On Buster Posey
Buster Posey is a very good baseball player. The 5th overall pick in the 2008 draft, he’s been a fast riser through the minors, showing good adjustments with his bat, while his defense seems to remain a question, although when drafted the reviews from scouts were largely positive about his abilities behind the dish. Last season he hit .326/.428/.540 in San Jose and subsequently was promoted to AAA where he hit at a .321/.391/.511 clip. Much to the joy of Giants fans, he received the call to the big league roster late in the season. He was then given all of 17 at-bats at the big league level while being relegated to catching bullpen sessions.
Irony of ironies, now the Giants front office brass doesn’t think he’s spent enough time behind the plate at the big league level. It takes a special kind of organization to have their top catching prospect ride the pine for a month and then say he can’t play because he doesn’t have enough experience. To be fair, Brian Sabean has come out and said he doesn’t think Posey can handle 100+ games behind the plate, while acknowledging that his bat is ready.
While in some ways I can understand this, in others it’s perplexing. Last season Buster Posey caught a total of 122 games between three levels. According to Sabean, Posey was “pretty whipped” after the conclusion of this season. Before busting out the tinfoil conspiracy hats though, realize that any catcher will probably be “whipped” after catching 122 games at any level, as well as an additional month full of catching bullpens. Of course the guy was tired–most catchers are come September.
Taking all this into account, it seems counter-intuitive to have Posey spend 100+ games in Fresno catching instead of in the big leagues. Either way, he’s going to spend a lot of time catching, and he’s going to be tired at the end of the season in much the same way all catchers are. This team’s biggest problem going into the offseason is the offense. Sabean is admitting that Posey’s bat will play at the Major League level. If he spends the year in AAA, the second best hitter on a Giants team with a struggling offense won’t even be on the big league roster.
Compare this to the current crop of free agent catchers. Ivan Rodriguez? He’s a 38 year-old catcher who hit .249/.280/.384 last year. Brad Ausmus? A 40 year-old who hasn’t caught 100+ games at any level since 2007. Greg Zaun already signed for multi-years, Bengie Molina isn’t and shouldn’t be an option, and Jason Kendall hit .241/.331/.305 last season in a hitters’ ballpark. The single best option on the market right now is Yorvit Torrealba, and he wants to be a long-term starter wherever he ends up.
If they want a stopgap who’s going to hit like any of the guys on the market right now, the Giants may as well have kept Steve Holm and plugged him in for 100 games. Otherwise, keeping Posey in AAA simply doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, I would be completely in favor of signing a guy like Pudge Rodriguez to catch, say, 40-50 games to give our guy a rest every few days. As well as saving Posey’s knees, Rodriguez would be a valuable resource for the 22 year-old to tap into to continue his development behind the plate.
Easing Posey into a Major League role this way would be having our cake and eating it too–we’d get the benefit of his bat, he’d be getting acclimated to catching in the big leagues, and he’d be spelled regularly to stave off the late season fatigue. Simply put, he’s an offensive upgrade at a premium position on a team that needs hitting.