Susac capable of filling Giants' need behind plate
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants have been making a habit of gaining entrance to the World Series. Before this season, their last appearance was in 2012, when they won their second World Series championship in three seasons. Led by manager Bruce Bochy, the team swept the Jim Leyland-managed Detroit Tigers.
That World Series roster looked totally different than the one Bochy sends against the Kansas City Royals this year. Pitchers missing from that team include the injured Matt Cain, plus George Kontos, Jose Mijares, Guillermo Mota and Barry Zito. Infielders Aubrey Huff, Marco Scutaro and Ryan Theriot are not on the 2014 edition. Outfielders Xavier Nady and the injured Angel Pagan are missing as well. One of the most prominent changes is that injured catcher Hector Sanchez has been replaced by rookie Andrew Susac.
The Giants have enough faith in the right-handed-hitting Susac, 24, to have placed the young rookie on the World Series roster. With only 95 Major League plate appearances in 35 regular-season games, Susac is capable of assisting behind the plate if needed.
Susac is on the roster because Sanchez, the regular backup catcher, is on the 60-day disabled list due to concussion symptoms. Susac is more than capable of validating the Giants' faith in his complete performance abilities.
Susac, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, came to the Giants from Oregon State University, where he played two seasons for the team. A broken hamate bone brought his collegiate career to a premature conclusion, and San Francisco selected him in the second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
I was fortunate to have seen Susac catch regularly in the 2013 Arizona Fall League. That year, the league was loaded with high quality catching prospects. Susac, the Rangers' Jorge Alfaro and the Padres' Austin Hedges were probably the three best. If there was any real defensive issue with Susac at the time, it was his occasional difficulty shifting his feet and blocking balls in the dirt. His footwork was a bit inconsistent. I have seen improvement in that area, and those issues are far less a concern. Susac continues to make steady progress as a defensive catcher.
Susac hit .360 with two home runs and seven RBIs in his 17 games during the 2013 AFL. Even though he hit extremely well, it was his overall defensive mechanics -- blocking skills aside -- that gave me reason to believe he was a quality catching prospect. Susac flashed a very strong and accurate arm and an ability to shepherd his pitchers through the inning or two each worked during the games. Handling a wide variety of tired pitchers in the AFL is a challenging task. At times, there can be as many as six or seven pitchers used in a game.
Susac should prove to be a very effective two-way player. As a steady gap hitter, if he has enough plate appearances, he may have enough power to hit double-digit home runs in the big leagues.
I have generally seen Susac take pitches either up the middle or to right-center field. He rarely pulls pitches and could probably benefit by using more of the entire field. Still, having a catcher who can take pitches to the opposite field is a definite plus.
Susac generally makes good contact at the plate and has shown through his three Minor League seasons that he can drive in runs with a short, compact stroke. When he tries to do too much, his swing lengthens and he misses some pitches. However, in most instances, Susac has enough plate discipline to stay selective and look for pitches he can barrel. One of the qualities I admire is his ability to revert back to basics once his swing has strayed and lengthened from his norm. In addition, Susac can be counted upon to accept a good share of walks.
The Giants are fortunate to have an emerging young catcher with Susac's upside to fill their existing need behind the plate.