Fresno Grizzlies v. Sacramento River Cats Post-Game Analysis
On a crisp Thursday night (April 17th, 2014) in Sacramento, CA, a couple of buddies and I went to the Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco Giants Triple-A affiliate) v. Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A’s Triple-A affiliate) game. I went as a spectator, trying just to enjoy the outing and not process and watch the game as if I was there to evaluate any prospects. However, I couldn’t help but turn that portion of my baseball brain off and I couldn’t help myself. I decided to write up a little something-something about what I saw last night.
First, I will touch on what I saw with the Grizzlies; who won the game 7-3. The biggest take-away from the game was the impressive performance from Grizzlies catcher and local Sacramento product, Andrew Susac. Coming into the game, Susac was batting .310 AVG with 1 HR and 7 RBI’s, and he continued to rake. Susac filled up the box score by going 2-3 with a 2B, HR, 2 RBI’s, 2 R’s, and was hit-by-a-pitch. He left viewer in awe with his impressive hitting display.
In his first at-bat – a line drive out to center field – he made loud contact, driving the ball deep into center. In his second at-bat, he absolutely crushed a ball to deep left-center for a 2-run HR, almost hitting the $10,000 promotional target (the ball literally went 3-feet directly above the sign). In his third at-bat, again making loud contact, he drove the ball to deep left again for a double, later scoring in the inning. In his last at-bat, the River Cats must have had enough, because he was drilled in the upper left shoulder early in the at-bat (I kid. He was hit by a wayward breaking ball).
Susac showed good balance with his stance at the plate, eerily resembling current Giants catcher Buster Posey. He has a tuck lower half, enabling him to drive the ball with such power. He swung at good pitches and didn’t chase balls out of the zone, showing a good eye at the plate and pitch recognition. While I want to pump the breaks here a little bit as to not instantly call him the next Posey, Susac did show the skills needed to be a starting caliber catcher in the majors (at least offensively).
The Giants have a real luxury here. While Susac is currently being blocked by Posey, there have been some rumblings that with current Giants third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, becoming a free agency after this season, the thought is if a long-term deal can’t be reached with Sandoval, the Giants could move Posey out from behind the plate and put him at third base (Posey was originally a shortstop in college). The Giants could then find a replacement at catcher, or have Susac join the big league club next season, assuming he’s ready. If Posey were unwilling to move to third and insist on staying at catcher as he has, the Giants could then shop Susac at the trading deadline this season or this next off-season and pick up some major-league ready talent and or other prospects. If the former were to occur, after what I saw last night from Susac, I would have no problem with him starting at catcher for the Giants come 2015.
Susac was a second-round pick of the Giants in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft from Oregon State University, and has spent a year at each level of the minor leagues since being drafted, a normal progression. ESPN’s Keith Law has Susac rated as the Giants #2 organizational prospect, and as one of his 10 players who just missed the cut for his top 100 prospects list. MLB.com also has Susac rated as the Giants #4 prospect.
Briefly, I wanted to touch a little bit on some other notable Giants prospects. I got to see former first-round pick and once highly-touted center field prospect Gary Brown again (click here for article from last season). He has shown some improvement in his batting as he is repeating Triple-A this season. He went 1-4 on the night with a solid single up the middle to drive in a run for the Grizzlies; and he also took a walk. His pitch recognition was a lot better last night than from what I saw from him last season. In his first at-bat, he worked the count to 3-2 before taking a pitch outside for ball four; not sure if he would have been able to do that last season. He did strike out once in the game, but did so after working the count to 3-2. He also showed off his plus-speed, stealing a base which led to a run scored for him. He also showed off his speed by getting to a ball hit in the gap and keeping a single from becoming a double.
I also got to see another former first-round pick of the Giants in second baseman Joe Panik. This is Panik’s first season in Triple-A and he seems to be settling in nicely so far. Panik went 3-4 with a double and an RBI, spraying the ball to all fields. In his first at-bat, the lefty took an outside pitch to left field for a single. In his second at-bat, Panik again went the other way to left for a sacrifice fly that scored a run. In his third at-bat, he drove to ball to the right field gap for a double (probably would have only been a single but right fielder Michael Taylor misplayed the ball, trying to make a miracle diving catch instead of just letting the ball fall and playing it on a hop). In his fourth at-bat, Panik again singles, this time up the middle. He will probably stay the majority of this season in Triple-A with the potential for a September call-up, and then next season try and make a play to be a utility infielder.
For the River Cats, there wasn’t much to see. First base prospect Anthony Aliotti, who I did a write-up on last season (click here for article), is starting the season at Triple-A. He was a mid-season call-up last season, so this will potentially be his first full-season at Triple-A. He is off to a slow start, but seemed to have maybe found his swing, going 3-4 with three singles. He went to all fields with his singles, something he does well. He hasn’t hit a homer yet this season, but has shown good patience at the plate, having seven walks to nine strikeouts. His patience at the plate shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as he has shown good patience at the plate throughout his entire minor league career. I think his power will eventually come as well.