In the 9th inning of Game 2 of the NLCS, the San Francisco Giants trailed 4-3 when the St. Louis Cardinals put in their closer Trevor Rosenthal. Brandon Crawford led off the inning with a strike out. With one down and his back against the wall, Bruce Bochy pinch-hit the (then) 24 year old rookie Andrew Susac who hit a laser to center field.
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I’m going to be completely honest: I like Andrew Susac. A lot. I love his swing and I think he has a lot of potential. My favorite thing about Susac is his seemingly unflappable nature. Honestly, how many 24 year old rookies can go to the plate in a high-pressure situation in an extremely hostile environment and produce?
Susac’s rise to a Major League lineup has been put on hold for now, though.
The Giants recently optioned Susac to Triple-A Sacramento effectively giving the backup catcher spot to Hector Sanchez. At first, I was shocked and rather upset. Again, I have a healthy admiration for Susac. The young catcher had a tough spring shaking off rust and injuries. He hit just .217 with 1 home run in 16 plate appearances. Then after some thought, I realized that this could be really good for both Susac and the Giants moving forward. San Jose Mercury insider Andrew Baggarly provided some insight into Bochy and co.’s reasoning for sending Susac down to the minors:
I think Andrew Susac is the catcher of the future. He has all the makings of an everyday catcher: good swing, some power, and a high level of maturity. Buster Posey is the man. He already has put together a résumé that would definitely garner some Hall of Fame consideration if he retired today. But Buster Posey also just turned 28 years old. Catchers legs are ticking time bombs and Posey’s have a devastating injury and extra mileage on them. Posey will eventually move to a corner infield position. Once that happens, Susac should have enough at-bats and defensive repetitions to be ready to take over the everyday role in the big leagues.
The Giants chose Sanchez for several reasons. First of all, his spring was just a bit better hitting .286 with 6 RBIs and staying healthier. Furthermore, Sanchez is Tim Lincecum’s catcher. He has a chemistry with him and the Giants want to maintain that as Lincecum looks to maintain some consistency this season. Sanchez, a switch hitting catcher, has shown glimpses of being a solid major league player who could potentially provide some value in the middle of the order.
Mar 10, 2015; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Hector Sanchez (29) and San Francisco Giants catcher Andrew Susac (34) walk to the bullpen against the San Diego Padres at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Though I questioned them at first, after some deep soul-searching, I now realize that the Giants know what they’re doing. It’s essentially a win-win situation for San Francisco. If Sanchez figures it out, then you have a solid backup, possible heir to Posey, and a trade piece in either Sanchez or Susac. If Sanchez doesn’t pan out, then Susac comes up and the process of grooming him for the major league club changes a bit, but it’s still in place. I’m sure we’ll see him in the majors at some point this season anyways. Though I believe in the short term the Giants aren’t as good with Sanchez over Susac, downgrading once every 5 or 6 days seems like a reasonable trade-off as Susac gets better in Sacramento. Sacrifice now, reap the benefits later.
Susac has been given an opportunity to play everyday, albeit in Sacramento. He’s going to get regular at-bats and surely he’ll gain experience handling a pitching staff. This is far better for his development than sitting on a bench and playing once every week or so. If the Giants choose Susac as the catcher of the future, then those are some really big shoes to feel. There’s no need to rush the process.
I firmly believe that Susac has the potential to be really good and even the everyday starter. Susac’s poise and ability is reminiscent of the current starting catcher. I’m not saying Susac is the next Buster Posey because Posey is a very special player, but Susac shows similar traits. The Giants have time to figure it all out. As of now, the Giants have their catcher and are just starting to think about the future. As a Susac fan, I do hope he’s a part of that future.