Gerald Demp Posey III’s list of accomplishments reads like a string of Chuck Norris jokes. One of the most highly touted catchers to ever come out of the college ranks, Posey essentially won every award available to a college catcher at Florida State. This includes the Golden Spikes award, for the best college player in the nation. Posey would catch eight innings and then, if FSU was leading a close game, he would hit the mound and become the team’s closer. In one game, Posey actually played every position and, while mostly a publicity stunt, he can certainly hold his own at pretty much any position on the diamond (though I’d prefer he stay out of center). Posey has hit the ground running in 2010, and has put himself in the driver’s seat for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. There are certainly other qualified candidates, but between Heyward’s injury problems, Starlin Castro’s defense, and Strasburg’s and Stanton’s shorter times in the majors, Buster’s got as good a shot as any player in the league. I actually think Mike Leake could be a strong candidate, but is hurt by the fact that he came up in a year in which several potential superstars have made the bigs. But that’s a topic for another day.
See if you can put a name to these numbers:
Line 1, as you probably guessed, is Buster. His hitting is fantastic for a rookie. Get that kind of production from a catcher, and you have to be ecstatic. A rookie catcher? Giants fans are, and should be, over the moon with this kid. He’s going to be a lineup fixture for the next 6+ years, at the least, and he’s already a stud.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you got Line 2, either. However, you may be surprised at the timeframe. That’s Joe Mauer’s third year in the league, when he really broke out (for the first time, at least. I’m inclined to think that last year’s power surge was largely an aberration. I’d be surprised to see him hit more than about 15 or 20 bombs, consistently, going forward). Of course, Posey’s numbers don’t quite stack up to Mauer’s, and Mauer will almost certainly be a better player over most of their careers. Line them up though, and the numbers speak for themselves. Posey’s not far off from the second-best year from the best catcher in the American League. Mauer, like Posey, is freakishly athletic. You don’t know much about me yet, but I interned for a baseball agency this summer. One of the agents I worked with once scouted Mauer and attempted to recruit him as a client. Apparently, Mauer was far and away the best basketball player he’d ever seen. Mauer’s bigger than Posey; at 6’5” he’s one of the taller catchers in the league, and that may prevent him from sticking behind the plate as he gets closer to his low to mid 30s, but he uses his large frame and lanky limbs to crank line drives at an incredible rate. His 24.9% line drive rate in 2006 helped him to a .364 BABIP, one of the main reasons I believe Posey can keep his BABIP, and consequently his average, as high as he has so far, as Posey is also a line drive machine. Hitting lefty will never hurt Mauer, either. Could Posey match Mauer’s production as early as next year? Well, probably not. But it’ll certainly be fun to watch him try.
I’d be impressed if you got Line 3, because it’s on the historical side. Johnny Bench may be the greatest to ever pop into a squat and start flashing fingers. That’s his first full year in the majors, back in 1968. Bench still didn’t really hit his stride until 1970, when he put up a 154 wRC+. However, it’s still quite a surprise to see Posey’s first full season outpacing Bench’s.
Line 4 is Willie Mays’ rookie year. OK, so I got a little tricky. I never said they had to be catchers. Mays, like Bench, took a little while to start putting up Hall of Fame numbers. Posey’s outhit Mays’ rookie year, by a pretty wide margin. Of course, Posey will not go down as the best player in Giants history. We can’t expect him to put up Mays-esque numbers, especially as a catcher, and comparing the two is obviously creating unrealistic expectations. It’s fun to look at, though.
Happy Timmy Day. Hopefully it goes a bit better than the last one. Check back tomorrow, when we'll be starting a series of six posts, and doing a bit better job of making this a baseball blog rather than a Giants one.
(I am obligated to comment on a fantastic 11-inning win by the Giants. Great game, and I don’t know that I’ve seen a more exciting, more palpably meaningful Giants victory in the last 5 years.)