This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Giants fans were excited when uber-prospect Buster Posey got called up to the majors a few weeks ago. That excitement has given way to frustration: Posey has been riding the bench and has just 10 at-bats to his credit (seven over this past weekend against the Cubs). Worry not, Giants fans; Posey is the real deal and your patience will eventually be rewarded. Let's take a glimpse at him.
Gerald Demp Posey III attended high school in Leesburg, Georgia, then went to college at Florida State University. A pitcher in high school, he played infield and outfield in college before becoming a full-time catcher his junior season. He performed well as a freshman (.346/.433/.467) and sophomore (.382/.453/.520), but really turned things on as a junior, hitting .463/.566/.879 with 26 homers, 57 walks, and just 29 strikeouts in 257 at-bats, winning the 2008 Golden Spikes Award and leading NCAA Division I in OBP, SLG, OPS, RBI, hits, and batting average. Drafted fifth overall last year, he hit .351/.467/.622 in his 10 game pro debut split between the Arizona Rookie League Giants and Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League. He struggled in the Hawaii Winter League, but turned things around this spring and has had a tremendous season.
TRADITIONAL SCOUTING REPORT
Posey is 6-1, 205, a right-handed hitter and thrower, born March 27, 1987. His best physical attribute is all-around athleticism: he runs well (especially for a catcher), has a strong throwing arm, very quick and soft hands, and excellent hand-eye coordination. These tools help him on both offense and defense. With the bat, he makes hard contact and can drive the ball to all fields. Although he doesn't have massive home run power, he has good pop and should hit plenty of doubles with at least 10-15 home runs in a full season of play. His strike zone judgment is excellent, and he's shown little vulnerability to breaking balls or changeups, working them well and making adjustments in each at-bat. His defense has drawn mixed reviews, though he basically just needs more experience. He has a strong and quick throwing arm and threw out 45% of runners trying to steal on him this year. On the other hand, he doesn't always block the plate well, and can be vulnerable to the passed ball or error behind the plate. He's intelligent and has good baseball instincts, but is still putting the finishing touches on his game-calling skills and leadership experience. Those aren't expected to be long-term problems, and many scouts consider him a potential Gold Glove catcher once he gets the kinks worked out.
There is nothing to complain about statistically: Posey hit .326/.428/.540 in 80 games for San Jose in the California League, followed by a .321/.391/.511 mark in 35 games for Triple-A Fresno, not missing a beat with his production despite skipping Double-A. He also retained strong plate discipline (17 walks, 23 strikeouts in 131 at-bats) at Fresno, obviously a good marker for his future. Right now he looks like a current .260-.280 hitter at the major league level, with moderate power and a decent OBP. Given a normal development curve, he should be a .300/.360/.475 type hitter at his peak, combined with strong defense. Catchers don't always have normal development curves, often due to health problems, but given his athleticism I think he has a very good shot at meeting his peak projection.
FANTASY INVESTMENT VALUE
Posey could probably use another half-season of Triple-A, but if he performs well in the Arizona Fall League that timetable could be moved up. The experience of Matt Wieters this year reminds us that even the most elite prospects often need some adjustment time, so it's not guaranteed that Posey will thrive immediately in the major league lineup. The Giants seem to be using his current promotion as a way to get him familiar with the big league environment and the pitching staff without putting too much pressure on him. This may be frustrating for Posey, Giants fans, and fantasy owners, but perhaps it will help him in the long run. In any event, Posey is one of the elite prospects in the game, and I expect a year from now he'll be in the lineup.
Article first appeared 9/28/09