Is it time for Suttle to stop switch-hitting?

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(Photo Credit: Flickr user lakelandlocal via Creative Commons license)

It’s been four years since the Yankees gave Bradley Suttle what was then a fourth round record $1.3M signing bonus in 2007. He hit a solid .271/.348/.456 (.361 wOBA) with Low-A Charleston in 2008, but missed all of 2009 with major shoulder issues. Suttle returned in 2010 and was decent with High-A Tampa (.272/.340/.411 with a .348 wOBA). This year has disappointing, a .216/.302/.405 batting line with a .321 wOBA for Double-A Trenton. His strikeout (34.1%) and walk (8.4%) rates are career worsts as is his BABIP (.298), though a .198 ISO is his best ever.

Here’s what Baseball America had to say about Suttle’s offense right before the 2007 draft (subs. req’d)…

There’s a debate among scouts about who’s better, Suttle or his Longhorns teammate, Kyle Russell. Suttle doesn’t have Russell’s power ceiling, but he’s a better bet to hit in the major leagues. He’s a pure hitter and switch-hitter to boot, with scouts preferring his stroke from the left side. He has a strong 6-foot-2, 213-pound frame, though his inside-out swing doesn’t have much lift and somewhat limits his power. He drives more balls into the gaps than over the fence.

They also ranked him as the best pure college hitter heading into the draft (subs. req’d), ahead of top ten picks like Matt Wieters and Matt LaPorta. We’re four years and more than 1,300 plate appearances into Suttle’s pro career now, and a .258/.333/.422 batting line (~.345 wOBA) hardly resembles what you’d expect from such a highly touted college hitter. However, let’s focus on one piece of that scouting report, the “with scouts preferring his stroke from the left side” part. Here are Suttle’s career splits…

Pretty consistent with the scouting report, because he’s done absolutely nothing from the right side of the plate as a pro. The strikeout and walk rates are better, sure, but not nearly enough to make up for the utter lack of hitting ability. Also, before we go too much further: yes, it’s a small sample size. I don’t think I had to say that, but I did anyway.

So after looking at all this, the question is should Suttle stop switch-hitting and focus on his left-handed swing only? The Yankees have had success getting switch-hitters to abandon their weaker sides in the recent past, namely Eduardo Nunez and Frankie Cervelli, and Suttle seems like a prime candidate for the move. It’s a drastic change, no doubt about it, because he’s had the platoon advantage his entire life and all of a sudden it will be gone against lefties. Heck, there’s a legitimate chance he’ll be worse against lefties as a left-handed batter than he has been as a righty.

If they do decide to make a switch, I think it might be best to let him ride this season out and then drop the right-handed swing over the winter. That way he can ease into it rather than jump right into something he’s never done before against Double-A caliber pitching. Right now Suttle looks like little more than a platoon bat at the corner infield spots, one with some power and one base skills and enough defense to have value. If he learned to play left field he could be a mini-version of Eric Hinske, or at least be closer to that than Brandon Laird, who hits from the other side of the plate and has drawn just 13 more walks than Suttle in 726 more plate appearances since 2007.

The Yankees have gotten very little return so far from their 2007 draft, none in terms of big leaguers. Chase Weems has contributed the most of the lot by being traded for Jerry Hairston Jr. at the deadline in 2009. Austin Romine has the best shot at being an above average everyday player from that haul, but Suttle, Laird, Ryan Pope, and Andrew Brackman might still be able to contribute in lesser roles. Perhaps having Suttle focus on hitting from the left side exclusively is a way to extract more value from him long-term.

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  • zs190

    The thing with Suttle is he’s 25 after all the injuries. His .271/.340/.478 vs RHP in career is not bad but he did a lot of that when he’s old for the league (22 college guy in low A, 24 in high A). He’s been worse at the upper levels and if you have him hit LHP left-handed, I think it’s likely that his overall line is even worse than that.

    He’s tolerable at 3B from what I’ve read and average at 1B but the bat right now is inadequate for either position.

    That being said, he’s a nonprospect continuing what he has been doing so there is nothing to lose by having him try be strictly a left handed hitter and see if he improves. I guess he’s one of those name guys that just did not pan out, happens to every team.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t think Mike was implying that Suttle is a hot-shot prospect… He wasn’t in Mike’s pre-draft top 30. I think you’re mostly repeating Mike’s points… except that Mike is concluding perhaps the Yankees can salvage some value from Suttle and you’re saying he’s done.

      • zs190

        I’m mostly pointing out that his numbers were not in age-appropriate environments but maybe I missed that in Mike’s post, sorry about that.

        • Ted Nelson

          I’m just saying that I don’t think Mike’s point was to say he’s a stud… just that he may become somewhat useful from the left but has been useless from the right.

          He’s a bit old for his levels, but once you account for the shoulder injury it’s not too ridiculous. It’s another knock against him, but not necessarily death to his prospects of at least cracking an MLB bench in a couple of years.

          I agree overall that he’s a very-fringe-prospect to non-prospect, I’m just saying that I don’t think Mike meant to say otherwise based on his post above and not ranking Suttle as a top 30 prospect anymore. Just that he might be an MLB bench hitter from the left-side, but doesn’t appear to be anywhere close from the right.

  • Ted Nelson

    Interesting analysis. Suttle’s someone I don’t think about too much. Interesting about his splits, didn’t realize that. As you say it’s probably worth trying him from the left side only at some time just to see how it goes, but maybe not AA.

  • jay h

    I saw this article today. It explains Slade’s brawl and apparently he was promoted to Tampa. http://www.pinstripealley.com/.....#storyjump

  • TCMiller30

    “The Yankees have had success getting switch-hitters to abandon their weaker sides in the recent past, namely Eduardo Nunez and FRANKIE CERVELLI”

    So what we’ve been witnessing is Cervelli’s stronger hitting side? Just wanted to make sure.

  • Samuel

    I have said this for several years since I saw Bradley Suttle play in Charleston in 2008 and then again last year in 2010:

    Bradley Suttle stinks.

    He could never hit from the right side, and is a constant strikeout waiting to happen.

    He also has a below average range at third, but does have a pretty good arm there.

    If and when David Adams come back 100% healthy, Suttle should not be long for the Yankee system, at least as starting player prospect status goes.

    • pat

      Never mind the fact that they play different positions.

      • Samuel

        Adams plays second base because Corban Joseph can’t play the middle(no range, can’t turn two, etc.), then Joseph moves to third base.

        • pat

          I bet they’d just put him on the bench instead of 1B right?

          • Samuel

            The guy has no range at first base either, with terrible footwork around the bag.

            The guy will end up being an org. guy thru and thru because the Yankees want to get their money’s worth from the signing bonus.

            He has no future as a Yankee prospect, let alone as a major league player.

            Try not to let emotions get in the way of actual player talent and their ability to impact the major league team.

            Plus, with Rob Segedin and Kyle Roller now promoted to High A, there might be a chance Luke Murton gets promoted to Double A to play a little first base.

            I repeat that he might be promoted to see if he can handel the higher level, which would then take away Suttle’s first base job.

            Either way, there are younger guys behind him and in front of Suttle who are better.

            • pat

              Murton is the same age and hitting worse in Tampa than Suttle did. They’re gonna bench Suttle for that?

              • Samuel

                I knew you would jump on that one Murton comment. That is why I put it in there. Goes to show that you look past all the other information to pick out the one item that you don’t agree with.

                Both are org. guys at best. Murton is an org. guy, but very hard working. That goes a long way with Yankees brass. For all that, Murton probably will be released within a year if Roller and Segedin hit in Tampa.

                Main point is that there are way too many corner type players better than Suttle, with better skills and backed up with better numbers.

                • pat

                  Umm because all of your other “information” is your opinion that you’re trying to pass off as facts.

                  • Samuel

                    Yes, my opinion based upon seeing Suttle play about 30 times over the last four seasons.

                    And the comments are facts – he stinks and the Yankees only keep him around to fill a roster and get their signing bones money’s worth.

                    Stop reading the prospect blogs only and actually get out and see a game – or three.

                    • Samuel

                      *bonus

  • TrimThoseSideburns

    his inside-out swing doesn’t have much lift and somewhat limits his power. He drives more balls into the gaps than over the fence.

    That sounds really familiar….

  • Don W

    Folks wanted Bernie to stop switch-hitting for years. When it all came together for him he was one of the best hitters in baseball. However, due to Suttle’s injuries and missed time I would have him stop hitting RH’ed immediately and see what happens.