From 2008-2009, the San Francisco Giants had their starting catcher Bengie Molina hit cleanup. Now despite being the most lackluster everyday cleanup hitter in the entire league, Molina was San Francisco's most productive offensive threat during that time frame.
However, with the emergence of Pablo Sandoval and a lineup featuring veterans like Freddy Sanchez, Edgar Renteria, Aaron Rowand, and hopefully another year of Juan Uribe; Buster Posey would not be forced into a situation where the spotlight is entirely on him.
Unlike how Molina was a sixth-eighth hitter forced into a cleanup role, Posey would be able to begin the season hitting in most likely the seventh spot in the lineup.
If the Giants make the smart move and re-sign Juan Uribe, then their lineup would take shape and Posey would be left out of the spot light.
With Uribe as the only "free-agent" hitter added to San Francisco's current roster, a potential lineup would like this (last year's batting average included).
1. Eugenio Velez LF .267
2. Freddy Sanchez 2B .293
3. Nate Schierhotlz RF.267
4. Pablo Sandoval 1B .330
5. Juan Uribe 3B .289
6. Aaron Rowand CF .261
7. Buster Posey C .325 (San Jose/Fresno)
8. Edgar Renteria SS .250
Now before anyone simply shuns this lineup without giving it some thought, I suggest you gander at the starting lineup of the Giants on opening day 2009:
1. Randy Winn RF .262
2. Edgar Renteria SS .250
3. Fred Lewis LF .258
4. Bengie Molina C .265
5. Pablo Sandoval 3B .330
6. Travis Ishikawa 1B .261
7. Aaron Rowand CF .261
8. Emmanuel Burriss 2B .238
For all the changes made in the proposed 2010 lineup, each player swap is an upgrade.
Moving Sandoval to his more accustomed first-base position and sitting Ishikawa would mean that Uribe's production would replace Ishikawa.
Uribe: 398 AB, .289 AVG, 16 HR 55 RBI > Ishikawa: 326 AB, .261 AVG, 9 HR, 39 RBI
Freddy Sanchez replacing Emmanuel Burriss in the infield
Sanchez: 498 AB .293 AVG, 7 HR, .742 OPS > Burriss: 202 AB .238 AVG, 0 HR, .642 OPS
Eugenio Velez instead of Fred Lewis
Velez: 285 AB .267 AVG, 5 HR, 11 SB > Lewis: 295 AB .258 AVG, 4 HR, 8 SB
Schierholtz takes over for Randy Winn
Schierhotlz: 285 AB .267 AVG 5 HR .702 OPS > Winn: 538 AB .262 AVG, 2 HR, .671 OPS
And finally Buster Posey taking over for Bengie Molina
Posey (Fresno stats): 131 AB .321 AVG, 5 HR, OBP .391, SLG .511 >
Molina: 491 AB .265 AVG, 20 HR, OBP .285, SLG .442
Now even if you drop 50 points off of Posey's average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage based on a struggle to transition to the major leagues, he would still post better numbers than Molina with a .271 AVG, .341 OBP, .461 SLG.
Just like Bengie Molina doesn't want to sign with the Giants for a one-year deal, why would any other free-agent catcher with starting talent want to sign with San Francisco when it is clear his job would be merely keeping the seat warm for Posey?
The future behind the plate for the Giants is undoubtedly Buster Posey and knowing this, why not get him comfortable now?
The organization may claim he's not physically ready to catch 100+ games at the MLB level, but even with more minor league seasoning, there will still be growing pains when he makes the jump.
By letting him start now, the chemistry between the young catcher and the pitching staff will start develop quicker and his stamina behind the plate will improve quicker by playing at the highest level.
Plus on the offensive side of his development, allowing him to get a book on the National League pitchers would only further his progress. Just like Lincecum dominated at every level and quickly made his debut in 2007 after being drafted in 2006, Posey has that same competitive drive and talent to work on his raw tools with the big club.
Just like Lincecum, Posey was a Golden Spike's winner which is baseball's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
The parallels are almost endless, and like Lincecum, there is just nothing left for Posey to accomplish in the minor leagues.
Starting Posey is simply the best option moving forward. Not only does he project to put up the equivalent offensive numbers (if not better) than any other free-agent catcher available but by throwing Posey to the Wolves now, it will only speed up his development. The 2011, 2012, and 2013 versions of Buster Posey will be better off due to the experienced gained in 2010 then if he spent a portion of the year at Triple-A.
Again, unlike Lincecum who had the pressure of reviving a pathetic 2007 Giants squad, Posey will be just another piece to an already solid team that finished 88-74 last season.
The 2010 Giants offense will be powered by Pablo Sandoval who will be taking up nearly the entire spotlight after his ridiculous first full season.
And veteran hitters like Freddy Sanchez, Aaron Rowand, and a Juan Uribe (or another free-agent hitter that Sabean is bound to sign) will allow Posey to work on his game in much less spot light than "The Freak" had on him during his first extended time at the big league level.
San Francisco has a chance to build a much stronger lineup than it had in 2009 and Posey at catcher is a part of that equation.
If he's not, then the offense will only be slightly better than last season and probably won't be enough to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division.