The Giants have had some pretty unique catchers in the past. I remember as a kid the Giants catchers have been my favorite position to watch because of their heart, leadership and toughness.
With several gold glove winners, typically batting .220, yet grittier than grits, Mike Matheny, Benito Santiago, A. J. Pierzynski and the big round Bengie Molina (his B-R page reads 190 pounds somehow…) were the ideal Giants catchers.
While the Giants were drafting future star pitchers like Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo, they still managed to pick up a young catcher who happened to be a College World Series Champion and “Golden Spike” award winner.
He could hit for power and average, played excellent defense and was a natural leader. His name is:
Lord Posey, 24, was a godsend for the Giants organization. After being compared to a young future all-star such as the Twin’s Joe Mauer straight out of college, Posey was sent into the Giants organization with high expectations.
What I am impressed with the most from Posey is his ability to raise the bar each game he plays. He knows his footwork and values the defensive skill of the catcher position. He once played all nine positions once in a single game. Yes, including pitcher – his fastball was mid-90′s.
Posey is a natural athlete, he has high expectations and he is often compared to a God-like figure, but what has he done?
Aside from his collegiate achievements, in just 108 games for the Giants in 2010, Posey had won the National League Rookie of the Year award in a very talented rookie class, won the N. L. West division title for the first time since 2003 and won the World Series for the first time in San Francisco since the team moved there over half-a-century ago.
Oh, he has also caught one the the leagues best pitching staffs in the league. He caught the final pitch of the season in 2010 jumping for joy, sprinting out to his pitcher Brian Wilson facing his back to him, looking up to the sky crossing his arms.
I’ll never forget it. Mostly because he did it again in Atlanta to win the NLDS, in Philadelphia to clinch the NLCS, and for a fourth time in the big stage of the World Series in Arlington.
Last season, he was on pace for a 14 home run, 76 RBI and 115 OPS+ season. An above-average season for a catcher and he was just catching fire when Scott Cousins started horse playing around home plate.
Now he is is healed and ready to start playing catcher again because he is gritty, athletic and composed.
Here is his prediction:
.301 batting average, 367 on-base %, .505 Slug. %
20 home runs, 85 RBI, 75 runs
An insanely high number of players caught stolen, and his first all-star game.
Whiteside,32, is another typical catcher I grew up watching – tough, defensive-minded, and can call a game (no-hitters, specifically).
Last year, Whiteside was prematurely forced to fill in for Posey once he became injured. He was never flashy with the bat, hitting .197 in 82 games last season with only four home runs and 17 RBI (four less than Posey in 37 more games played).
He isn’t too fancy with the glove, putting up a -0.3 dWAR in 2011 and committing five errors.
He is fighting for a backup catcher position with two other guys this spring, so we will keep an eye on him.
.210 batting average, .275 on-base %, .340 slug. %
Three home runs, 14 RBI, 21 runs
Backs up Posey, starts one to two games a week at most.
Stewart, 30, was the other catcher to fill in for the absence of Posey in 2011. Before last season, he had played in a total 26 major league games, hit only nine hits in 37 at-bats in a span of four seasons.
Last year, Stewart had a slight advantage over Whiteside in batting average (.204), on-base percentage (.283), OPS (.592), OPS+ (68), runs (20) in 51 fewer at-bats.
While both of them stuck around this off-season, Sterwart plans to compete against Whiteside and prospect catcher Hector Sanchez, for the big league back up position.
Here is my projection:
.215 batting average, .286 on-base %, .318 Slug. %
Four home runs, 12 RBI, 22 runs
He has to out perform Whiteside and Sanchez this spring for that roster spot.
Much like Posey’s early professional career, 22-year-old Sanchez was signed out of Venezuela in 2006 with some high expectations than the average catching prospect.
Since he joined the Giants organization, Sanchez has moved from rookie league to triple-A in a span of five seasons. He is still young, maintaining an .815 OPS in the minors.
In 2011, Sanchez played in just 13 games for the Giants and had eight hits, two doubles, one RBI and a below average OPS+ of 84. His small sample size skews his numbers, but rest assured he will be a serious contender for the backup position behind Posey.
.289 batting average, .348 on-base %, .440 slug. %
Five home runs, 22 RBI, 29 runs
I think he can outperform Whiteside and Stewart for the job.
I welcome you to share you’re own projections for the catcher position in the comments below!
(Photos courtesy of ESPN.com)