- Full name Kurt Kiyoshi Suzuki
- Born 10/04/1983 in Wailuku, HI
- Profile Ht.: 5'11" / Wt.: 210 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Cal State Fullerton
- Debut 06/12/2007
Drafted in the 2nd round (67th overall) by the Oakland Athletics in 2004 (signed for $550,000).
View Draft ReportA native of Wailuku, Hawaii, Suzuki enrolled at Cal State Fullerton in 2001 as a recruited walk-on. He'll leave as a possible sandwich pick. Most clubs see the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder anywhere from a second- to sixth-round talent, but he's been one of the hottest hitters in the country this season and teams have paid close attention. He was batting .438-13-74, all team-leading totals, and his 43-23 walk-strikeout ratio makes him a prime target for a "Moneyball" team like Oakland, which has four picks before the start of the second round. Suzuki is a personal favorite of A's general manager Billy Beane. He routinely has good at-bats and rarely gets cheated at the plate. He's a solid defender and is particularly skilled at blocking balls. A quick release compensates for average arm strength. He also plays with a lot of energy.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Suzuki went from walk-on to hero at Cal State Fullerton, leading the Titans to the 2004 College World Series championship as the team's top hitter and emotional core. He built on his "Kurt Klutch" reputation in 2006 with USA Baseball's Olympic qualifying team, hitting .455 with a game-winning homer against Brazil. Team USA manager Davey Johnson called him the team's best player. Never satisfied, Suzuki keeps getting better. He repeats his short swing, geared to produce line drives, and has improved significantly in using the whole field. He draws plenty of walks and is tough to strike out. He's an athletic grinder who went from decent to above-average defensively through hard work and fundamentals, leading Double-A Texas League catchers in fielding percentage (.997) while ranking second in catching basestealers (47 percent). Suzuki doesn't project to hit for much power, though some scouts expect him to hit 10-15 homers a season because he controls the strike zone so well and hits the ball hard. Defense doesn't come naturally to him, but he has shown the ability to work at it with outstanding results. He's a below-average runner, though fine for a catcher. Suzuki's natural leadership ability and work ethic have drawn admiration from Jason Kendall during Suzuki's trips to big league camp. After a year in Triple-A, Suzuki should be ready to replace Kendall when his contract expires after the 2007 season.
Suzuki capped his Cal State Fullerton career in style, hitting .413-16-87 to earn All- America honors and delivering the championship-winning hit at the 2004 College World Series. He was slated to begin 2005 in low Class A until Landon Powell tore up his left knee in January. Bumped to high Class A, Suzuki delivered a solid performance in his first full pro season. Suzuki's offensive abilities are above-average for a catcher. He has a short, level swing and makes consistent contact. He works the count well and has occasional power. Defensively, he has an average arm and threw out 37 percent of basestealers last year. While his throwing is fine, Suzuki needs work on the rest of his defensive game, such as blocking balls and framing pitches. Though his effort and leadership skills are universally praised, he can be a little too headstrong at times. He'll argue with umpires, which doesn't help his pitchers' cause, and visibly shows frustration with poor play by himself or others. Most observers agree Suzuki will reach the majors, but whether he it will be as a starter or backup is still a question. Clearly the top catching prospect in the system, he moves up to Double-A this year.
Suzuki turned down a scholarship to stay home at Hawaii in order to walk on at Cal State Fullerton so he could face top competition. He capped an All-America .413-16-87 season in 2004 with the game-winning hit in the College World Series. He signed for $550,000 and had a solid pro debut, marred only by an 0-for-13 showing in the Northwest League championship series. Suzuki has a mature approach at the plate, consistently working himself into hitter's counts and demonstrating gap power. He's a natural leader on the field and is exceptionally good at blocking balls and framing pitches. Suzuki needs to use all fields with his line-drive stroke. He has average power at best, but is still pull-conscious from swinging metal bats. His arm graded as above-average in college but regressed during the summer, which might be due to fatigue. Suzuki shared catching duties with Landon Powell at short-season Vancouver, but they'll be separated in 2005 to give them both plenty of time behind the plate. Two years younger than Powell, Suzuki will begin the year one step below him in low Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Entering the year, Suzuki was regarded as a solid offensive catcher with questions about his work behind the plate. While he maintained his offensive performance this season with Midland, he made major strides on defense. Managers rated him the league's best defensive catcher. Suzuki has always had the tools to play catcher, and they all came together this season. His biggest improvement came in game-calling, but he also led the league with a .997 fielding percentage and he threw out 47 percent of basestealers. He's agile with a good arm and has all the leadership qualities teams look for in a catcher. Offensively, Suzuki went from a dead-pull hitter to using the whole field. He maintained his good approach at the plate, walking more than he struck out, and some managers think he could still show a little bit more power down the line.
Helping Cal State Fullerton win the College World Series left Suzuki a bit worn out once he arrived in Vancouver. Still, his feel for the game and leadership abilities reminded managers of Paul Lo Duca with better defensive skills. Fatigue forced Suzuki's average arm strength to play down, though he still managed 1.9-second pop times. He calls a solid game and blocks pitches well, but still needs to refine his receiving skills. Suzuki demonstrated a patient approach with the bat, and should emerge as a quality hitter with gap-to-gap power once he makes an adjustment with his swing. "He needs to use the whole field," Rogers said. "In college and here, he pulled the ball so much. He'll become a plus hitter if he can do that."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Pacific Coast League in 2007
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Oakland Athletics in 2007
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Texas League in 2006
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Oakland Athletics in 2006
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Oakland Athletics in 2005