The Buster Posey Solution: Redux

poseyrunning3The Giants must make the decision to permanently promote star prospect Buster Posey to the 25 man big league roster. Posey gives every indication he can contribute something the Giants have desperately needed for two years: an increase in runs scored.   

When the San Francisco Giants broke Spring Training camp in March 2010, and the final 25 man squad was selected, Giants management temporarily forgot that increasing the number of runs scored was their primary mission this season. That’s why Mark DeRosa was signed to a two year $12 million contract, that’s why the Giants tried to get first baseman Adam LaRoche and settled for Aubrey Huff at $3 million for one year.

But the Giants front office sent super hitting prospect Posey to Triple A Fresno and kept the underachieving Travis Ishikawa, who has a slick glove at first base but has demonstrated throughout his two years with the Giants he is not a Major League level hitter.

In 2009, Ishikawa hit .261 with 39 RBIs, a .329 OBP and 89 strikeouts in 326 at bats; in Spring Training this year, Ishikawa hit .250 in 16 games with a .263 OBP and 12 strikeouts. He is currently batting .200 after 10 at bats with 2 strikeouts. Between 2009 and 2010 to date, the Giants have invested 336 Major League at bats in Ishikawa with consistently negative results. Negative because a run starved team like the Giants cannot afford to squander hundreds of at bats on a corner player who cannot contribute to the offense.

Catcher/first baseman Buster Posey hit .315 in Spring Training, and is currently hitting .353 with a .438 OBP at Triple A Fresno. Posey is rated by ScoutingBook.com as the 11th best prospect in all of baseball. Of the ten players ahead of him, two are playing in the big leagues— slugger Jason Heyward for Atlanta and fireballer Neftali Feliz for Texas— and the number one pick, Stephen Strasburg, will likely be brought into the Nationals starting rotation by June 1st.

Bringing Posey up certainly presents a number of serious roster problems for the Giants. A shortstop in his 2006 freshman year at Florida State, Posey was moved to catcher as a sophomore and did play some first base during Spring Training. It is inescapable that he will catch, play first base, or sub at both positions.

Normally, Posey would simply replace the Giants current back-up catcher, Eli Whiteside. But Whiteside has been invaluable working as the primary receiver for fourth starter Jonathan Sanchez. Last year, Whiteside called Sanchez’s no hitter, and this year the Whiteside/Sanchez partnership has produce a one hitter against the Padres and Sanchez’s current pitching line: 2-1, 1.85 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.

The other problem is that starting catcher Bengie Molina and starting first baseman Aubrey Huff were signed to play full time at their positions because they can produce runs. So unless the Giants make a significant roster move, when Posey is brought up he will be taking at bats from Huff or Molina (although Molina is rested one or two days a week).

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There is little doubt that, 1) the Giants have to immediately commit to Buster Posey; and, 2) Posey is worth the Giants not only thinking outside the box, but tossing the box under the nearest bus. That means either making several trades or recasting several positions in the field. Now, not next year, is the time to start reshaping this team to feature Posey. 

The first move: Posey should immediately replace Travis Ishikawa on the roster. Second, the Giants should seriously consider playing Aubrey Huff in the outfield several games a week, which will mean rearranging the current outfield. The team will have to decide if that means moving Mark DeRosa to the infield, or trading some combination of John Bowker/Nate Schierholtz/Eugenio Velez.

And here’s the famous bottom line: does the team want at bats for Posey, or for John Bowker/Nate Schierholtz/Eugenio Velez? That should be an easy question to answer.

A revised line-up with Mark DeRosa, Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, and Bengie Molina all getting close to maximum at bats would provide potent support for the Giants’ starting pitching. And that could translate into not only making the 2010 playoffs, but the possibility of going very deep in the playoffs.

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