I’ll admit it: this post was partially inspired by a couple of comments I’ve read on the site here to the effect of, “Well, Susdorf isn’t a prospect, but…” While I understand the sentiment — no, he isn’t your classic toolsy high schooler, or Top-10 Round college stud — I have to say: Steve Susdorf is very much a prospect, at least until he stops hitting like a man on a mission.
Check below the fold as we look at where Susdorf’s been, and try to figure out where he might be headed.
Susdorf had an impressive 4-year career at Fresno State — topped off, of course, with a fairy tale run to a College World Series title in 2008. In his three years as a starter for the Bulldogs, Susdorf posted the following lines:
2006: .329/.424/.591 — 9.6% BB — 16.0% K — 14 HR — .262 ISO — .378 SecA
2007: .340/.426/.548 — 10.7% BB — 17.3% K — 12 HR — .208 ISO — .355 SecA
2008: .343/.436/.600 — 11.2% BB — 16.0% K — 13 HR — .257 ISO — .420 SecA
And for the sake of being thorough, here is the 5-year statistical averages for the Western Athletic Conference in those categories (courtesy of phuturephillies’ work here):
.291/.374/.433 — 10.1% BB — 16.8% K — .142 ISO — .277 SecA
So good stat lines from Susdorf, certainly, but exceptional more for their consistency than anything else. When all was said and done, he was only the sixth hitter chosen from his own conference — in the 19th round, number 586 overall. BA had this to say about him at the time:
Susdorf… has a solid lefthanded swing and average athletic ability. He’s best suited defensively to left field and lacks profile power, though he can shoot line drives from pole to pole and has shown pull home run power. One scout compared him to Aaron Guiel with less speed.
Well, anyone who follows college baseball knows that no one really liked Fresno State’s odds to make a June run when ace Tanner Scheppers was shelved for the season with a shoulder injury — but the Bulldogs defied the odds and won the whole shebang anyway. Susdorf may have carried over a little of that “against all odds” mentality as he joined Willamsport in the New York-Penn League, clubbing a grand slam in his first professional at bat en route to the following line over 182 plate appearances:
2008 (SS, Age 22): .305/.360/.473 — 8.2% BB — 15.0% K — 5 HR — .168 ISO — .246 SecA
You would hope that a 4-year player would fare well in short season ball, but the NYPL is a notorious pitcher’s league, so the above line is actually a bit more impressive than it looks. Still, Susdorf didn’t really find his way onto many Phillies Top 30 lists, and the jury remained out on him. Perhaps he realized there’s only really one way to answer the critics…
2008 (A/A+, Age 23): .370/.414/.511 — 6.9% BB — 16.3% — 3 HR — .141 ISO — .237 SecA
Once again… sure, it’s a small sample size (145 plate appearances), and he’s 23 years old — but Susdorf also came back from injury a month and a half into the season and has had over 40% of his plate appearances in the pitching-dominated Florida State League. And before you ask: yes, his BABIP is high (in the .430 range), but it’s due to a 21.8% line drive ratio. So Susdorf is well and truly tearing the cover off the ball right now.
So what are the red flags? Well, with the strikeout ratio he’s posted, Susdorf isn’t your classic contact hitter, and his power numbers don’t indicate that he’s your classic slugger. In essence, he’s something of a hitting tweener — he whiffs less than the big boppers, but doesn’t walk quite enough or make quite enough contact to be an OBP guy. His bat is going to have to carry him as he moves up the ladder, so significant regression in any one area could spell trouble for Susdorf’s ascent up the ladder.
That being said, it’s tough to ignore his consistent production. The goal should be for Susdorf to finish the year hitting well for the Threshers, and if that happens, the organization can go ahead and pencil him in as the Reading Phillies’ Opening Day left fielder next year. And speaking of fielding… for what it’s worth, Sean Smith’s TotalZone (available on Minor League Splits) had him as +4 in left field last year, so on the scale from “average” to “hopeless,” it certainly looks like Susdorf tends toward the former.
Ultimately, Susdorf’s upside is probably as a solid 4th outfielder, but if we’ve learned anything from the Phillies winning the NL East the past two years, it’s the importance of having a bench stocked with contributing players. If Steve Susdorf turns into an outfield version of Greg Dobbs, then he’s a valuable piece for the organization. It may not make him as exciting of a prospect as Jason Knapp or Anthony Gose, but he’s a prospect nonetheless, and looks like a great return on a 19th round draft pick.