Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Prospect Evaluation: Buster Posey

A former college player is trying to make a name for himself as a swing analyst, and recently wrote an analysis of Buster Posey here that I thought everyone here would be interested in knowing about. He write the report under a pseudonym, though it is hard to tell from the editor's note whether they did or forgot and used his real name. Normally, one would put parentheses around the fake name in the editor's note.

He had some interesting comments that I thought I would share:

  • "Buster Posey is one of the safer bets in the minors to live up to his lofty prospect rating. He certainly has the talent and athleticism to emerge as an average or better big league hitter, but that isn’t to say that Posey’s swing is already maximized. As good as he is right now, he still has room to improve the efficiency of his swing."

    "Posey’s bat is very close to being big-league ready. He blends bat speed, swing quickness, leverage, and very good plate discipline into one package."

  • "Posey doesn’t have a large, power-hitter’s frame, but he’s an excellent athlete and his abilities show in his natural and smooth stroke. He keeps his upper body tall and doesn’t hunch over, giving him the ability to reach any pitch in the strike zone. His upper body loading pattern is very similar to that of Matt Holliday. "

  • "Posey is able to get his hands inside the ball well, showing that he can fight off tough, inside pitches and maintain a high line drive rate. He keeps his hands back well, which gives him time to see the ball just about as long as possible. Posey gets the bat into the hitting zone very quickly and is not long to the ball. He also keeps the barrel in the zone for a long time."

  • "He loads back with his hands instead of his shoulders -- counter rotating is a common mistake with many hitters who start in an open stance-- and gets to a good launch position on time. There are no forced movements and he is not mechanical. Rarely do you see Posey late, as he has both the bat speed and swing quickness needed to catch up to hard fastballs. Posey sees the ball well and has good plate discipline."

  • "Posey can handle a good fastball right now. What may give him trouble moving forward is good off-speed pitches down and away. Given that his natural stroke is to right center, if Posey could maintain his rear hip load better, he would give himself a better chance to drive those pitches rather than fight them off."

  • Final Thoughts: "All in all, Posey is a very polished hitter who has an ideal plan at the plate and very well could be the starting catcher for the Giants in 2010. Posey should be a perennial threat to post a .290-300 batting average and rack up his share of doubles. He also has the potential to produce a very strong on-base percentage and garner plenty of walks. He’s not Matt Wieters big, but Posey is strong and has the leverage and bat speed to hit 17-20 home runs a season, with a possible bump up to 25 home runs depending on how he fills out and develops his strength."
Giants Thoughts

Great information on one of the Giants top prospects (many name Bumgarner as the top, but some name Posey). His final thought is pretty good for Posey, that's basically what we have been hoping that Buster develops into: .300 hitter with patience and good power for a catcher. Plus, the great defense he is suppose to provide. He thinks that Posey can take over in 2010, and not a moment too soon, too, as Molina's performance has gone down greatly this season.

As I half seriously suggested in another post, perhaps Posey can be brought up and be our backup catcher and bat off the bench this season, perhaps soon enough to be able to name him to the playoff roster, should we be lucky enough to get in. Nothing against Whiteside, but I think we need a good hitter off the bench more than a backup catcher during the playoffs, particularly since Sandoval should be able to back up that position if necessary and Garko might be able to do that in a pinch as well.

The author also kindly answered a number (OK, long list :^) of questions I threw his way. Here are some of his answers:

  • His weaknesses are a minor hindrance. He is very polished and should do well enough from day 1 in the Majors. But that isn't to say he's close to realizing his full potential. In terms of a prospect, he's very advanced. But in terms of being what he could be, he's a bit behind. Not much though.

    Yes, alot of hitters do have problems with offspeed down and away. But the true greats figure out at least how to handle those pitches and do some form of damage with them. Posey doesn't have a massive hole there or anything and has a good enough swing to foul them off.
  • I think he could step in and be a league average hitter right now. Part of my projection ties in the improvements he needs to (and hopefully) make, and experience gained from playing at that level. He's good enough to get away with his inefficiencies and be a successful player. He doesn't have any red flags. But again, he needs just a tiny bit of refinement to reach his potential.

It looks like Posey is ready as a hitter to come up, so the main question is whether his defense is good enough. That's where it would pay off to sign up a catcher who is strong defensively to mentor him in the majors, like Greg Zaun, Brad Ausmus, or Jose Molina, all of whom I mentioned previously as possible off-season acquisitions as a defensive vet buddy for Posey in 2010.

I think this evaluation shows that Posey will be the starting catcher for the Giants in 2010. He's already in AAA, he is starting to hit there, after being handled for a while. The question is whether his defense will hold up, but if you pair him with a good defensive backup, he could get most of the playing time and the Giants could bring in the backup as a defensive improvement move at the end of games, if necessary, plus he could mentor Posey during the season (though I would assume Bochy could do that too).

And given his readiness, I don't see why he won't get called up this season, perhaps sooner than later to be a good bat off the bench, since Sandoval would do as a backup, as backup catchers are not needed that much during the playoffs.


  1. All good info. Maybe with Molina's struggles he'll be willing to stay next year at a reduced cost and role. I highly doubt it though. He's somewhere around 35 and this offseason will probably be his last shot at a decent multi-year payday.

  2. Molina will not accept being a backup until late into the signing season. His poor stats will make teams be uninterested in signing him before the deadline and giving a draft pick to the Giants possibly. Though, with his severe drop, he might fall to B-status. Either way, he's interested in a multi-year opportunity to start and that's not coming his way until later, I believe.

    By then Sabean should have picked up somebody off the free agent market, because he doesn't like going into the season with a question mark like that.

  3. Henry Schulman posted an interesting question on his blog earlier. Would you want Zito to go to another team via waiver claim, a la Rios? Free up all that money in one shot and lose a guy who is a legitimate #2/#3 starter when he's on his game(like recently) right in the middle of our playoff push? That money can go a long way in the current market.
    I'd elect to keep him. He's not worth that contract but if he pitches at the level he has been then he's kinda close to it. He's been great having to jump into the #2 role after RJ went down.

  4. As much as the contract may stink, I think I would keep Zito now. Madbum is no guarantee, and the two pitchers I thought would be next on our depth charts - Alderson and Barnes - have been traded. Wheeler would help with that, but he's too far off to think about, I think.

    But it's tempting and I'm sure the vast majority of Giants fans would leap at the chance to do that. However, we then would have Martinez and Sadowski as our #4 and #5 starters. You can pretty much kiss our playoff chances good-bye then.

    And that would be an interesting question for Giants fans: which do you prefer, getting rid of Zito's contract or getting into the playoffs?

    As you noted (and which I noted when he was signed), his contract is not that bad as inflation has raised the average salaries of free agents. Zito is overpaid, but not vastly overpaid (though he was last season), and as long as he produces like he had in 2007 and currently, the contract won't be that bad and would be a solid contributor to the team's success, particularly if he's our 3rd or 4th pitcher (depending on how Sanchez and MadBum develops).

    If the Big Unit were still healthy and pitching well, I think the Giants could be tempted into letting Zito go in a waiver call, but with the team doing well and RJ out possibly forever and nobody really bringing it in the minors, I don't see how they could let Zito go in a waiver call.

    Next year, with MadBum pretty much ready to come up, is another question though.

  5. I was reading an article about the guy who designed Zito's warm-up regimen. His last name is Jaeger. It consists of throwing long-toss up to 300 ft. Mr. Jaeger says that orginizations teach pitchers to warm up like a guy who's rehabbing an injury. It puts low stress limits on the arm and makes it more susceptible to injury and fatigue.
    Zito says it's the reason he's never had an arm injury. He also said that when he first joined the Giants that he got away from it and that was the reason he lost so much velocity.
    The article was on MLB.com yesterday.

  6. I heard about that on the radio the other day. Thanks for the heads up on where to read up on it.

    This is very similar to Leo Mazzone's pitching philosophy when he was the pitching coach at Atlanta, that throwing a lot is what keeps a pitcher's arm healthy and injury free.

    This is also what Lincecum does every day to keep his arm strong.

    Zito was talking a little about that during the off-season, when he and Wilson would long-toss in the canyon behind his house in SoCal.

    Thanks again!



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