Mid-Season Scouting Report: Kurt Suzuki, C

Kurt Suzuki has had an outstanding season for the AA-Midland Rockhounds. The Cal-State Fullerton alum was named a Texas League All-Star and was one of the A's two representatives at the Futures Game during All-Star week in Pittsburgh. Paul Rathert has a scouting report on the talented catcher inside.

Physique: At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Suzuki has a body that should allow him to play out his career behind the plate. He has an average build, but should be able to add some bulk to both his upper and lower body without sacrificing any mobility or durability. He rarely if ever asks for rest and will catch multiple games in a row. If this ends up affecting him in the second half of the season physically or at the plate it could change, but for now there is no cause for worry. Suzuki is very athletic and recently played first base in an extra-inning game for Midland and he made a fantastic diving play while at first.

Defense: This was the most glaring weakness of Suzuki's game in 2005. At High-A Stockton, he committed 15 errors and allowed 19 passed balls. Granted the Ports pitching staff had high turnover, but some of that performance had to be on Suzuki's shoulders. He did the professional thing and the right thing by using the difficulties he had last season behind the dish as motivation to work on his defense this spring.

Suzuki's defense is now a strength and has drawn him rave reviews across the Texas League. He is also neutralizing the opponent's running game more frequently and has grown in his abilities as a good game-caller. As he moves up in levels and works with the same pitchers for an extended period of time, he will only get better. Calling a game is always difficult for catchers transitioning to the professional level as it is a new responsibility for them. In college, the games are usually called by the coach.

Offense: This is Suzuki's ticket to the majors. He has hit up and down the order over the past two seasons and for the most part has produced in every slot. He has a good approach no matter where he hits, adapting to what the situation calls for.

His power doesn't project high enough to put him in the middle of the order, but hitting him near the top of the order may suit him and the lineup the best. He has a good eye and generates a solid on-base percentage. His stance is slightly open, but he evens it out as the pitch approaches and he begins to drive towards the ball. His swing is moderately long, but he has quick hands through the zone.

Some critics say he still has an aluminum bat swing, but if it helps him hit over .280, I don't know if that's a bad thing. He hits line drives to all fields resulting in a lot of doubles and will hit the occasional ball out the park. Speed isn't part of his game, but he doesn't clog the bases. He should turn into a solid number two hitter, using his OBP to set things up for the big boppers in the middle.

Overview: Suzuki has improved his defense so much this season that if he can keep it up, he will be a solid major league catcher. The Oakland organization has a glut of solid catching prospects in Suzuki and All-Stars in their respective leagues Landon Powell (Cal League), Anthony Recker (Midwest League) and John Baker (PCL).

With his improved defensive game, Suzuki is now well-rounded enough to be mentioned as one of the top all-around catchers in the organization. Suzuki came from a national championship team at Cal State Fullerton and got the game-winning hit in deciding game against Texas.

He has shown a lot of maturity this season and seems to have shaken the label of being detrimentally "too passionate" arguing with umpires and ultimately making things tougher on his pitchers. Depending on how things shake up in Sacramento, Suzuki could split time there next season or win the catching job outright.

If he continues at his current pace, he could be a September call-up in 2007 or have a chance to compete for the starting job in 2008. There could be a time within the next few years that Oakland has an All-Hawaiian battery in Suzuki and River Cats' pitcher Shane Komine. If that's the case, Suzuki will need a nickname to couple with Komine's moniker of Hawaiian Punchout".

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