2010 Focus: Buster Posey

On the heels of the Matt Wieters profile from Saturday, I wanted to briefly discuss another hot catching prospect for 2010: San Francisco’s Buster Posey. Posey played some great baseball throughout his career at Florida State University, but it was his senior year that really put him on the map and led to his being picked 5th overall by the Giants in 2008. He had a video-game-on-beginner-level-esque line hitting .463/.566/.879 in 68 games with 26 home runs, 93 RBIs, 89 runs scored, 57 walks and just 29 strikeouts. Only once in his three years with the Seminoles did he strikeout more than he walked (as freshman in 2006: 45 K, 38 BB).

He had an insignificant 37 at-bat sample across two levels after being drafted in ’08, but it didn’t keep him from earning a spot among baseball’s top prospects coming into 2009 (14th). He didn’t disappoint putting together a .326/.428/.540 line with 13 home runs, 56 RBIs, 36 extra bases hits in all and a 1:1 K:BB ratio (45 apiece) in 291 at-bats at High A-San Jose. He skipped AA and went directly to AAA-Fresno and picked up right where he left off with a .321/.391/.511 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 131 at-bats. All told, he has hit .327/.421/.538 with 19 home runs, 86 RBIs and a 1.02 K:BB rate (72:70) in his minor league career spanning 459 at-bats.

I can’t see how he has anything else to prove in the minors. Of course, Wieters had a .355/.454/.600 line with 27 home runs, 91 RBIs and a 0.93 K:BB rate (76:82) in 530 minor league at-bats in 2008 and still started 2009 in AAA-Norfolk. Bengie Molina’s contract is up, Pablo Sandoval is just fine at first or third base and Posey served his obligatory stint in AAA, so why wouldn’t he break camp with the big league team? So let’s operate under the assumption that Posey is a 2010 major leaguer, now what? Now is the time when we think back a few months (actually, eight) and remember the outlandish projections for Wieters, some of which even built in a quick AAA stint and then we recall what happened over the six months from April through September as Wieters failed to come close to the figures even if you pro-rate out the first two months since he wasn’t called up until May 29th.

The simple fact is that Posey would be an exception to the historical trend if he had an exemplary rookie season. As I covered in the Wieters profile, catchers rarely put together top tier debuts. And the ones that have had legitimate success in recent history had much more seasoning than either Wieters or Posey before reaching the big leagues. Geovany Soto labored through 2255 minor league at-bats and was a 25-year old rookie. Mike Piazza had more than three times as many minor league at-bats as Posey and almost two and a half times that of Wieters. Same with the other rookies of the year who played catcher since 1987:

  Min Lg. Abs vs. Posey vs. Wieters
Santiago 1654 3.6 2.9
Alomar 1933 4.2 3.3
Piazza 1390 3.0 2.4
Soto 1959 4.3 3.4

With such strong evidence in front of my face, I refuse to foolishly ignore it and predict magical things for Posey in 2010. I will, however, start Posey’s projection by giving him the full-time job. The incumbent, Molina, hit .265 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs which looks alright on the surface, but then you see the .285 on-base percentage and start vomiting as if you’d just downed a gallon of ipecac before you can even get to the 87 OPS+. If that wasn’t bad enough, he has just one season above 100 OPS+ (108 in 2005 when he was an on-base “machine” at .336). There isn’t a single viable reason for San Francisco to bring the 35-year old back. It wouldn’t hurt for them to bring in a savvy vet to help Posey along, but I don’t think someone like Molina wants to be a second fiddle playing maybe two times a week. Perhaps his brother, Jose, would be interested in such a role. Regardless of who’s backing him up, I can guarantee one thing: Buster Posey will be overvalued for 2010.

Posey in 2009: .118-1-0-0-0*
Posey in 2010: .296-56-11-64-9

(* – Posey had a whopping 17 at-bats late last season)

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