C Andrew Susac – Blocked Prospect Makes Good

Giants C Prospect Andrew Susac led the AFL in OBP after a semi-breakout in AA

Giants C Prospect Andrew Susac led the AFL in OBP after a decent year in AA. Does he deserve a bump up in SF’s prospect rankings?
(Photo Courtesy of MiLB.com)

With his team’s season now over in the AFL, Giants catching prospect Andrew Susac has wrapped up another long year. He has played in a hundred games for the second straight season, all as a catcher to the best of my knowledge. Susac was drafted in 2011 in the second round by the Giants out of Oregon State and has quietly been very good in the Giants organization. He finished his second pro season in AA, with a tour of the AFL at the end of an 84 game stint for the Flying Squirrels in the Eastern League. Susac rounded off his season by posting one of the better offensive lines in the Arizona Fall League with a .360/.507/.480 line. I’m always drawn to outlier performances and one of my favorites are players with higher OBPs than SLGs, and with a startlingly unsustainable .507 OBP, I couldn’t ignore Susac any longer. Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs regresses prospects’ performance in various minor leagues to their expected walk and strikeout rates based on their peripheral stats, like an FIP for hitters, and ranked Susac the fourth best hitter in the AFL this year. Does he profile as a future major leaguer? The gist of it is probably. Does he profile as a replacement for the perennial All-Star and Golden Man currently playing his position at the highest level? Not exactly.

Entering the 2013 season, Fangraphs had Susac ranked as the Giants’ number nine prospect; mostly buried beneath their scary wealth of talented young arms. He’s an offense-first catcher whose defense is supposed to be approaching passable, which is normally not exactly a glowing review. However, catching ability often continues to develop as the player matures and similar things were often said about a player I feel is reasonably comparable in Chris Iannetta. Susac is blocked both in the majors by the obvious advancement wall that is Buster Posey entering his prime, but Susac may be the best choice for the Giants plans for the future which surely must involve an eventual move by Posey to first base. Brandon Belt could be transitioned to LF if he were still in the fold and suddenly Susac’s path to the show looks a lot clearer.

He has been a patient hitter for his two pro seasons thus far, walking in over 12.9% of his plate appearances at each level he’s played at while striking out around 20% of the time, so the ridiculous amount of walks in the AFL weren’t necessarily complete flukes so much as the batting average was padding the number. When running Susac’s numbers at AA combined with his numbers in the AFL as a single season (a bit disingenuous I am aware) through a minor league equivalency calculator, it spits out a line of .223/.316/.359; hardly setting the world on fire but Iannetta just put up 2.1 WAR with a .225/.358/.372 line and just-above-average defense, and Susac has some ceiling to build on that could allow you to project something similar to that line a couple years out. Steamer is even higher on his ability to contribute at the big league level, projecting him for a .238/.317/.384 if he were to make the jump right now, which would be a 101 wRC+, good for a catcher. Since he has, at the very least, most of next year to keep building on his skill set, I really think that an Iannettesque projection is definitely well within the range of possibility. Susac, 23, put up a .202 ISO in AA this year, belting 12 bombs for an .820 OPS from behind the plate, nothing to sneeze at especially when coupled with his .362 OBP.

With strong performances from other top prospects this year, like Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Chris Stratton just to name a few, it’s doubtful that Andrew Susac will rise meteorically up the prospect rankings this year, barring a slew of promotions to the Show that can’t exactly be counted as impossible. This is okay, as it appears that he can still factor prominently into the Giants’ plans, they will be able to work him in as a backup as Posey transitions over to first in Susac’s first few years in the bigs, and while he may not be a walking Wheaties box batting champion like the man at the top of his depth chart, Susac projects to be a useful big league catcher who can work a walk if you can stomach his low average. The Giants have some holes to fill, and it appears that in a strange way Susac may force their hand on making a decision on Brandon Belt. There are plenty of big league teams who need a decent backup catcher who has a shot of being an everyday guy, and plenty of opportunity to get a very nice return on Belt if he continues to play well. Obviously they could go the move-Belt-to-the-OF route, choosing instead to move Angel Pagan or Gregor Blanco, but Pagan seems like his contract would be difficult to move and Blanco has played well.

All in all, Susac is not necessarily a traditionally exciting prospect but I do feel confident that a number of teams, including the Giants, have considered the possibility of him factoring into their long term plans. A .507 OBP in the AFL is going to turn some heads, even if it is propped up by a .421 BABIP, but just because Susac won’t be able to sustain video game numbers is no knock on him. He should prove to be a useful big leaguer and his skillset is one that plays especially well behind the plate. If he has another strong season in 2014 I wouldn’t be any more surprised to see him moved to a team with a need than I would to see him in orange and black in September this year, and he may be someone to hope that your team targets if the plan to move Posey appears to continue to move at a glacial pace. Not bad for a number 9 prospect, not bad at all.

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Posted on November 16, 2013, in Arizona Fall League, Giants, Hitters, Profile, Top Prospects and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great update…the catching future of the Giants looks bright indeed! I suspect after Susac’s impressive AFL showing he will spike up on the 2014 Giants prospect list, and has a decent chance to taste the bigs as a 2014 September callup.

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