Buster Posey Stunningly Validating the Hype with the San Francisco Giants
By now, the Major League Baseball watching world is at least casually familiar with one Gerald Demp Posey III.
Perhaps not well enough to know that's Buster Posey's real name, but enough to know he's cut from the Jason Heyward/Matt Wieters cloth of diamond prospect.
In 2008, his last year of college ball, the one-time Florida State Seminole won a triumvirate of impressive honors—the Johnny Bench Award, given to the best collegiate catcher; the Collegiate Player of the Year Award, which is self-explanatory; and the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best amateur ballplayer.
All that bling in addition to his versatility—as most eventual professionals usually do, Posey played shortstop early on before switching to backstop in college—earned him a spectacular signing bonus of $6.2 million. After one final push from an anemic San Francisco Giant offense, the hype has only snowballed.
Calls for his promotion were incessant in the Bay Area the minute word filtered out that the kid wouldn't start the year with the big club.
As the San Francisco bats sputtered coming out of April, the calls became screeches and then excruciating deathbed pleadings.
They were answered on May 29, 2010.
As promised by management, the 23 year old was not brought up to ride the pine. He's been the starting first baseman in all five games since his season debut, (Posey's MLB debut came in 2009, when he grabbed a whopping 17 AB in about 30 days) and the results have warmed even the most cynical hearts of the City.
Obviously, the biggest bullet point is Posey's lumber.
Gerald Demp the Third—he had to get beaten up as a tyke, right?—eased into Big League waters with six hits in his first nine plate appearances. The phenom also plated four runs and flashed his gap power with two doubles in that span. After a collar and a K against the steaming filth of Ubaldo Jimenez, it was back to business as usual with another three hits in seven tries plus his first run scored.
In line form, it looks like this: 5 G, .474 BA, 1.053 OPS, 1 R, 4 RBI, 2 2B, and 1 K against the best pitcher in baseball at the moment.
Not too shabby.
Yet, the most noteworthy thing about Posey in the batter's box isn't obvious from his numbers, because he has yet to take a walk. Nevertheless, you can see his grasp of the strike zone and ability to translate it to the highest level, since he only whiffed once in three trips to the executioner, aka Jimenez.
The Gents' catcher of the future might've looked bad on a pitch or two since he's been up, but I haven't seen it. He has great balance in his approach and quick hands, which combine to make him very difficult to fool. There have been at least four or five occasions where he's spit on nasty breaking balls thrown in pitchers' counts.
We're talking tight sliders that scoot out of the zone or late-movement curveballs that suddenly fall off the plate, the kind of offerings that can make good veteran bats look foolish.
So, yeah, Buster can hit. But we kind of knew that.
What's been truly incredible is just how mature the rest of Posey's game is.
Nobody likes to hear about it, but defense at key positions can be as important as a key hit. Any Giant fan who watched J.T. Snow in his heyday understands that first base is one of these positions.
The rookie is clearly not Snow's equal with the leather, and his future is behind the dish, but early returns on his glove are as encouraging as those on his maple/ash.
He's made some nice plays at first, including a gem on Wednesday where he started a tough 3-6 twin-killing. With Troy Tulowitzki on first, Posey fielded a chopper near the base, stepped on the bag, and then spun to nab Tulo at second, except the Colorado Rockies' shortstop had stopped running.
Had Buster spun in a panic or thrown blindly in a rush to make the play, things could've gotten ugly. Either reaction would be natural for an athlete in his first rodeo, under immense pressure, and playing a secondary position.
Of course, the youngster's natural reaction was to coolly assess the situation, recognize the appropriate move, and execute it by running at Tulo rather than tossing the pearl.
Or how about baserunning?
Lots of rooks would've gotten drilled by the rifle arm of Brad Hawpe trying to stretch a long single into a double. Not Posey—he had his wits about him enough to either recognize it was Hawpe fielding the ball or hear first base coach Roberto Kelly almost burst a blood vessel suggesting he hit the brakes.
He also scored with a nice slide at home, driving for the back of the plate and creating as small a profile as possible for his swipe hand. A less artful maneuver might've gotten called out.
Don't get me wrong—Buster Posey hasn't been perfect, nor will he be.
At 23, there is still room to improve and the rest of his Major League time won't go as smoothly as these last five games. He'll have his slumps and bad days like everyone else.
To expect anything else is willful ignorance.
Furthermore, it's only been five games and that's hardly a definitive sample.
But, considering what the kid is doing and the exceptional circumstances with which he's faced, the San Francisco Giants and their fans have to be excited.
Both about the future and the present.
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