The Pittsburgh Pirates have added even more depth to their roster with these two latest minor league signings
It’s been a busy last couple of days for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Adding to the signing of utility man JT Riddle on Friday, and the signings of lefty pitchers Robbie Erlin and Derek Holland earlier in the week, the Pirates further added to their roster depth by signing two more players to minor league deals. These two players were catcher Andrew Susac and outfielder Charlie Tilson.
Susac, 29, was a former top catching prospect in the San Francisco Giants farm system. Back in 2015, Baseball America ranked him as the 88th best prospect in baseball, Baseball Prospectus ranked him the 97th best prospect in baseball, and FanGraphs ranked him 86th. He mainly came up the system showing decent power and plate discipline while grading out as an average defender behind the plate.
Unfortunately, the bat never fully developed for Susac. After a solid rookie debut in 2014 (.273/.326/.466, 125 OPS+, 95 plate appearances), Susac regressed to a .666 OPS in 2015. Although, to be fair, he was blocked by Buster Posey during his San Francisco tenure. Regardless, Susac has bounced around with a handful of teams after being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers (where he played all of 17 games with between 2016 and 2017) for left-handed relief pitcher Will Smith as a waiver trade post-July deadline.
Since then, Susac has been traded to the Baltimore Orioles, and had his contract purchased by the Kansas City Royals. Susac last appeared in a Major League game in 2018, and hasn’t played more than 10 MLB games in a season since 2015. All told, the former prospect has a career .221/.283/.373 batting line, 7 home runs, and a 81 OPS+ across 200 plate appearances. He has also caught 26% of the runners trying to take an extra base on him.
Like Susac, the lefty swinging Tilson was also seen as a decent future building block. Originally a St. Louis Cardinal prospect, Tilson was traded to the Chicago White Sox at the 2016 July trade deadline for former Pirate Zach Duke (funny how things work, eh?). Anyway, Tilson ended the 2016 season as the White Sox 11th best prospect. Overall, he graded out as your typical speedy, glove first outfielder who could also give you a decent batting average.
Tilson played just one game with the Sox in 2016, but was in line for decent playing time in 2017. However, a stress fracture in his foot impeded his way, and he missed all of the 2017 regular season. Tilson eventually made his way back to the Majors in 2018, and faltered in his 121 plate appearance sample size. He posted a pedestrian .623 OPS and 75 OPS+. His defense also wasn’t up to par to where the Sox originally viewed him, having -9 DRS and -3.4 UZR.
Tilson’s 2019 was even worse, as he saw his OPS+ drop to 57 in 157 PA’s. The now 27-year-old got a bit better defensively with -5 DRS/-.7 UZR, but I wouldn’t call it a dramatic improvement. Tilson is still lighting fast though. His 29.1 feet/second sprint speed ranks 45th among qualified players. That’s on par with Rajai Davis, and just a step behind Billy Hamilton (29.5).
Obviously, these aren’t glamorous signings, but they add more depth to the team. Depth is something the 2019 Pirates struggled with, so it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air to see the Pirates willing to take some risk and give guys like this a chance. Clearly, after the Starling Marte trade, outfield depth joins catching depth as extremely shallow. So these two signings give the Pirates some insurance at both positions.
Most likely, both Susac and Tilson will start the 2020 season with Triple-A Indianapolis. However, there is a good shot that both could see time in Pittsburgh at some point during the 2020 campaign.