More than a dozen University of Arizona baseball players entered the transfer portal after coach Jay Johnson left for Louisiana State University in June. Former freshman Daniel Susac was one of the few players left in Arizona despite changing coaches.
In July, Chip Hale, an Arizona alumni and former MLB player and manager, took over the program. The appointment thrilled Susac, and he has enjoyed working with Hale and the new coaching staff since they arrived.
“It was here I came to play and where I committed,” said Susac. “I have built all these friendships with my teammates, and I felt that I would fail them if I went somewhere else. I wanted to give the new coaches a chance and they have been fantastic. I really like the new staff. “
Susac was a highly regarded preparatory prisoner from the California high school ranks and had a professional interest in attending Arizona.
The decision to attend Arizona has paid off for Susac. After thriving as a freshman in 2020-21, Susac enters her second campaign as one of the top players in college baseball.
Scouts project Susac as a potential top five pick in the 2022 MLB draft. Susac has dreamed of playing professional baseball since he was young. He comes from a baseball-rich family, which has helped Susac reach the position he is in today.
Susac’s two older brothers, Andrew and Matt, played baseball in college. Andrew, a catcher, played in Oregon State and has been playing professional ball since 2012. Matt put up for two seasons in Nevada. Susac’s cousin, Anthony, is one freshman pitcher in Arizona this year.
“There’s always something I’ve wanted to do since I was little,” Susac said. “It has been a goal for me. But for me it is a goal for the end of the year. You still have to prove yourself. It’s great to be mentioned with all the great players. But there is still a lot to work on this year. “
Susac made an immediate impact as a rookie, hitting 0.335 with 24 doubles, 12 home runs and 65 RBIs on 242 strokes in 61 games. He hopes to build on that success this spring.
Susac is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-handed striker who is an advanced player in all aspects of the game. Offensively, Susac appears as a bat in the middle of order with power and accuracy above average. He uses a simple setup at the plate and drives the ball to all parts of the court.
On the defensive side, Susac shows athletics and good side movement behind the plate. He has an above-average arm strength and a quick drop, making it difficult for opposing base runners to steal from him.
Susac has a lot of upside offensively and defensively. In addition to his skills, he also has the makeup and mindset to play catcher in the long run.
“I feel like I have a good ability to find things in common with my teammates and build friendships with them,” said Susac. “It builds trust not only in pitchers, but my other teammates. I feel that there is something I developed in football with being the quarterback who has been translated into baseball.”
Susac’s brother, Andrew, has helped him develop his defensive skills. Andrews “philosophy is to be more vanilla and a quiet and calm goal” behind the plate, Susac said. Susac has tried to incorporate that mindset into her game.
In the offseason, Susac worked with his catching position and flexibility to become smoother behind the record, he said.
“I want to be a lot more flexible,” Susac said. “Flexibility is a big part of the game, especially being a catcher. I want to be stronger in the weight room and maintain shape throughout the year.”
Expectations are high for the Wildcats this year. Despite losing several talented players in the offseason, the Wildcats believe they have the pieces to advance to the College World Series this year.
Last year, the Wildcats had one of their best seasons in recent times. They won the Pac-12 for the first time since 2012. They qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 and made their first College World Series appearances in Omaha, Nebraska, since 2016.
Susac hopes the Wildcats can build on last season’s success this spring.
“We want to win Pac-12 and come back to Omaha,” Susac said. “I did not feel that our record in Omaha represented how good our team was. We had some tough breaks. That is our goal again, and I think we have made it to get back there. We have a fantastic mentality with this team and a bunch of guys who want to come back. “
Dan Zielinski III has been covering the MLB draft for seven years. Hi has interviewed 356 of the best prospects during that period, including four No. 1 overall choices. Several publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have cited his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as an “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @ DanZielinski3.