The result of Michael Suchy’s lone spring training at-bat with the Pirates had to take Clint Hurdle by surprise even though the process didn’t.
The outfielder made his only appearance with the major-league team March 10, just more than a week into spring training. Pittsburgh called him at the crack of dawn to let him know he needed to be ready for a trip down from Pirate City to Port Charlotte.
Hurdle’s staff had told him about Suchy’s power potential, and two frames after he checked into the game for the sixth inning the results matched the loftiest expectations. Suchy ripped a solo home run to left field for Pittsburgh’s only run in a loss to the Rays.
“They just look for those opportunities for certain guys to come up,” Hurdle said after the game. “They’re not faces that are unfamiliar.”
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Raw strength is part of what drew the Pirates to Suchy when they drafted the former Southeast three-sport star out of Florida Gulf Coast during the fifth round in 2014. Big home runs have frequently come in noteworthy moments for Suchy and now with the Marauders he’s starting to turn his potential into consistency. Suchy raised his batting average to .266 on Wednesday and connected for his 19th extra-base hit of the year. His .752 on-base-plus-slugging percentage is the best of anyone on the active roster for Pittsburgh’s Class A Advanced affiliate.
Suchy also owns the signature moment of this Marauders season with his postseason-clinching home run for his hometown team. His solo blast June 20 provided the only run in Bradenton’s playoff-clinching win against the Hammerheads. Since that game, Suchy has batted .292 with a .516 slugging percentage and four home runs.
“The timing’s been really good for him,” manager Michael Ryan said. “His confidence is growing. That’s what happens when you’re doing well at the plate. Confidence will grow. He has a ton of confidence right now.”
The first standout home run of Suchy’s career came during one of the best Seminole playoff runs in recent memory. Suchy’s senior year with the Noles in 2011 brought a district title and a legitimate state-championship contender. Former head coach Dan Durrance still thinks Southeast may have been the second best team in Class 3A that season.
The team to eventually eliminate the Seminoles in the Class 3A-Region 4 semifinals was Fort Myers Bishop Verot, who went on to win the 3A championship behind star pitcher Hudson Boyd.
Boyd was picked by the Twins in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft following the season. The ace only allowed five earned runs all season. Suchy singlehandedly delivered one of them with a playoff home run Durrance estimated at 410 feet.
Suchy finished his final season at Southeast with a .338 average, five homers, 31 runs and 19 RBIs. The Seminoles won 18 games that year. They haven’t won more than seven in any season since.
“Mike wasn’t getting a whole lot of good pitches that year,” Durrance said, “because people came to the park and said, ‘He’s not going to get pitches to hit. Just walk him instead.’”
But Suchy stayed under the radar until his senior year approached, even after he batted .469 with seven home runs as a junior. His tantalizing power made him a rising star and relatively unknown prospect hidden at one of the smaller schools in Manatee County. His first offer didn’t come until Bradenton’s State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, reached out to him during the summer before his senior year. Suchy had grown impatient and was tempted to jump at the junior college offer. His parents told him to wait.
Suchy spent his first two years with the Noles playing football, basketball and baseball with an eye typically turning toward baseball. He didn’t shift his focus primarily to baseball until a knee injury as a junior pushed him off the football field.
“I definitely had the size and the strength and stuff,” Suchy said. “I was really just lacking in any baseball talent.”
With a linebacker’s frame at 6 feet, 4 inches and 225 pounds — Tulane offered him a spot on both its football and baseball teams even though Suchy gave up football as a senior — and a baseball focus, major programs began to take notice. Miami offered him early during his senior year and professional scouts began to dot the bleachers at Southeast High School.
He eventually settled on FGCU, where he belted 17 home runs during his sophomore and junior seasons before becoming the second most highly drafted player in Eagles history. He’s not one of the Pirates’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com, his frame alone makes him intriguing.
It was one of the first things to stand out to Ryan, even when Suchy batted worse than .200 through April. He has the potential to make a breakthrough at any moment.
“He’s a strong son of a gun,” Ryan said. “He’s an intimidating guy at the plate and he’s started hitting like it.”