Can Giants' Buster Posey be top-10 catcher over 60-game MLB season?


The Giants showed their affinity for catchers when they opened eyes by picking Patrick Bailey with the No. 13 overall pick earlier this month in the 2020 MLB Draft. That came just two years after taking Joey Bart with the second pick in the draft, and they signed versatile Alabama catcher Brett Auerbach on Tuesday. 

Buster Posey is not an afterthought, though. Not at all. 

Posey, who turned 33 years old in March, has been limited behind the dish in recent years due to injuries, plus expected wear and tear. He caught just 101 games last season, 88 in 2018 and 99 in 2017. Still, the Giants' veteran remains one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.

And despite many believing he's destined for first base, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly in March that he plans on Posey only catching this season. Manager Gabe Kapler echoed those sentiments.

“We know that every single day, he’s going to be our best option behind the plate,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said to Baggarly. “So we will work collaboratively to find the right workload for the 2020 season. But it will be our intention to have him in the lineup as much as possible.”

That especially should be true in this year's 60-game season. The question is, can the shortened season place Posey among elite catchers in baseball again?

When ESPN's Buster Olney ranked his top 10 catchers at the beginning of the new year, Posey was right outside the list. He was at the top of the "best of the rest," which puts him in line with the player he was last season. Posey's 1.8 fWAR (FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement) ranked 13th among catchers last season. He was much worse in bWAR (Baseball-Reference) where he was the 21st-best catcher -- among those who played at least 75 games -- recording a 0.9 bWAR. 

Posey hit .257 with seven home runs and had a .688 OPS last season. But he also had 14 Defensive Runs Saved behind the plate, his best since 2016. There's no doubt Posey still is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. His offense now is the question mark.

Through his first 60 games last season, he only hit .251 with three homers and a .697 OPS. His batting average actually increased to .271 with four long balls and a .704 OPS. He finished the season stronger than he started, but baseball players usually need some time to heat up, which makes this 60-game slate so interesting. 

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That also is the Posey of old. He seemed to be rejuvenated this spring, batting .455 with one homer, three doubles and six RBI in 10 games. Posey now nearly is two years removed from hip surgery that revealed a microfracture and looked more powerful in camp than in years past. 

Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow even believed Posey was destined to add another award to his trophy case. 

"We saw it every at-bat in spring training. And at the end of spring training, that was the talk of camp, really," Krukow said to NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy G in April. "We thought we were looking at the Comeback Player of the Year and I believe this.

"This guy finally feels good, he's finally seeing the ball and his bat speed is back, his hand speed is back and that is exciting for us."

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Even though he has aged, this easily could be the healthiest version of Posey fans have seen in years. Instead of the 2019 version, the former NL MVP could look more like what we saw from 2015 through 2018, when he averaged 13 homers while hitting .303.

With his defense, that's a top 10 catcher.

This season will be unlike any other for multiple reasons. If Posey is healthy and resembles what he showed in the spring, he could look much different on the field than in years past. The Giants need to start fast in this sprint of a season, and their leader behind the plate holds a key role to their success.

It's never easy for a catcher, but Father Time might actually be on Posey's side for once.

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