The San Francisco Giants are suddenly facing a shortage of outfielders with Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki both injured. Because of this, the Giants are in need of an offensive spark, and that spark could end up coming from Andrew Susac, not Gregor Blanco and Justin Maxwell, who are filling in for those starting roles.
It sounds unusual that a backup catcher could be the one to step up in the absence of an outfielder. However, Susac could provide the offense with an extra boost now that he has the opportunity to start more regularly.
With Susac starting at the catching position, this allows the Giants to keep Buster Posey‘s bat in the lineup by playing him at first base and moving Brandon Belt to left field. This also allows the Giants to keep Belt’s power in the lineup, which is much-needed with Pence out.
Blanco and Maxwell will provide stability in the outfield for the time being, but it’ll be difficult for them to make up for the lack of offense with both Pence and Aoki out. Travis Ishikawa was called up to the Giants when Aoki was officially placed on the DL, and although he’ll receive some spot starts in left field and pinch-hitting opportunities, he will most likely not see regular playing time.
Susac has the opportunity and the ability to make an impact though. Although Susac has struggled offensively for most of this year, he has had better at-bats recently and is a power threat. After hitting .179 in the month of May, Susac is now hitting .385 in June and has brought his batting average for the season up to .278. He also currently has a .366 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage.
In addition, his offensive struggles earlier in the season could’ve been explained by the lack of consistent playing time for him. Bruce Bochy spoke about Susac’s recent improvement on offense with Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle:
“I do think his more recent at-bats have been better, the quality of his at-bats,” Bochy said. “His timing was off. When that happens, and you’re not playing every day, it makes it more difficult. Hopefully with Andrew playing a little more, it’s going to help him with the bat.”
Susac is pleased to have the opportunity to play more, and even though Posey knows that Susac’s increase in playing time means less time for him to catch, Posey understands that this move will benefit the team.
Alex Pavlovic of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area with the report:
“I’m always looking for an opportunity,” [Susac] said. “I know my role on this team. I’m pretty much just a ‘yes’ man. Whatever they say goes.”
“We have an understanding that it’s about winning games,” Posey said. “Boch has been really good at his job for a long time now and we all have trust in the decisions he makes. Guys are willing to change their roles if it helps the team win.”
Susac’s power and offensive upside is undeniable, but if he wants to continue to receive consistent playing time in Pence and Aoki’s absence, he will have to make a smooth transition defensively as well.
Before this opportunity came up, Susac had been the primary catcher for Tim Lincecum, as Bochy has been hesitant to have Posey catch him since Lincecum usually generates lots of foul balls and can be a tougher pitcher to catch, given the freakiness of his pitches. Susac has started catching for Ryan Vogelsong recently too. He caught his past two starts, in which Vogelsong pitched 12 2/3 shutout innings.
Some veteran pitchers can be picky about who catches them, but Vogelsong has praised Susac for his game-planning and defensive ability. Pavlovic again with the report:
“I’ve always thought, even when he came up here last year, that he handles himself well,” Vogelsong said. “We talk a lot between innings, which is something I don’t like to do all that much, but when we’re talking about hitters I don’t mind.”
Not one player will be able to replicate or make up for the lack of Pence and Aoki’s bats in the lineup, but Susac is the most likely player to step up. Blanco and Maxwell will be steady presences defensively and could chip in offensively occasionally. However, with more playing time and more confidence, Susac could have a more significant impact, both offensively and defensively.
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