The Detroit Tigers bats continue to be historically anemic in 2022. Could drafting Daniel Susac help address their need for more plus bats down the line?
With the Detroit Tigers sporting a Major League Baseball worst slugging, on-base, and OPS, it is clear they need to focus on finding impactful hitting prospects like Daniel Susac in June’s upcoming MLB amateur draft.
Daniel Susac is a switch-hitting catcher who shouldn’t be far from the minds of those thinking about Detroit’s draft strategy moving forward. Susac is currently ranked as MLB Pipeline’s no. 11 prospect (no. 2 catcher) and the Tigers have pick no. 12. So he may be available once Detroit is on the clock.
After Kevin Parada out of Georgia Tech, Daniel Susac is figures to be the next catcher off the board. While Parada is viewed as the better hitting prospect, Susac profiles as a more well-rounded backstop. Parada edges Susac in hitting and power, but MLB scouts favor Susac’s arm and find the two catchers gloves/receiving ability to be comparable, with Susac holding a slight edge in both. Will the allure of a catcher possessing above average contact and power skills at the plate with a strong arm be too tantalizing to pass up if he’s available at pick 12?
Susac is a second-year sophomore for the University of Arizona Wildcats and has left an impressive mark on the history of a storied baseball program. At the end of his sophomore campaign, he became just the 10th Arizona Wildcat ever to collect 100 hits in a single season on his way to slashing .366/.430/.582 with 12 home runs and 61 runs batted in, an improvement over his freshman season when he slashed .335/.392/.591 with 12 HRs and 65 RBIs.
Susac earned first team freshman all-America honors and was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and he figures to rake in more awards at the end of the 2022 collegiate baseball season given his improvements at the plate.
If the stats, awards, and accolades weren’t enough, professional baseball also runs in the family. His older brother Andrew played parts of six seasons in MLB, including winning a world series ring with the San Francisco Giants in 2014. Another brother, Matt, pitched for the University of Nevada, and his cousin Anthony is a pitcher for the Wildcats.
According to MLB Pipeline’s prospect scouting report, Susac has the chance to be an impact player in the field and at the plate. Here’s part of what they had to say about Susac’s game:
"“A switch-hitter when he joined the Wildcats, he’s hit almost exclusively right-handed, which scouts thought was his better side as a prepster anyway. Big and physical, Susac has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields, using the gap very well during his freshman season. There’s legitimate power to tap into as well. A former high school quarterback, he’s a better athlete and moves better than you’d think given his size.Behind the plate, Susac’s plus arm plays well, and he did show off above-average defensive skills last spring, though he wasn’t receiving quite as well in the fall. Even so, he’s one of the best college backstops in the class, cementing his place in the first round with a very strong spring.”"
Watching Susac’s tape, he has an advanced approach at the plate and uses his size and athleticism well, displaying the ability to drive the ball to all fields with power, as well as using his plus-strength to fight off tough breaking pitches for base hits.
Susac’s most valuable asset–even more so than his plus-bat–is his arm. Over two seasons at Arizona, Susac threw out 18 of 47 would-be base stealers–good for a 39% clip–while showing arm velocity around 89-90 MPH throwing down to second from behind the plate.
While his dual-sport athletic history tends to lend itself to some scouts having an optimistic outlook on his mobility behind the plate, there’s still plenty of room to exercise caution when it comes to Susac’s development behind the dish. Susac checks in at around 6’4-6’5, 218 lbs and his size primarily leads to concerns with his lateral mobility, according to Fangraphs:
"“Like his oldest brother Andrew, he is a power-over-hit catcher whose size may impede his long-term ability to stay behind the plate. Susac is a lanky 6-foot-5, and this impacts his lateral mobility and ball-blocking, and has driven him to try to throw from his knees because it takes him a while to get out of his crouch at his size.”"
Fangraphs isn’t as high on Susac as Pipeline, ranking him 22nd on their list. This may be due to multiple factors, including him being a more polished hitter from the right side of the plate as opposed to the left side, needing to add to his frame without impeding his mobility behind the plate, and working to remove existing grooves in his swing. Here’s what Fangraphs had to say about where Susac needs to develop as a hitter.
"“His swing is also relatively grooved, but not so badly that he has a binary “no” hit tool projection. Instead, the realistic projection here is for Susac to be a passable defender with a 40 bat, which should still be sufficient for everyday duty because there’s so much raw power here already…Susac still has lots of room for mass on his frame, though there may be a delicate balance between him adding strength and losing mobility such that he has to move out from behind the plate. It’s much more likely for these big-framed power hitting catchers to eventually find their way into a regular role than the smaller, contact-oriented ones.”"
Fit with Detroit Tigers
Susac’s ceiling is comparable to that of Willson Contreras, Yasmani Grandal, and Salvador Perez. If Susac can be the type of catcher who supplies 20-25 home runs a season while playing average to above-average defense behind the dish, it would be hard to justify spending their top pick elsewhere.
This season, Eric Haase and Tucker Barnhart currently have OPS’s of .544 and .546, respectively, and are on the back half of their prime playing years behind the plate (Haase is 29 years old, while Barnhart is 31). Jake Rogers (27 years old) profiles better long term, but is far from a sure bet, as his best body of work at the major league level is a 38-game sample from 2021 where he had an OPS of .802 before being shut down to have Tommy John Surgery.
Expecting Rogers to return to form behind the plate and replicate his 2021 batting numbers across an entire season is a tall ask. Add that in with Barnhart and Haase’s struggles at the plate, and the Detroit Tigers may just be better off drafting a power-hitting catcher like Daniel Susac to stash for a rainy day down the road.
It’s not like the Detroit Tigers have an over abundance of depth at catcher in the minor leagues either.
After no. 3 overall Detroit Tigers’ prospect Dillon Dingler, the Tigers are particularly thin on catching prospects throughout their farm system, meaning Daniel Susac could have every opportunity to develop and ascend quickly if selected by the Tigers at pick no. 12.