A Closer Look: Steve Susdorf

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.

46 thoughts on “A Closer Look: Steve Susdorf

  1. this is my guy. i love sudorf. i was high on him from the beginning, against some ridicule. i absolutely love his mental makeup. that is the #1 thing about him for me. i like the dobbs analogy but i see a lot of jason michaels in him. a guy who plays above his talent level. all heart. a philly kind of guy. he is one of my favorite prospects and i believe that he will be a productive mlb player.

  2. whats a good SecA? his are in the higher .270’s, but compared to his college SecA, they’re low. are they mistypes?

  3. Thanks for the writeup. For a 19th round pick and a senior sign he has been great.

    So, I pose this question, Could we be saying in the future that the 2008 draft the best draft ever or the greatest draft ever? lol.

    I think we all know the top picks,(Hewitt, Knapp, Gose, Collier, Pettibone, May, Worley, Cosart, Shreve) who more then likely, will make the majors one day. Out of that group there should be some impact players.

    Then you have the group of second tier players like Susdorf. Also in that group you have Stutes, Julio Rodriguez, Michael Cisco, Schwimer, and Rosenberg. All should have some role in that majors(Schwimmer and Rosenburg should be innings eaters).

    Pretty incredible.

  4. Ryanhoward06:

    If Anthony Hewitt makes it to AA, much less the major leagues, I’ll be surprised.

  5. Friar thanks for the good write up. I have been one of those guys that has kept my eye on Susdorf as well. I’ve tried to walk the fine line between tempering some exaggerated expectations and rebuffing the naysayers. I think the numbers alone show that he has a great hit tool and deserves the prospect tag. I look forward to watching him continue to climb the ladder. He and Brown in the AA outfield together next year will be a pretty exciting thing to watch. Especially with Taylor and Berry presumably at AAA. Gose could possibly fill the void in Clearwater. Collier i get the feeling might need to repeat low A.

  6. Thanks Rev. I love these discussions. I would call Susdorf productive… very productive. I looked at Slayden’s numbers against him because Slayden is another guy I’d call productive. There are some similarities except Steve’s been a little better and is a year ahead (age-wise).

    He also seems to make the team much better. College speaks for itself. Lakewood really took off when he came back from injury. D’Arnaud starting hitting more right around that time. Coincidence? Clearwater is a better team with him and when Brown gets back, this could be a fun team to watch. If that occurs, we may never see Mitchell again. Brown might go to Reading when he returns though.

  7. Susdorf has been productive but has career minor leaguer written all over him.

    He appears to be a 1-tool player who taking advantage of the fact that he is more experienced than most of his opposition.

    When he hits AA, that will change and talent then becomes the key. I just don’t see enough talent for him to progress from there…

    For all of the complaints about Hewitt, he is more likely to see the majors….

  8. Maybe it’s me, but everything that’s been written about Susdorf could have been written about Ibanez at the same point in his career……just saying

  9. For all our musings, a simple instruction, a change of attitude,
    or a physical event change everything. Just to use an example we all know Feliz it ten times the player he was last year. He lost weight(I believe), got into terrific shape, and stopped trying to hit HRs.
    Drabek’s injury probably helped him get the proper respecy for the game and work harder.
    The point is writting someone off is sort of pointless,doubts ok but nothing terminal.

  10. Except that at 23, in A+, Ibanez had 20hr, 108 rbi, and was .332/.395/.612 with an OPS over 1.

    24 year-old Corner OF’ers who show no power at the A-ball level are unlikely to advance very far. I certainly hope he becomes successful but it seems unlikely.

  11. Thanks for the write-up, Friar, I appreciate the statistical insight.

    As one of the “naysayers”, I will say that I totally agree with PP Fan on the mental makeup, heart, and philly-kind-of-guy assessment, at least from what I’ve read (I’ve never met Steve or seen him play, so I cannot actually vouch for it). I just cannot get too excited about what he’s done so far as this is performance you would expect based on his age and what he did in college. Maybe I set the bar too high for the word “prospect” but he is not what I normally think of as a prospect.

    Anyway, I can’t wait to get proven wrong, I hope he turns out like Ibanez, and I hope he further complicates our already crowded OF situation in Single-A and below.

  12. 3up3kkk is right that the first real test for Susdorf will be Double-A. If he gets there next year, he’ll be 24 — still a bit old, but if he hits at Double-A like he has in the lower minors, then his odds look pretty good.

    That’s an interesting question, by the way. Who is more likely to make the majors — Susdorf or Hewitt? I’d honestly say Susdorf has the better chance to make it, though of course only as a fourth outfielder; Hewitt still has a chance for everything to click and for him to be an All-Star, but the odds are certainly slimmer.

    Jamie: per everyone’s favorite resource (Wikipedia), league average SecA’s are typically in the .250 to .280 range. Susdorf’s below average numbers in pro ball reinforce what I said above: he’s not really a big-time power or speed threat, and he doesn’t walk a ton. SecA is a good way to determine whether a guy has secondary skills beyond just his average. For two opposite ends of the spectrum, check out Mariners prospect Greg Halman’s 2009 (.337 SecA despite a .210/.268/.487 and 41.6% K) and Lou Marson’s 2008 (.314 SecA despite a .102 ISO and no speed). Halman’s SecA is all driven by power, while Marson’s was driven by his excellent BB%.

  13. Jason Michaels is probably a pretty good Phillies comp for him if he continues to progress. Michaels was a little better defensively, but it is not as if Susdorf is bad. The walk rate does concern me a little bit, but that may be a function of small sample size and hitting .370. When he starts getting pitched around more the walk rate should go up (as the average probably goes down).

    A good late pick with the Phillies. Next year at Reading will be key for him.

  14. andyb, Michaels is a good comparison, except for speed and defense, as you mention.

    When Michaels was 23 he had 450ABs at Clearwater, hitting 306/396/494. As a pro, Michaels has a career 268/341/405 line with a peak of 305/399/415 in 2005 in 290 ABs. Also worth noting he played some CF that year.

  15. Between Susdorf and Hewitt, I definitely like Susdorf’s chances better. Hewitt is awful in every aspect of the game right now. At least Susdorf can hit.

  16. I have no strong opinion on Susdorf, but the Ibanez comparision is not helpful, not just for the reason set forth by 3up3kkk, but also because Ibanez’ career progression was so unusual. It would be a little like projecting that Zach Duke will get 250 wins because his most similar player through age 25 is Jamie Moyer.

  17. Nice write up. I really enjoy these Closer Look features. Susdorf has been and will continue to be a guy that I follow and root for. It may not mean anything (or it may very well mean everything), but I like the fact that he came up huge when it was needed in the CWS.

    – Jeff

  18. Great write-up. I mean, really, it’s very hard not to root for a player like Susdorf.

  19. Boston Phan
    I lool at Micheals this way. When he was playing part time for the Phils I dont think he ever went to winter ball to get better.
    Limited dedeciation. I may be wrong but…

  20. What the hell were they thinking with Hewitt? The object of hitting is to hit the baseball. He appears to have some trouble doing that.

  21. This is a Steve Susdorf string – I share the thoughts on Hewitt, however, and have posted them elsewhere on the site.

  22. Susdorf has certainly hit at every stop so far. While I agree that 4th outfielder looks like his ceiling, that would be fine with me.

  23. Nowheels, I certainly wouldn’t hold not playing winter ball against a player. 90% of the time when Americans go to latin america it is experienced minor leaguers looking to earn extra money.

  24. I also agree with LarryM about the Ibanez comparison. Star players in MLB reach that status because they exceeded their expectations. It is valid to compare a prospect to a GROUP of players, but one individual player is asking for trouble.

  25. Couldn’t agree more about the article and Susdorf, I hope he proves people like me wrong (who say he won’t succeed in the majors), because it would make the big league team better in the end!

    Can’t help but root for the guy though, underdog 19th round senior draft pick defying the odds is better than 1st round pick busts anyway.

    Here’s hoping he makes it, even if his ceiling is 4th OF.

  26. alright guys that enough Hewitt hating, you do remember that he is still a PHILLIES prospect right? he went 2/4 the other day with on K’s he’s working so lets all try to root him on instead of just criticize. I for one look at him and santana first everyday in the box scores

    GO HEWITT im starting the bandwagon for him

  27. Nobody hates Hewitt – he seems like a perfectly nice young man and we would all like to see him succeed. I, too, look for his name in boxscores every day. Our criticism is of the organization.

  28. Hewitt was drafted primarily on upside and athleticism. He was highly regarded by other organizations as well but known as a high risk high reward prospectHe will not make it to the majors if he can’t learn to make contact but it seems like he is putting in the effort.If he had been drafted where Dominic Brown was , we wouldn’t be hearing a word, but because the Phillies considered him worthy of a number one selection he finds himself subject to unfair vituperation.I wish him the best.

  29. I think a fair Susdorf vs Ibanez comparison can be made if you use all the appropriate data. I have added all of the statistics for Ibanez for his age 20, 21, 22, and 23 seasons in the minor leagues. I also added all of the statistics for Susdorf for his age 20, 21, 22, and 23 seasons in college and in the minor leagues. I did not include Susdorf’s freshman year in college at age 19 because there are no comparative statistics for Ibanez. By combining the four years it automatically adjusts for the up and down years that all players experience. The statistics are quite interesting.

    Susdorf
    G – AB – R – H – 2B – 3B – HR – RBI – SB – CS – BB – SO – HBP – SH – SF – DP -TB – AVE – OBP – SLG – OPS
    285 – 1080 – 228 – 362 – 81 – 7 – 46 – 260 – 33 – 12 – 118 – 174 – 42– 7 – 9 – 18 -595 – .335 – .421– .551 – .972

    Ibanez
    G – AB – R – H – 2B – 3B – HR – RBI – SB – CS – BB – SO – HBP – SH – SF – DP -TB – AVE – OBP – SLG – OPS
    314 – 1099 – 181 – 340 – 75 – 16 – 33 – 219 – 15 – 15 – 127 – 158 – 7 – 2 – 14 – 17 -546 – .309 – .384 – .497 – .881

    When you standardize the numbers to an average full time major league season of 610 ABs. You have the following:

    Susdorf
    AB – R – H – 2B – 3B – HR – RBI – SB – CS – BB – SO – HBP – SH – SF – DP -TB – AVE – OBP – SLG – OPS
    610 – 129 – 204 – 46 – 4 – 26 – 147 – 19 – 7 – 67 – 98 – 24– 4– 5 – 10 – 336 – .335 – .421 – .551 – .972

    Ibanez
    AB – R – H – 2B – 3B – HR – RBI – SB – CS – BB – SO – HBP – SH – SF – DP -TB – AVE – OBP – SLG – OPS
    610 – 100 – 189 – 42 – 9 – 18 – 122 – 8 – 8 – 70 – 88 –
    4– 1– 8 – 9 -303 – .309 – .384 – .497 – .881

    Ibanez’s Major League Totals converted to the average 610 AB season:
    AB – R – H – 2B – 3B – HR – RBI – SB – CS – BB – SO – HBP – SH – SF – DP – TB – AVE – OBP – SLG – OPS
    610 – 90 – 175 – 35 – 4 – 25 – 103 – 5 – 3 – 57 – 101 –
    3– 0– 6 – 13 – 293 – .287 – .348 – .481 – .829

    Clearly the statistics show that both Susdorf and Ibanez performed very very good in their 20 to 23 age period. But, Susdorf performed better during this time frame when compared to Ibanez. Additionally, Ibanez’s standardized first four years in the minors are a slight better than his standardized major league stats. This is close to what you see when you compare most major leaguers stats to their minor league stats.

    I think this clearly reflects that Susdorf should be considered a legit prospect.

  30. Umm Susdorf did that with a metal bat in a lousy college conference. Ibanez was in the minors…. not really a good comp.

  31. Agree there is no way you can compare a player’s college stats to a minor leaguer. It’s an entirely different game.

    75% of college players are not good enough to play A-ball level professionally.

  32. And that ignores the other major problem with Ibanez. He did not become a good player until he was 29 years old. Are the names Curtis Pride, George Alusik, George Shuba, Mark Brouhard or Brian Buchanan impressive? Because up to age 28, they had similar statistics to Ibanez. It is simply to ludicris to prop up a prospect because he had similar numbers to Ibanez five years before Ibanez became good.

  33. It’s almost 10 days later and he’s still hitting over 400. When do you think they will move him up, if at all this year?

  34. I admit I found this site while checking up on former Fresno State players. I am not a Phillies fan, nothing against them just live on the west coast. But why would anyone be more excited about Dominic Brown?

  35. I looked at the stats and this is what I find by taking the number of at bats and multipling them: 234/128 = 1.83 so I figured out Steve’s stats by this multiplier, to compare them evenly. I agree some of Dominic’s stats are better but how do you argue with these? Also everyone says Dominic is the better glove but I noticed he committed twice as many errors.

    Steve/Dominic Stats:
    AVG: .398/.308
    SLG: .547/526
    OPS: .993/.917
    R: 37/41
    H: 93/72
    2B: 18/12
    3B: 0/3
    HR: 5/11
    RBI: 35/44
    BB: 16/34
    SO: 35/48
    SB: 5/16
    CS: 0/8
    E: 2/4

    I mean no offense I just don’t understand.

    Thanks guys

  36. You have to look at the complete package. Age, power, speed, etc. Brown is a true 5 tool player. I don’t even have to mention that power and speed are very highly sought after qualities in athletes and baseball players in particular. Check out the BB to SO ratio. Those are signs of his patience even with the power.

  37. a lousy conference? he won the cws you idiot

    he put up massive #’s against top 5 teams

    i love how the “experts” have been putting steve down since he first arrived
    all he has done is prove you “experts” wrong

    what is to say he wont continue?

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