With all the hype and attention that comes along with a club-record $6.2 million signing bonus out of college, you would have thought that San Francisco Giants prospect Buster Posey wouldn't have much to learn when he arrived in Scottsdale, Ariz. for Spring Training.
However, that was far from the case.
Posey never called a game behind the plate in his two years behind the plate at Florida State and struggled defensively during a cameo appearance in the Hawaiian Winter League. So, every week in the big league camp and information he could soak up from teammates and coaches would be crucial to his development in his first full professional season.
And with every chance to do so, the soon-to-be 22-year-old super prospect has progressed quite a bit since the first day of spring camp.
People knew he would hit when he saw the field this spring, and his stats wouldn't counter that argument. Despite playing in 15 games this spring, he has only recorded 19 official at-bats, but in those chances at the plate, Posey has hit to the tune of a .421 average with two home runs and seven RBI.
I think it's safe to say the kid can rake.
But that's not the thing that is being talked about in camp. His bat is the reason why he won the Golden Spikes Award last year at Florida State, it's why he got the huge signing bonus, and it's why he's the Giants' No. 2 prospect.
The progress that Posey has made with calling games and his overall defensive game shows why he will buck the trend of having young backstops play 200-300 games in the minors before they are considered ready for the Majors.
Posey has been taught small things by the Giants coaching staff and has gone out the next day looking like he’s done them his entire career. He’s a quick study and is absorbing everything he’s taught this spring like a Costco-sized sponge.
Whatever the problem was over in Hawaii is gone.
If he keeps developing at the current pace, he will be behind the plate during Spring Training; then there’s no reason to think that he will enter camp a year from now as the favorite to be the Giants starter behind the plate.
That will mean, however, that this upcoming season will be crucial.
The Giants will start almost all of their top prospects at High Class-A San Jose due to inclement weather in Connecticut, where the team’s Double-A affiliate is located. That means Posey will be joined by the other four players rounding out the Giants' top five prospects: No. 1 prospect Madison Bumgarner, fellow highly-touted pitching prospect Tim Alderson, Angel Villalona, and Nick Noonan.
If the Giants struggle early in the season, a trip down to San Jose to see the minors might be worth the trip.
But it remains to be seen how long Posey will actually stay in San Jose. When the weather warms up on the East Coast, he will likely join Alderson, who will go across the country without a doubt. If Bumgarner dominates early in the season, he will probably head east as well.
This means that the top three prospects in the organization will develop on the same team at the same time, which will only benefit the three of them in the long run. The more they play together, the more Posey will understand how each pitcher likes to set up hitters, and both Bumgarner and Alderson will, in return, learn how Posey calls games.
Putting them together this season will mean that when they all hit the bigs, the transition won’t be as hard as it might be for others.
The sight of Posey behind the plate on a regular basis won’t happen until 2010, but when he does, it will be worth the wait.