. OGC,

    Thanks for the reply and comment. Actually, you're definitely right that a 76 percent contact rate isn't very good and with the natural regression to professional ball, Susac is going to have an uphill climb to make contact against professional pitching. I probably should have made this clearer in the weaknesses area of the article and put further emphasis that his 76 percent contact rate in college doesn't bode well for his ability to make contact at the next level.

    That is a good point about catchers not having that great hit tool, and Joseph seems to have the same issue (though his contact rate did rise in the Cal League this year). The one advantage he does have over Joseph and even Hector Sanchez in my mind is his plate approach and power. The only reason though I hesitated from ranking him over Joseph is that a.)he hasn't played professional ball yet and b.)I still have concerns about his health (though from reports it sounds like he has healed from it).

    Thanks for pointing out the research from Shandler. I am familiar with his research as well Gordon and Deloney of the MiLBA. I bought both of the Baseball HQ books (The Forecsater and Analyst), and they have been a great help.