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What should we expect from Giants rookie Andrew Susac?

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Andrew Susac
Andrew Susac
Mike McGinnis

San Francisco Giants rookie catcher Andrew Susac has played quite well since reaching the major leagues. Through 24 games, he's hitting .271/.328/.508 with three homers, an OPS+ of 137 and a wRC+ of 140. It is a tiny sample of course, just 64 plate appearances, but a strong start to your career is always better than a slow one.

I've seen some complaints from Giants fans around the interwebby information tubes that Susac was unfairly ignored before he reached the majors. While it is true that he did not receive as much hype as some players, he's always stood out to me as a player to watch very closely. This is what I wrote about him in my 2012 book after he was drafted but before he had played a professional game:

Susac was headed towards a spot in the first round of the 2011 draft, but the Oregon State catcher broke a hamate bone before the draft and dropped down to the second round, 86th overall. He still pulled in a robust $1,100,000 bonus. Susac excites scouts with his raw power and he could be a 20-homer guy, but he has a big leg kick and tends to pull the ball. He should have plenty of pop but might not hit for a great batting average. He’s athletic and has a strong throwing arm, and with more experience he’ll be a fine defender. I like him, but we need to see how he adapts to pro ball before going higher than a Grade B-. That could look too pessimistic a year from now.

Susac didn't have a terrific 2012 season, hitting .244/.351/.380 with nine homers for San Jose in the California League. He got off to a slow start and had some issues with his hitting mechanics, but he adapted and finished the season on a strong note, leading to this comment and grade entering 2013:

Drafted in the second round in 2011 from Oregon State University, Andrew Susac was advertised as a power hitter with good plate discipline and strong defense behind the plate. He flashed those skills in the California League last year, but didn’t really live up to expectations on either side of the ball. He threw out 32% of runners, but his error and passed ball rates were higher than they should be. I’m not really worried about that; given that he is a good athlete with a strong throwing arm, I expect his defense will settle down as he gains experience. The bat is another issue. He’s patient and will take a walk, but his swing mechanics are sometimes troublesome and he didn’t hit with the authority that scouts expected. He did finish strong, hitting .322/.396/.511 in August/September, so it’s possible he just needed some adjustment time. I still like Susac’s potential, but while his transition to Double-A might not be smooth, I will ride the Grade B- another year.

The improvement in his approach carried over: he hit .256/.362/.458 for Double-A Richmond in the Eastern League last year, for a solid wRC+ of 129. His defense was better, too, leading to this comment entering 2014:

I’m glad I rode that B-, because Susac did turn things around in ’13, posting a very good 129 wRC+ in the Eastern League, in a difficult home park, then following up with a .360/.507/.480 mark in the Arizona Fall League, with an excellent plate approach (16 walks, 11 strikeouts). He’s tapping into his power more effectively and there seems less concern about his hitting mechanics with the most recent reports. Note the combination of walks with a reasonably low strikeout rate. He’s also sharpening up his defense, throwing out 40% of runners in Double-A while lowering his error and passed ball rates. Despite his progress, Susac seems to be overlooked this winter. I think the problem here is that people are still thinking about 2012 and not adjusting enough for conditions in the Eastern League, where he really hit quite well, .256 average aside. His SEC was .363. I’m going to keep this bet going and add something to the pot, moving up to Grade B.

Susac hit .268/.379/.451 in Triple-A this year for a wRC+ of 119, perhaps not spectacular for the PCL but very credible for a guy playing regularly behind the plate in a league where he he was almost three years younger than the average competitor. He threw out 36% of runners, and as noted he is hitting very well in the majors so far.

Assuming that he doesn't exceed rookie limits this month, I will give Susac a Grade B+ entering 2015. This is not a guy who is going to win batting championships: I think he's a .250-.260ish hitter; he's a little over his head at .271 in the small major league sample, but he gets on base at a solid clip and the power is very real. The secondary offensive skills (power and patience) combined with his defensive ability should keep him employed for a long time.

I would also not be surprised if he has a truly outstanding season in the age 27/28 window, say 2017 or 2018, a year or two when the hits fall in and he hits closer to .300 with a big power surge.