2011 Projection: Is 2011 The Year Kurt Suzuki Goes From Sleeper To Star?

Clearly it was a disappointing season for Kurt Suzuki in 2010.  Many people anticipated him fully breaking out, but instead he regressed across the board:

495 At Bats
.242 Batting Average (120 Hits)
13 Home Runs
71 RBI
55 Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.303 On Base Percentage
.366 Slugging Percentage
.245 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The average is easy to throw away thanks to an incredibly unlucky BABIP.  He makes great contact (9.9% strikeout rate in ’10 and 11.9% for his career) and doesn’t put an excessive amount of balls into the air (40.8% fly ball rate in ’10, 38.4% for his career).  There is every reason to expect a significant rebound from Suzuki in 2011 back into the .270-.280 range, at the least.  In fact, with his makeup there is the potential that he hits even better than that.

Where he really stagnated was in the power department, going from 15 HR (as well as 37 doubles) in 2009 to last year’s 13 HR and 18 doubles.  Yes, an injury cost him some time, but that’s not enough of an explanation.

Part of the problem could be the lack of depth in the Athletics lineup.  Suzuki, when in the lineup, rarely had any protection (do you count Kevin Kouzmanoff at this point), allowing opponents to pitch him tough.  In few other lineups would Suzuki see significant time hitting third (221 AB) or fourth (191 AB).  The A’s addressed that, to an extent, with the additions of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham.  While Suzuki easily could still pencil in to the third spot, he will have a lot more protection in place, which should help him out.

While his home ballpark does him no favors, Suzuki was actually worse on the road than he was at home:

  • Home – .263, 8 HR, 46 RBI in 259 AB
  • Road – .220, 5 HR, 25 RBI in 236 AB

There is no reason to expect that to continue, meaning an overall improvement in Suzuki’s production.  Even if he was simply to replicate his home numbers when on the road, you’d be looking at a catcher with 15+ HR and 85+ RBI.  Who isn’t looking for that?

While there is still some hope that he could develop more power, it’s hard to project him into the 20+ range.  Is it possible?  Absolutely.  At 27-years old, he easily could add power and improve on his career 6.8% HR/FB.  Expecting it, however, would be a mistake.

What can we enter 2011 expecting?  Let’s take a look:

.285 (157-550), 17 HR, 80 RBI, 70 R, 5 SB, .295 BABIP, .346 OBP, .440 SLG

Those would be solid numbers for any catcher, but Suzuki brings with him the potential to substantially outperform the projection.  It is based on a 10.55% strikeout rate and there certainly is a chance that he is luckier and posts a higher BABIP.

As we discussed, there also is the potential for him to hit more home runs, which in turn will lead to more runs and RBI.  While Suzuki disappointed in 2010, there is no reason to simply ignore him because of it.  Catcher is not an overly deep position, so focusing on potential in the middle rounds is certainly the way to go.

What are your thoughts on Suzuki?  Is he a player you would target in your drafts?  Why or why not?

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Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:

 

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One Response to 2011 Projection: Is 2011 The Year Kurt Suzuki Goes From Sleeper To Star?

  1. morat says:

    Wow, this guy has been an absolute bust this year. I’m lucky to get LuCroy and Posada off waivers in both my leagues. What happened, will he recover in the 2nd half?

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