SF Giant Buster Posey Will “Go North” (updated April 2, 2010)

busterposeyWhile it’s not exactly headline news, it is big news— Buster Posey, the San Francisco Giants number one pick in the 2008 amateur draft, has made the team and will end Spring Training 2010 as a member of the Giants 25 man roster.

Giants General Manager Brian Sabean casually mentioned that Posey will make the team during the March 25th television broadcast of the As/Giants exhibition game from Phoenix. Sabean stated that Posey will be “going north” when Spring Training ends, meaning the 23 year-old catcher/infielder is either making the big team, or being sold to the Edmonton Wet Ducks of the Canadian Softball League. I’m going with the former.

Posey has clearly demonstrated to Giants management that he is ready to hit every day in the Majors, the only question being playing time and which glove Posey will be wearing in the field. Posey’s development as a hitter is exciting for the run-starved Giants, who tried to piece together a viable offense in the off season by signing Mark DeRosa, Aubrey Huff and re-signing catcher Bengie Molina.

In sixteen 2010 Spring Training games, Posey is batting .400 and has demonstrated extraordinary confidence at the plate, especially in two strike counts.

But Posey’s emergence adds to a number of serious roster problems now facing the Giants. Right field, supposedly Nate Schierholtz’s to lose, is getting close to being lost; Schierholtz is batting .234 with 12 strikeouts in 47 at bats through March 25th, and Giants management is getting impatient. The problem is, Spring hitting star John Bowker (.309/18 RBI/4 HR) can really only play left field and the team’s attempt to create a Bowker/Schierholtz competition could lead to, 1) even more team defense sacrificed with Bowker in right field, 2) Bowker’s hot bat being sent to Fresno, or 3) a trade.

Because of Giants second baseman Freddie Sanchez’s ongoing injury problems, Bowker could start the season at AT&T Park in left field, with Mark DeRosa moving to second base. That would also allow infielder Jose Uribe to stay in his primary role as a super sub.

Posey will likely get enough at bats to justify a spot on the big team by catching several days a week, and playing first base several days a week. The problem here, of course, is that Huff and Molina were signed to play those positions in order to get their bats in the line-up every day. So, each Posey at bat theoretically takes an at bat away from the two power players the Giants counted on to create more runs. A daily line-up featuring Huff, Posey, Molina, Pablo Sandoval, and Bowker would be powerful, but seems out of reach.

The other roster issue facing the Giants is how long they are forced to go with Edgar Renteria at shortstop. The team is paying the slow moving Renteria $9 million this year and seemingly has to get value from that contract (and save face) in what has been yet another terrible free agent decision by the current regime. Would longtime infielder Mark DeRosa’s range at short be any worse? Think about the options that would open for the everyday line-up.

In the meantime, watching Buster Posey play at the Major League level will be a treat, and we may look back at Opening Day 2010 as the start of an extraordinary career in the history of the San Francisco Giants.

Friday April 2, 2010 addendum–
The Giants announced today that Buster Posey will not “go north” with the big league team, and has been optioned to the Giants’ Fresno Triple A squad. Despite what has been written elsewhere about the move, the front office likely thought about this one a lot, as illustrated by Brian Sabean’s quote. No one doubts Posey’s potential, that his bat is major league ready, and that the fans want him in the everyday line-up. But what separates the front office from the fans in the stands is the responsibility to make the right decision about rookie players at the right time.

Last year, the Baltimore Orioles faced a similar problem with rookie catcher Matt Wieters, and made the decision to bring him up and put him in the everyday line-up. But Baltimore had not signed a Bengie Molina in the off-season, and the team had little to lose. This Spring the Atlanta Braves decided to put their twenty-year-old star prospect Jason Heyward in right field rather than send him to the minors for more experience.

The problem here is, Buster Posey didn’t make this team but Travis Ishikawa did. Ishikawa had a terrible 2009, despite hitting well at home and having a slick glove at first base, and this Spring he did worse: a .233 batting average with 10 strikeouts and no walks in 30 at bats. So Posey, a major league ready starter and star of the future waits off-stage while a Double A hitter makes the team.

For the 2010 Giants every run means everything, and Buster Posey was just sent to Fresno, CA with a boatload of runs .

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